Fred Tarbell Field
Associate Justice memorial
329 Mass. 773 (1952)
The Honorable Fred Tarbell Field, an Associate Justice of this court from January 30, 1929, until he became Chief Justice on June 30, 1938, resigned on July 24, 1947, and died on July 23, 1950. On November 20, 1952, a special sitting of the court was held at Boston, at which there were the following proceedings:
The Attorney General addressed the court as follows:
May it please Your Honors: It is the desire of the Bar of the Commonwealth that there be presented here today a memorial in commemoration of the late Fred Tarbell Field, recently the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.
It is therefore my privilege and honor, as Attorney General of the Commonwealth, in behalf of the Bar to present this memorial.
Fred Tarbell Field was born in Springfield, Vermont. It was among the hills of the Green Mountain State, which lie loved and revered to the end of his days, that he spent his boyhood. It was in Vermont that he received his early education. The sterling strength of those rugged hills of his native State undoubtedly left an enduring impress upon him and upon his character for the full length of his useful professional life.
He was not the first of his ancestral family line to reach the high destiny of sitting as a justice on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. An uncle, Walbridge Abner Field, also native to the State of Vermont, became an Associate Justice of this Court in 1881. In 1890 he became Chief Justice, serving in that exalted capacity until his death In 1899.
Fred Tarbell Field, in his calling as a lawyer and later as a judge, strikingly resembled his distinguished uncle who, as Associate Justice and Chief Justice, served this Commonwealth most faithfully and with distinction. Fred Tarbell Field was also thorough in all things. He took the time carefully to examine the by-ways as well as the main thoroughfare in order that lie might reach what seemed to him to be a conscientious and sound judgment. In his profession as a lawyer, in private practice at the Bar as well as in public offices, both State and Federal, he rendered service for many years with distinction and with honor.
Following his admission to the Bar, he entered the office of the Attorney General of this Commonwealth by appointment of the then Attorney General Herbert Parker. In that office he served in a junior capacity as a law clerk during the years 1903 and 1904. He became an assistant attorney general in 1905. He continued to serve as assistant attorney general under the succeeding administrations of Attorneys General Dana Malone and James M. Swift until the year 1912. In that year he resigned his office as assistant attorney general to enter the private practice of law in association with his, former chief, Herbert Parker, who was then carrying on the practice of law in Boston.
He again entered public life in the year 1918. Because of the specialized legal learning and experience he had acquired in the office of the Attorney Genera of Massachusetts, he was called to Washington to become a member of the legal staff in the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The country was at war and when the Armistice was signed he began earnestly to look forward to returning to Boston to engage again in the practice of his profession. He was prevailed upon, however to remain for a further time in the Federal Service. His undoubted learning and experience in the field of taxation was well known and recognized at this time in Washington. He was called upon for a further public service. This was to aid and assist in the organization of a newly created Advisory Tax Board of the Treasury Department. In this important work he studied and solved many intricate problems with creative and constructive thoroughness. In all this lie rendered valuable and lasting service to his government.
When lie left Washington and returned to Boston to practice law he became a partner in the firm of Goodwin, Procter, Field and Hoar in November of the year 1919.
Fred Tarbell Field was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court by Governor Charles F. Hurley on June 30, 1938. In assuming the symbolic robes as Chief Justice, he approached the duties of that high office in a spirit of humility and reverence. He was fully conscious of the essential dignity of the court to which he had been so highly elevated and its importance in ensuring a fair and impartial administration of justice. He realized that in the breast of that court resides the conscience of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Throughout his entire life and in all his activities he was essentially a student. In this respect he remained constant to the end of his days.
When he finished law school and was admitted to practice he retained his habit of consulting the books. He was a seeker after truth in all things. This was a constant fixed purpose in his daily life. His mind was always imbued with the thought of finding out the whyness of matters that came to his attention. He carried this habit of mind to a marked degree into the practice of his profession, into his varied public service and into his judicial life.
Fred Tarbell Field by nature was gifted with a dry and compelling sense of humor, somewhat suggestive of his native State of Vermont. When on occasion he gave voice to it, it not infrequently provoked laughter. But it never gave offence, even to the individual at whom it may have been intentionally directed.
At all times in his deportment, he was dignified and courteous. This was constantly evidenced in his contacts with others, not only in the daily walk of life but also in the performance of his professional and judicial duties. He was quickly comprehending in conference as well as in the performance of his duties on the bench, but careful and cautious always in arriving at a judgment.
To the members of the Bar he was always considerate, just and understanding. With many of them he had numerous contacts in his professional and judicial life. He had always a high concept of the duty of the lawyer as an officer of the court, to the client, to the court, and to the public. He regarded the courts and the legal profession as constituting a bastion of strength in our coordinated system of democracy under which this, our beloved country, has immeasurably thrived and grown great.
Chief Justice Fred Tarbell Field resigned his judicial office in the year 1947. He passed on to his eternal reward in the year 1950.
I respectfully request and move that this memorial be embodied in the records of this court.
Robert E. Goodwin, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:
May it please Your Honors: This memorial to the late Fred Tarbell Field, an Associate Justice of this court from 1929 to 1938 and its Chief Justice from the latter date to 1947, is presented in accordance with a long established custom. It has been prepared at the request of the Boston Bar Association in which he was a working member for many years, serving on the Council from 1921 to 1927 and as a vice-president for a period which ended when he took his seat on the bench.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to take part in the preparation of this tribute to a contemporary in membership in the bar of this court, whose attainments brought him the highest professional honor which can be conferred on a Massachusetts lawyer within the framework of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. It is to be hoped, however, that it will be something more than a formal tribute to a distinguished member of our profession. A fitting capstone would be added to the structure which he built by a lifetime of devoted effort, if the story told here were to become a source of encouragement, guidance and inspiration to young men and women who, in the years to come, may choose the law as their life work. For if they will read it, they will find new evidence that eminence in the profession can be attained by the persistent application of the simple virtues of right thinking and right living: -- unswerving adherence to the highest standards of ethics, unflagging effort to improve the mind and to master the principles which are the foundations of our system of law, joined always with the qualities of courtesy, patience and tolerance, and of generosity in the judgment of others. In short, the student of Chief Justice Field's career will learn how false is the notion that to reach a position of eminence in the, law, one must have the kind of mind and use the kind of methods which popular speech calls "smart."
Chief Justice Field was born and spent his boyhood days in North Springfield, Vermont, which had been the home of the Field family for three generations. He was brought up in an atmosphere of deep religious conviction and of devotion to the public interest; for his parents were leaders in the church and civic activities of their community, and his grandfather and his father served in both houses of the State Legislature and held other offices of public trust. These early influences continued to be powerful throughout his life, and an ever-present awareness of spiritual values became the foundation of his character.
In preparation for college he attended Vermont Academy and received his diploma in 1895. His school years were uneventful, although it deserves mention that he was chosen to command his company in the school cadet corps, This selection was, perhaps, primarily due to his high academic standing; yet in retrospect it may be looked, upon as an early forecast of the confidence and respect which, in his adult years, he unfailingly inspired in others. It is certain that lie did not seek the office, because any desire to dominate or command, or any flare for military ceremonial were completely lacking in his character.
Because he was somewhat inclined to be underweight, it was decided that lie should spend a year at home before entering college, and during that period he worked in his father's store in North Springfield. Then, in the fall of 1896, he entered Brown University as a member of the Class of 1900.
During his first two years in college he appears to have made but little impression on his classmates, for be was not asked to join a fraternity, nor did he take a leading part in undergraduate life. This may have been due to a certain reticence, which always colored his social relationships, or perhaps to the fact that the strong, but slow-moving currents of his personality were not detected. We do not know. But in his junior year a marked change took place. He became a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity and of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and was elected vice-president of his class and to office in both the Philosophical Club and the Debating Union. The next year new distinctions came when he was elected to the Cammarian Club (the honorary senior class society) and chosen president of his class - the highest honor which his classmates could confer and one which he held for ten years after his graduation. As any one who knew him well would expect, the courses which he selected lay, largely, in the area of the humanities history, political science, philosophy and literature.
The question of what he would choose as his life work appears to have been a difficult one for him, because both his temperament, and his ambition pointed to the law, yet his uncle, the Honorable Walbridge A. Field, then Chief Justice of Massachusetts, strongly urged against it; and there can be no doubt about the respect and affection in which he held this distinguished member of his family. In the end the quality of independence of mind, which was already well developed, coupled with his, natural fitness for the legal profession, dictated his decision, and after receiving his A.B. degree from Brown in June, 1900, he entered the Harvard Law School.
On receiving his LL.B. degree from Harvard in 1903, he was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar and immediately took a junior position in the office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth, under the Honorable Herbert Parker. After serving a novitiate of about two years, he became an assistant attorney general and continued to serve the Commonwealth in that capacity until 1912, when he left the public service and entered private practice in Boston, in close association with his former chief, Mr. Parker, although there was no partnership relation.
During his nine years of service on the staff of the Attorney General, he had acquired the status of an expert in the field of tax law, then in its infancy. This fact exerted a directing force upon his career in the law, because in the early part of 1918 he was asked to go to Washington to join the legal staff of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. There is no doubt that this assignment was not attractive to him, but the nation's war effort was approaching its climax and he regarded the request as a clear call to duty. His acceptance of this position gives evidence of a quality in his make-up which was strongly developed, and that is humility; for it meant that he would be an assistant to another member of the Boston bar who was four or more years his junior, both in service at the bar and in age. It should be noted, however, that this quality sprang not from any sense of inferiority, but rather from an earnest desire to make all honest and dispassionate appraisal of his own capabilities, while giving generous recognition to those of others. Nor did it deter him from enlivening his human relationships with touches of keen, dry humor of the kind that is said to be a peculiar product of his native Vermont. An incident during his work in Washington may be cited as an illustration. Late one afternoon, after a busy day, his Boston associate and immediate senior in the Bureau, came to Field's office to suggest that they dine together. Seeing Field's desk covered with papers, the senior said, "Fred, I see that there are many pending matters on your desk. Just look into my room and you will see a clear desk. "Well, Boss," Field replied, with the slow drawl which he affected on such occasions, "Please remember that it is downhill from your desk to mine and uphill from my desk to yours."
During this period in government service he played an important part in the development of tax law and procedure, helping in the drafting of both legislation and departmental regulations, and in the difficult task of statutory interpretation; for these war-time enactments had been drafted under heavy pressures of time and emergency, and the entire subject was in the experimental stage.
When the Armistice was signed in November, 1918, the desire to return to their normal pursuits was strong in the hosts of men who had entered government service "for the duration"; but when he was urged to remain in Washington in order to organize and serve on the newly created Advisory Tax Board of the Treasury Department, he yielded to the demands of public duty and did so.
In the fall of 1919 the assignment which had prolonged his stay in Washington was completed and he felt free to return to private practice. His experience in the new, complex and confused field of federal taxation had greatly widened and modernized his knowledge of tax law, and so it is not to be wondered at that he should have been approached by some of the large New York law firms with the suggestion that he join their ranks. To him, however, life in New York offered no attractions, and in November he became a partner in a Boston firm which adopted the name of Goodwin, Procter, Field & Hoar. Again he showed how little the trappings of life weighed with him, because he was older in years than any of his new partners and the senior in membership in the bar to all but one, who was a contemporary in that respect; yet he never suggested that his seniority should be reflected in the firm name. It was also typical of his indifference to the dollar sign that lie did not wish even to discuss the basis on which he should share as a partner at the time when he accepted the suggestion that he loin the firm.
The next nine years were crowded with events which kept his active and alert mind continuously at work, and brought happiness and rich satisfactions. The professional ties and relationships, which had been broken or interrupted during his two years in Washington were quickly renewed. His knowledge and experience in the field of tax law soon won him recognition as an authority on this subject and brought him many new connections which required frequent visits to Washington and New York.
In 1920 he was elected a trustee of Brown University, a recognition of his standing as an alumnus and as a man of special worth, which pleased and encouraged him, and helped to strengthen his confidence in himself.
In October of 1922 he married Gertrude Alice Montague of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the daughter of a distinguished Baptist clergyman who was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Newton Center at the time of his death several years earlier.
He extended his personal contacts through membership in several clubs and societies - social, professional, literary and historical - among which-may be mentioned the Union, St. Botolph, Curtis and Nisi Prius Clubs, and the Club of 0dd Volumes of Boston, the Cosmos Club of Washington, the American Historical Association, the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, serving for a time as a vice-president of the latter.
His labors as a layman in the Baptist Church were also extensive. For several years before his marriage he had lived in Cambridge and had taken an active part in directing the affairs of the First Baptist Church of that city, of which he was a member of the board of deacons and a trustee for many years. When, shortly after his marriage, he moved to Newton, he became a deacon of the First Baptist Church there, the parish over which his wife's father had presided. In addition, he was prominent in the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, serving on its board of managers from 1916 to 1919, as its vice-president in 1922 and 1923, and as its president in 1923 and 1924. In 1917 he had become a member of the board of trustees of the Newton Theological Institution and in 1928 he accepted the chairmanship of the board and held the office until 1935 when the increasingly heavy burdens imposed by his work on the court, compelled him to resign as chairman, although he continued as a trustee until 1944.
These extra-professional activities deserve mention, not only because they show his keen interest in people and his desire to do his full share of community work, but also because they furnish illuminating evidence of his capacity for unceasing labor. It would be agreed by all who knew him that if he accepted a responsibility, he put the best he could give into his discharge.
During this period in private practice he had several opportunities to try his hand at judicial work, by serving as master in various cases, some of which were of public importance and interest and called for a high degree of skill in marshalling intricate facts and setting them forth in orderly fashion.
The case which most enlisted his interest was that reported as Trustees of Andover Theological Seminary v. Visitors of the Theological Institution in Phillips Academy in Andover, 253 Mass. 256. It involved, among others, questions of whether the Andover Seminary might lawfully merge its educational activities with those of the theological department of Harvard University, and whether the visitors of the Andover school were invested with the power to raise that issue. The Andover Seminary had been founded and endowed for the purpose of preparing ministers for pastorates in churches of the Congregational denomination. The Harvard school had, to all intents and purposes, become undenominational. The plan of affiliation had been worked out in detail by the faculties and governing boards of the respective schools and the merger was all completed when its legality was challenged by the board of visitors of the Andover institution.
The facts to be found and stated by the master included the nature of certain theological tenets and concepts of a highly abstruse kind. It is doubtful whether any member of the Massachusetts bar was as well equipped for this task as was the then Fred T. Field, Esquire; not only because of his extensive activities as a layman of the Baptist Church, but also because of the distinctly philosophic cast of his mind and the wide scope of his reading in the field of theology. Furthermore, he was thoroughly familiar with the principles of law governing the use of endowments for defined charitable purposes, because several years before he bad been involved as counsel in the litigation which resulted from the attempt to bring about an affiliation between the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He likewise took a special interest in the case of Codman v. Boston & Maine Railroad, brought in 1927 in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, which involved the question of whether the corporate powers of the defendant railroad would permit it to incorporate a sports arena (now known as the Boston Garden) in its passenger terminal in Boston. The case had an embarrassing angle in that the reconstruction of the building, as planned, including the arena, was already well advanced when the suit was brought; a factor which disturbed him, lest it bias his judgment or color his findings of fact.
The reports submitted in these two cases give a foretaste of the way in which their author was to deal with facts and their relationship to the applicable principles of law when, a few years later, he would be called upon to write opinions as a justice of this court.
In 1926, an honor, which brought him warm satisfaction, came when he was elected a life member of the board of fellows of Brown University. The duties imposed by this office were onerous; but we know, on the authority of his associates on the board, that the late Chief Justice never slighted them in the least degree. Upon the death in 1948 of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, of the Supreme Court of the United States, lie became the senior fellow of the University, a position which he held during the rest of his life. For some three or four years before his death he had felt that, the demands of his judicial duties were preventing him from doing his full share of the work of the board and that lie should resign, but, the protests of his associates persuaded him to continue.
The period of private practice ended in January, 1929, when he accepted an appointment as an Associate Justice of this court. His selection was heartily endorsed by the bar of the Commonwealth. Many of its influential members had felt for several years that he was proving himself peculiarly well fitted to discharge the exacting and burdensome duties of the office. His close friends felt confident that if the honor were offered to him he would accept; because he had, in generous measure, that sense of family tradition which is said to be particularly strong in the stock of New England, and, as we have seen above, the careers of his grandfather, his father and his eminent uncle, the former Chief Justice, had all combined to establish such a tradition.
His career as Chief Justice and later as the Chief Justice of this court will be dealt with in a companion memorial. It only remains to record here, among the more important facts of his career, some of the new honors which came to him after he took his seat on the bench.
In 1931 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in the same year the degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on him by Dartmouth College. In presenting it President Hopkins addressed him as follows: --
Fred Tarbell Field
Graduate of Brown and successively for more than a decade a member of her Corporation and of her Board of Fellows; president of the Board of Trustees of Newton Theological Institution, one-time assistant attorney-general of Massachusetts; later member of the United States Tax Board; recognized authority on the laws of taxation; whose scholarly turn of mind diverted you from available material rewards and led you to accept what for yourself was the more abundant life of investigation and study of problems on the solution of which the public welfare hangs. As in a Commencement season four decades ago Dartmouth recognized the outstanding achievements of her eminent son who became the chief justice of the court upon which you sit, and conferred on Judge Walbridge A. Field, your distinguished uncle, her highest honor, so now, unassociated with any family interest, for merit of your own, Dartmouth confers upon you the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
In 1939 both Amherst College and Williams College gave him like degrees. In making the presentation the President of Amherst described him well, as "Learned, in the law; gentle and modest in action, unbending in moral standards and in the application of the principles of the law."
In 1940 the University of Vermont awarded him a similar honor; and in 1942 Boston University conferred upon him its honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law. In 1940 he was appointed Honorary Chairman of the Associated Alumni of Brown University and held the office until his death. In the same year he was elected to honorary membership in the Massachusetts Chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati.
But the recognition of his merits and achievements which pleased him most was the award in 1940, by his own Alma Mater, of the Susan Culver Rosenberger Medal, which was an honor at the disposal of the faculty of Brown University under a foundation which stipulated that it was to be conferred upon graduates of the University for specially notable or beneficial achievements. In presenting this medal the President of the University, Dr. Wriston, thus described the character and attainments of the recipient: "Judicial integrity supplies one of the foundation stones of the democratic process. Learning in the law is essential but it is not enough. Industry in the pursuit of justice is needful but by itself inadequate. Single-minded devotion, without variableness or shadow of turning, unimpeachable character which the breath of suspicion may not reach -- these are the ultimate necessities. Because in the administration of a great judicial trust you have displayed all these qualities, Brown University confers upon you its award for specially notable and beneficial achievement." The faculty of the University had acted sparingly in awarding this honor, Chief Justice Field being one of eight to receive it since its inauguration in 1919, and among them was Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.
Since the man whom we memorialize here today labored principally in the field of the intellect, it is appropriate that this record should contain some estimate of the qualities of mind which directed his efforts. His wag not the type of mind which is ordinarily described as "brilliant" -- the type which produces flashes of genius -- but it was a keen, powerful and incisive mind, strongly imbued with the quality of orderliness. It was an analytical mind which, when confronted with a problem involving facts or principles or both, functioned as does a prism when in contact with a ray of light; with the result that the subject matter is broken down into its several component parts, each arranged in its proper position of inter-relationship, as in the spectrum. It was a mind which tolerated no cessation of labor or research until the task at hand had been done to the satisfaction of an exceptionally sensitive conscience.
In summary, it can truthfully be said of Fred Tarbell Field that throughout his life he exemplified all that is best in the tradition of his native New England.
Richard Wait, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:
May it please Your Honors: I am instructed by the Massachusetts Bar Association to support the Attorney General's motion.
Ten years ago, lacking one day, many of us who are now here were gathered in this court room to celebrate the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of this Court. Chief Justice Field presided and, after addresses from the bar, spoke at some length on the history of the Court. Towards the end of his speech (I use the word as it is used in the House of Lords) he said: "It is the court as an institution, rather than its members as individuals, that we celebrate. 'The One remains, the many change and pass.' The individuals, however, have given the court vitality. It is the lengthened shadow of many men."
Today, we gather once again, this time to record, and to ask the court to spread upon its records, our memories and appraisal of one of those individuals. We are endeavoring to measure "the lengthened shadow" of one man whom we all knew and loved. My brother Goodwin has refreshed our recollection of Fred Tarbell Field and has spoken of him as the man rather than as the judge. My task, and privilege, is to speak of Mr. Chief Justice Field, one time Justice and then seventeenth Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, or twenty-seventh Chief Justice if you count from the establishment of the court under the title of the Superior Court of Judicature.
I am not sure that I shall perform that task to your satisfaction. All of us knew the late Chief Justice, and nothing I can say can add a cubit to his stature in your memories -- or, for the matter of that, subtract one if I stumble. But as best I may, I must try to trace the strand which he was in the warp and woof of the fabric which is the court.
First, then, let me build my record: Mr. Justice Field was appointed an Associate Justice on January 30, 1929, from the bar and took his seat on February 4, 1929, at the sitting in Boston. His judicial lineage in the court stemmed from Theron Metcalf, who bad been appointed in 1848 to the vacancy created by St. 1848, c. 9, through James Dennison Colt, John Wells, Otis Phillips Lord, Waldo Colburn, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry King Braley. Save for having sat as master on several important cases, he had had no previous judicial experience. He had, nevertheless, held important public posts which commended his selection to the bar. He had been an assistant attorney general and had served in Washington on the legal staff of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and on the Advisory Tax Board of the Treasury Department. This was an important and a particularly timely qualification, for he came to the court at just the time to have become seasoned as a judge when the impact of taxes became probably the most important common factor in the many diverse situations which result, in one way or another, in litigation. Before the 1914-18 war "tax counsel" did not exist. During the brief season of the war taxes, while Field was in Washington with the Bureau, that area of specialization began to be fenced. Once the depression was upon us and the Treasury really began to sink its claims into our clients all of us at the bar began to become tax counsel and we were all happy to have on the court a man who had had special training in the mysteries of federal taxation and tax litigation.
On top of this special capacity, or perhaps I should say both supporting and transcending it, was the acknowledged fact that Fred Field was a sound lawyer and a man who commanded the respect and affectionate admiration of all who knew him.
He sat as an Associate Justice for nine years, became Chief Justice in 1938 and at as our chief judicial magistrate for another nine years until he resigned in his final illness in 1947. Opinions under his name appear in fifty-five volumes of our Reports. The first is in the case of Starks v. O'Hara, 266 Mass. 310, the last in Boylston Housing Corp. v. O'Toole, 321 Mass. 538. In all they number five hundred eleven. He wrote one dissenting opinion. In addition he signed fifty-eight opinions of the Justices of which twenty-one were rendered while he was Chief Justice and one in the absence of the then Chief Justice and so were presumably written by him.
We are all familiar with his opinions and no discussion of individual cases would advance us this morning. They have been cited with regularity, the one most frequently cited, according to Shepard, is Weiner v. D. A. Schulte Inc. 275 Mass. 379, which has been referred to with approbation fifty-two times. They mostly follow a common pattern: the point presented is stated and how it came before the court, then comes the bald statement of the court's approval or disapproval, and after that a long and careful statement of the reasons with a full discussion of the authorities, generally subdivided into numbered and lettered paragraphs.
Once Judge Field had completed an opinion there was little else that could be said with profit on the point. But his special place in our memories does not come from his written opinions. He did not write with facility and he never attempted, I think, to make what he wrote epigrammatic or "readable." His judicial conscience was a terribly hard task master and his work suffered from its exactions. I fancy that he found it much harder than did most of his brethren to decide cases and that he never allowed an opinion to leave his desk until he was altogether persuaded that he was right in all that he had written. As a consequence he was unable to produce the number of opinions which might have come from a more facile pen and many of those which he wrote are perhaps over-long and are hard to read. But once read and digested the law is there. He was rarely content to say no more than was absolutely requisite to the actual decision to be made. He always strove to set forth every step in the reasoning and, particularly in cases involving statutory construction, to examine every word from every side.
But writing opinions is not the sole function of the judge and even less that of the chief justice. There are several equally important ingredients in the process of administering justice and arriving at an acceptable statement of the law. A court is at a great disadvantage in deciding a case which has not been adequately argued. Concededly that is the function of us who stand on this side of the bench, but how we perform that function depends, more than is sometimes acknowledged, upon how our endeavours are received by you who sit upon the bench. It is very hard to make an effective and helpful argument to a court which listens in courteous but inscrutable silence - almost as hard as it is to address an inattentive or a sleepy court. No counsel ever experienced that difficulty with Chief Justice Field upon the bench.
In his Judicial demeanor, and in the interplay between the minds of court and counsel which he encouraged, all of the strength and sweetness of his character, his patience and forbearance, his modesty and lack of pride of opinion, and above all his earnest determination that justice should be done were manifest. Unhappily it seems to be easy to argue a case in such fashion as to bore the court which must listen. It was not so easy in his court. He brought out the best in counsel, and that is a quality of precious worth. He accomplished this, I think, largely through making it plain that the argument of a cause, if it is to be truly helpful to the court, is more than the statement and elaboration of the contentions of the parties as conceived by their counsel, that it must be a cooperative venture between both court and counsel, in which there is give and take based upon mutual confidence and good will, inspired by a common devotion to the law as the institution through the processes of which alone justice may be done.
In this I am necessarily giving you my own impassion not upon anything which Chief Justice Field ever said, but upon the precept I received through my appearances before him and from a friendship which I value deeply. The atmosphere in his court room was easy and genial, but it was based upon the implicit assumption which counsel could not fail to respect that on each side of the bench had a common task which we each should perform as best we could.
I have said that I should try to trace a strand in a fabric. I suppose there is no one who has not puzzled, almost invariably without conspicuous success, on varying doctrines of immortality. But there is one variety of immortality which we can all understand, and to some extend measure, and that is the continuing influence of a man, after his death, upon a company of which he once made one. The court is always more than the aggregate of its contemporary Justices. In my metaphor of a fabric, the court today comprises not merely your Honours, but every one of the Justices who have preceded you and whose precedents are your tools in your daily task. Fred Field brought to this court sound learning and lofty determination, but more than that he brought a sweet and lovely nature, and he left with you the continuing precept and example of a genial and understanding Christian gentleman.
I press the Attorney General's motion.
On the thirtieth day of January, 1929, Fred Tarbell Field was appointed an Associate Justice of this court, and on the thirtieth day of June, 1938, he was appointed the sixteenth Chief Justice under the Constitution. These appointments were made by Governors of opposing political parties. Both appointments were brought about, if not, indeed, rendered inevitable, by reason of Fred Field's unique fitness by temperament, training and experience to serve the Commonwealth in high judicial office, and both appointments were amply justified by his distinguished service of more than eighteen years on this bench.
Chief Justice Field was born in Springfield, Vermont, December 24, 1876. To his naturally strong and alert mentality there were added the advantages of an excellent education. In school, college, and law school he exhibited in increasing degree his unusual capacity for deep and accurate analysis and painstaking constructive effort. He received his law degree from Harvard in 1903. Within two years afterwards he was an assistant attorney general of the Commonwealth, an office which he held until 1912. From 1913 until 1917 he was engaged in private practice and also lectured at Boston University School of Law. During the first world war from January, 1918, until the latter part of 1919 he rendered legal services to the government in Washington, first as an attorney in the bureau of internal revenue and later as a member of the newly formed United States advisory tax board. This was at a time when the first complicated taxes at high rates imposed by Congress produced many serious questions of legal construction and general policy. The opinions of this board in which Fred Field had an important share were among the foundation stones upon which rests the present day system of the bureau of internal revenue. Returning to Massachusetts, he was in private practice for about ten years until his appointment to this court. He found time, however, from 1921 until 1923 to lecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration. By the time of his appointment to this court he had become widely known as an expert in the law of taxation and had practiced extensively in that field. In his case, however, the possession of special learning and experience in a particular department of the law did not seem to have the usual effect of lessening interest or diminishing competence in other departments. When he came upon the court he entered at once into its manifold activities in all branches of the law. It soon became apparent that he was the possessor of a truly great legal mind equally available whether the question at issue involved the fine details of practice, procedure, and the law of evidence, or the great principles of constitutional law and the powers of governments. Although but little of his professional life had been spent in the court room, he seemed to have a clear understanding of the atmosphere and problems of a trial.
The first case written by Justice Field as a member of the court, Starks v. O'Hara, 266 Mass. 310, involved questions relating to the conduct of a jury trial and the exclusion of parol evidence tending to contradict the terms of negotiable paper. This case had been cited repeatedly. His last case, as Chief Justice, was Boylston Housing Corp. v. O'Toole, 321 Mass. 538, involving complicated questions of law and fact arising out of a labor controversy and related matters. He resigned from the court on the twenty-fourth of July, 1947, and died on the twenty-third of July, 1950. In all, he wrote for the court six hundred forty-one opinions, including a number of per curiam and so called "rescript" opinions which do not bear his name. In addition, twenty-two advisory opinions were presumably written by him, many of them upon questions of great importance and difficulty. It also fell to his lot to preside at the observance of the two hundred and fifties anniversary of the court on November 21, 1942, on which occasion he read an address containing a notable summary of the history of the court, reported in 312 Mass. at page 725. Many of his opinions have become recognized as landmarks of the law, and all are held in the highest respect. A large proportion of them dealt with issues of the gravest import. It would be difficult to select here those most worthy of special mention, and in any event space is lacking for adequate discussion. There are common qualities running through all of them which in most instances would suffice to identify the author without need of looking at the name.
The outstanding characteristics of Chief Justice Field's opinions are the extraordinary thoroughness and accuracy with which they were written. No matter how great or how small the issues involved, all were subjected to the same intense investigation of principles and authorities, law and facts, conducted with the same unremitting diligence. Matter included merely by way of illustration or explanation must meet the same tests as were applied to the main propositions in the case. This method of writing, even when exemplified in the work of a man whose mental processes were as fast and sure as those of Chief Justice Field, required the expenditure of much time and great labor and in some degree sacrificed quantity to quality. If some of his opinions seem long, it is not because they are verbose. Rather it is because they contain a great deal. If one is looking for a quick and easy, and therefore superficial and unreliable, answer to his inquiry, he would often better turn elsewhere. But if he earnestly seeks a full understanding of the subject and is prepared to devote the necessary time and effort to acquiring that understanding, he cannot do better than to start with one of Fred Field's opinions. There he will find careful study surprisingly rewarding. By that means only will he discover the wealth of research and the profundity of logical thinking which the author wove into the fabric. He will find proper weight given both to authority and to original reasoning. He will find sufficient, but not excessive, citation and reference. In the end he will find also both clarity and decisiveness. It is not too much to say that Chief Justice Field's opinions will prove of unique value to the court and to the profession. When one of them is found in the line of search, there is seldom need of going behind it. In itself it will contain the law as of the date it was written. The time spent by the author will be saved many times over to those who follow him. Implicit reliance can be placed upon his statements of the results of his researchers into the past, and with confidence it may be anticipated that his conclusions will prove sound when projected into the future.
But perhaps Chief Justice Field's greatest service to the court and to the Commonwealth was that which he rendered inside the court where it could not be seen or appreciated either by the bar or by the public. It is doubtful whether proper credit will ever be given him for this part of his work. Before he became Chief Justice he was recognized and appreciated within the court as a skillful and constructive critic of the work of others. After he became Chief Justice this part of his duties naturally assumed higher importance. It undoubtedly occupied a great deal of his time. His criticisms and suggestions were always well considered, thoughtful, and kindly. They were offered in entire unselfishness, wholly for the purpose of securing the best possible results, and with no thought of personal triumph. He was ready always to reconsider them and always to withdraw them on the rare occasions when they might be shown to be unsound. Many an opinion which he did not himself write was set in the proper track or freed of obscurities or questionable logic by his patiently guiding hand. His ready power of analysis of cases as they were argued and his thorough understanding of the abilities of his associates gave him great facility in assigning the cases to be written to the Justices best qualified to deal with them. In the court room he presided with dignity and without austerity. With his associates he was always approachable and in good humor. He was eager to be helpful on any occasion. No problem connected with the court was too difficult for him to suggest some solution or too small to engage his interest. His temperament was calm, reflective, and thoroughly judicial. He was the keen observer of human affairs rather than the passionate advocate of causes. He believed in adhering to the decided cases, but was not opposed to change if the necessity for change was clearly demonstrated.
Enough has been aid to show that Fred Field was a profound student of the law. But it must not be supposed that his was a cloistered existence, or that he had not other interests. The various clubs of which he was a member, both legal and social, and the numerous historical societies with which he was connected attest the breadth of his activities. Recognition of his qualities as a man as well as of his attainments as a legal scholar may be found in honorary degrees conferred upon him in turn by Dartmouth College, Amherst College, Williams College, the University of Vermont, and Boston University. But outside of his own immediate family and the court his chief devotion was to the Baptist, Church and to his beloved alma mater, Brown University. He was trustee of the First Baptist Church in Cambridge while he lived in that city, and later, after moving to Newton, he was for many years deacon of the First Baptist, Church of Newton Center. He was a member and served as president of the board of trustees of Newton Theological Institution and was president of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society. He was a trustee of Brown University from 1920 until 1926 and thereafter was a member of the board of fellows, becoming senior fellow upon the death of his friend and associate Charles Evans Hughes. He served as president, of the Brown Alumni Association and in 1940-1941 was president of the Brown Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. And in spite of all these interests he never forgot that he was a Vermonter. For many years it was his great delight, to spend the month of August in the town of his birth, taking long walks with Mrs. Field over the beautiful Vermont hills and visiting his aging mother, who until her death at ninety-five insisted upon reading, or upon having read to her, when her own eyesight failed, every opinion written by her talented son.
No clearer expression of what Chief Justice Field contributed to this court can he penned than that which, at the time of his appointment as Chief Justice, was written of him by the Chief Justice of the United States. Chief Justice Hughes said, "It has long been my privilege to he associated with him on the Board of Fellows of Brown University and I have had abundant opportunity to appreciate his eminent abilities and to prize his friendship. I heartily congratulate him on his succession to the long line of distinguished jurists who have graced the high office to which he has been appointed and I count the people of the Commonwealth most fortunate in having the service of one so richly qualified by character, talent and experience. The traditions of the Supreme Judicial Court are a priceless heritage and I am sure that they will be maintained and reinforced in his competent hands." How well this prophecy was fulfilled!
In conclusion we cannot do better than to quote again from the words of Chief Justice Hughes spoken by him of another eminent former Chief Justice of this court: "The most beautiful and the rarest thing in the world is a complete human life, unmarred, unified by intelligent purpose and uninterrupted accomplishment, blessed by great talent employed in the worthiest activities, with a deserved fame never dimmed and always growing."
Such a life need not he lived upon the immense stage of national affairs. It can lie lived in a smaller and more modest setting. Such a life was that of Fred Tarbell Field.
The motion that the Memorial be spread upon the records of the court is granted.
The court will now adjourn.