The Honorable Charles Ambrose DeCourcy died at New London, New Hampshire, on August 22, 1924. He was an Associate Justice of this court from September 20, 1911, to the date of his death. On June 27, 1925, a special sitting of the full court was held in Boston, at which there were the following proceedings.
The Attorney General addressed the court as follows:
May it please your Honors: I have been asked by the bar of this court to present the following memorial:
Charles Ambrose DeCourcy; A memorial. 1
Charles Ambrose DeCourcy was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on September 23, 1857, and died in New London, New Hampshire, on August 22,1924. His death was sudden and unexpected, and brought to an untimely close a life of honorable achievement and great distinction. He made his own way in the world, without adventitious aids, and his career furnishes a splendid illustration of the opportunities which this country affords to young men of ability, industry and determination.
In 1846, John DeCourcy of Kinsale in southern Ireland was married to Mary Lawlor. Less than two years later the young couple, with their infant daughter, joined the multitude who were seeking new opportunities beyond the Atlantic. They settled in the recently incorporated town of Lawrence, destined to be their home for the remainder of their lives, and there John with industry and skill plied the trade of carpenter which he had learned in the mother country. Establishing a business of his own, he acquired a competence, and his three children were given every educational advantage.
The daughter, Hannah, gifted with rare qualities of mind and character, was to become Sister Agnes Aloysia, Mother Superior of the Convent of Mount Notre Dame at Reading, Ohio. The older son, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became an architect and practised his profession in Los Angeles.
Charles DeCourcy was born less than ten years after the arrival of his parents in this country. He received his education in the public schools of the city, and at Georgetown University, where he was graduated with the degree of A. B. in 1878, being one of the commencement speakers. Thereafter he studied law at Boston University and took his degree of LL.B.,cum 1aude,in 1880. After a year spent in the office of Shattuck, Holmes and Monroe in Boston, he entered upon the practice of his profession in Lawrence,in association at first with John K. Tarbox, a member of Congress and leading lawyer. On September 8, 1886, he was married to Elizabeth Mary Roberts of Lawrence, who, with two sons, Harold and John, survives him.
He practised law in Lawrence until 1902, winning a high degree of success. For six years, beginning in 1884, he was assistant district attorney of the Eastern District, serving under District Attorney Henry F. Hurlburt. In 1891, he became senior partner of the firm of DeCourcy and Coulson, afterwards DeCourcy, Coulson and Cox. In 1892, he was city solicitor of Lawrence. He was a trial lawyer of exceptional ability, and had that kind of miscellaneous general practice which furnishes so admirable a prelude to a judicial career. The Essex County bar, in those days as always, counted among its numbers many distinguished lawyers, and in this company DeCourcy early took a leading place. He brought to the service of his clients not merely natural gifts of a high order, but unfaltering diligence, thoroughness in the preparation of his cases, a determination to give the best that was in him to every task. His experience was, however, by no means limited to the trial of cases. He became an adviser of men of affairs, and was associated as bank director and otherwise with many business enterprises. Ever mindful of his obligations as a citizen, he became a leader in the civic life of his community.
In 1902, at the age of 44, he was appointed to the Superior Court by Governor Crane, and thereafter devoted his life to the judicial service of the Commonwealth. As a nisi prius judge he was very successful. With his quick comprehension and ready knowledge of men, he presided skilfully and effectively at trials by jury. He was prompt and decisive in his rulings and his instructions to the jury were clear and admirably expressed. He was always courteous and affable in his dealings with members of the bar. These qualities, coupled with his fine presence and attractive voice, made him a distinguished figure upon the bench of the great trial court.
One of his abiding interests was in the administration of the criminal law, and particularly in the development and extension of the probation system, which seemed to him to be, as he once said in a public address, "the most effective method in use to solve the criminal problem." He strove to place the system on a sound and scientific basis and make it effective in its purpose of human reclamation. Becoming convinced of the need of greater uniformity than prevailed when he took his seat upon the bench, he sought to bring about the establishment of a State board which should have supervision over the entire probation system of the State. The legislation of 1908 which created the commission on probation was due in no small part to his efforts, and he became the first chairman. The aid and encouragement which Judge DeCourcy gave the commission in the performance of its duties and his constructive criticisms of the system in operation constituted a signal service to the people of Massachusetts, perhaps not fully appreciated by the general public but recognized as invaluable by those intimately associated with the work of the commission.
In 1911, Governor Foss, with the full approval of the bar of the Commonwealth, promoted Judge DeCourcy to the Supreme Judicial Court. Here, as in the trial court, Judge DeCourcy rendered service of high quality. His opinions are characterized by soundness of reasoning, clearness and simplicity of style and a commendable brevity. Intellectually honest, he did not shrink from recognizing in any case with which he was called upon to deal a hitherto undecided residue not covered by previous decisions, but faced the situation frankly and made plain the step in advance which was required. He never forgot the relation of the law to the real life of the community or overlooked the fact that he was dealing with a social science rather than abstract science. While he avoided an exhaustive and encyclopedic recital and discussion of prior decisions, his treatment of the more abstruse branches of the law was entirely adequate. Kind hearted, courteous, patient and anxious to do justice, he was one before whom it was a pleasure to appear. He will be remembered as a sound and satisfactory judge.
Tireless as he was in the performance of his professional duties, his interests were by no means limited by the range of his daily tasks.
Judge DeCourcy's tastes were scholarly. He was a great reader, and after he took up his residence in Boston was one of the most constant visitors at the Athenaeum. He was particularly interested in history and biography and indeed had dreamed of devoting his leisure to historical research when he should retire from the bench.
He was likewise keenly interested in public affairs, and with his pleasing personality, qualities of leadership and effectiveness as a public speaker, it is easy to believe that he might have had a distinguished political career.
He was a religious man, unswerving in his devotion to the faith of his fathers. Singularly free from prejudices of race or creed, he was sincerely tolerant of men whose views and opinions differed widely from his own. Without losing any of his personal loyalties or weakening in the slightest in his fundamental opinions, he was able to deal effectively with widely varying groups and to make a distinct contribution toward the leveling of the artificial barriers between them.
His broad human sympathies, his personal charm, affectionate nature and talent for friendship made him ever welcome in any gathering of lawyers. He never felt that his high judicial position required him to hold himself aloof from social intercourse with his brethren of the bar, and their affection for him as a man was equal to their respect for him as a judge.
It was not merely the members of his profession in Massachusetts who appreciated his abilities. He was one of the Board of Regents of Georgetown University, a fellow and vice president of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, a member of the Judicial Section of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He had been chairman of the committee on criminal law of the American Prison Association, president of the Massachusetts State Conference of Charities, a visitor of the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. In 1904 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from his alma mater.
The funeral services were held in the Church of St. Mary in the parish where he was baptized, confirmed and married, and where until his removal to Boston he had been a steadfast communicant.
And now the bar of Massachusetts, to pay its tribute of respect and affection, assembles in this court room, in the presence of you who were for so many years his associates upon the bench, and submits this brief memorial, feeling that, inadequate as it is, it may serve, in some slight measure, as a record of the esteem in which he was held by the lawyers of the Commonwealth.
On behalf of the bar of this Commonwealth I respectfully request that this memorial be embodied in the records of this court.
Honorable Alden P. White addressed the court as follows:
May it please your Honors: The Bar, its personnel ever passing, ever renewed, is always a cone. Those who in youth formed the wide, compact base, by the influx of newer youth are being constantly lifted higher and higher, their own particular area always diminishing, until contemporaries of more than forty years of fellowship form a thin circle high up the perimeter of the cone, and are prone to cast only a stealthy glance, still upward, toward the slender apex and to wonder which survivor of their number will, before long, briefly supplant the lone Nestor temporarily at the top.
The earlier years of practice at the Bar are the genesis of a close community among lawyers who are contemporaries. They have toed the same mark, they have striven for the same goal. Crucial tests have revealed for better or for worse, real character; have bred abiding friendships.
For the most part members of the Bar of the Commonwealth live their lives, do their work, in their respective home shires. They are Berkshire men, Hampshire men, Bristol men, Worcester men, Middlesex men, Plymouth men, each group knowing and loving its own environment; each group with a bond of intimacy peculiarly its own; the smaller the shire, the closer the intimacy.
Now and then, by the process as awesome as it is simple, the autocratic finger of democratic government beckons to some individual within the Bar of this or that home shire and points his way out and up, to a seat on the Bench.
Thenceforth the attitude of former associates toward one thus honored is dual. They merge his personality in the impersonality of a tribunal which can know no friends, which can grant nothing by favor. Submitting their causes to his consideration as to a stranger, as to a minister of that Temple of Justice which they have sworn to sustain, they are nevertheless pridefully conscious that he was one with them, that his honor is the honor of the home shire.
And he, "His Honor!" As he dons the robe, as his vision broadens from that of advocate to that of judge, howsoever much or far he is removed, can he ever, will he ever wipe out his experience, his associations, his friendships, his love for his own home shire?
Is it quite beyond conception that, while some leader of the bar from that home shire gravely argues from his brief an issue of constitutional law, for an infinitesimal fraction of a moment there may flash through His Honor's mind a thought of that hard fought tort case, which, long ago, he tried with that very advocate?
Mr. Justice DeCourcy was of Essex. On behalf of the diminishing few who were his contemporaries of that bar, and on behalf of the younger men there to whom his work and example has been an inspiration, I ask pernnimion to add to the wreath of the Commonwealth a leaf of laurel from his home shire.
After a friend has forever gone, on the mention of his name or of some event or locality which was associated with his life, some definite picture or pictures, in which he was a central figure, is apt to flash on the curtain of one's memory. Two such pictures of him whom we are now honoring are thus vividly recalled. The first stands out against the background of an occasion like this. Thus reads the record:--
"At a special sitting of the Supreme Judicial Court, held at Salem, April 26, 1919, Mr. Justice Charles A. DeCourcy presiding, and with him Justices Charles U. Bell, Joseph F. Quinn, James H. Sisk and Louis S. Cox, of the Superior Court, the following proceedings took place:" --
Sitting beneath the priceless portrait of a great Chief Justice of this tribunal, these judges each and all were within the heart of their home shire. Facing them, within the forum where they each had won success, were their former associates of the Bar. The element of personal relation prevailed; an unspoken consciousness of brotherhood transcended the never more formal separation between Bench and Bar. The president of the Essex Bar Association, introducing a memorial, said: "May it please the Court: The Honorable William Henry Moody, a member of the Essex Bar since 1878, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from December 7, 1906, when he took his seat, until November 20, 1910, when he retired by reason of illness, died at his home in Haverhill on July 2, 1917, in the sixty-fourth year of his age."
All present were conscious of the almost dramatic fitness with which Justice DeCourcy presided over those memorable exercises: with dignity as of the highest court of the Commonwealth, he listened to and accepted memorials to a distinguished statesman and jurist; with keen emotion, in his home shire, he felt the grief of one who had lost a close friend. There was much of parallelism in the careers of the living and of the dead. Both were born and reared in Essex. There they began their practice. There they developed marked distinction as trial lawyers. There, continually meeting, they advanced to leadership. There each in turn had represented the Commonwealth in the prosecution of criminal cases, often, in the most important of such cases, against the skilled defence of the other. They knew and called each other only by those diminutives of their first names. Their generous rivalry ceased when, within no great interval of time, they were respectively called out of their home shire, the one to Congress, to the Cabinet, to a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States; the other to the career now being commemorated. The friendship, born of community of experience in the home shire, never ceased. It became closer, more full of meaning, as in the ripeness of their lives they advanced separately but so similarly, so sympathetically in service and honor.
In sharp contrast to the solemn dignity of the event just recalled, there comes up another picture -- one of humor, of genial aspect, of the sort by which, after all, I suspect that Justice DeCourcy would have us remember him. Among the attorneys of his native city who were established in practice when he came to the Bar, was a man of high character and scholarly habit, an excellent lawyer, one whose name is permanently associated with certain legal publications. He was very much apart of the local life into which the younger man grew, until he, the older, received a well deserved appointment to the bench of the Superior Court. Something more than five years ago this judge, who had been honorably retired on age limit, was nevertheless, on call, holding a long jury session in Salem with his old time energy and ability. During this service, the Essex Bar Association tendered to their veteran associate a complimentary banquet. The setting of the occasion was in that old hall redolent with pleasant traditions of velvet coats and satin skirts dancing old-time minuets, of stately banquets of shipowners, merchants and "cap'ns," where famous men spoke eloquently, of the myriad functions of a century and a quarter of the changing social and civic life of the community. Naturally, the gathering was made up, for the most part, of men so much younger than the recipient of their courtesy that he and they were quite strangers to each other. Doubtless some of the young men who had appeared in court before him had ascribed to his serious face and patriarchal, thin white hair an austerity untempered by any sense of humor. Such an estimate was speedily dispelled. Addresses of compliment and congratulation there were, in plenty. In response, his face beaming with joviality, he said "Brethren, I know all this is flattery, but -- I like it." If there had been any ice, it was shattered and melted.
The Chief Justice and several associates of his court had been invited to join in the greeting. But the central figure was Mr. Justice DeCourcy. Most fittingly, most cordially, he gave himself up to the spirit of the occasion; most thoroughly he shared its fellowship, enjoyed its relaxation. Tenderly, lovingly, he paid to his senior-in-years such a tribute as could come from the friend of a lifetime, fraught with reminiscence, keen with sympathetic appreciation, of the work and worth with which he had been so intimately in contact, and all replete with kindly humour. He was back in his home shire.
Talking as an older brother to the young men, he spoke with simple eloquence of his love for their Bar Association in which he always kept his membership, and of his pride in its history. He spoke of Sewall, Parsons, Story; Saltonstall, Cushing, Choate; Putnam, Lord, Endicott; Ives, Moulton, Moody. He urged them to maintain the high traditions of which they were the heritors.
Speaking of the judiciary, he quoted, from memory, certain passages of the address of that Essex jurist, whose bronze figure adorns the vestibule of this court house, delivered on the issue of appointment or election of judges in the Constitutional Convention. Undoubtedly he had made them his own. Undoubtedly he had transcribed them to the tablets of his heart. As he uttered them, he revealed his own lofty conception of the standards of duty, responsibility, high intelligence, purity of conduct, which he had set for himself in the fulfillment of his own high office. Let them have a place in his eulogy:
"In the first place, he should be profoundly learned in
all learning of the law and he must know how to use that learning...
"In the next place, he must be a man, not merely upright; not merely honest and well-intentioned -- this of course -- but a man who will not respect persons in judgment.. . .He shall know nothing about the parties; everything about the case. He shall do everything for justice; nothing for himself; nothing for his friend; nothing for his patron; nothing for his sovereign.... If Athens comes there to demand that the cup of hemlock be put to the lips of the wisest of men; and he believes that he has not corrupted the youth, nor omitted to worship the gods of the city, nor introduced new divinities of his own, he must deliver him, although the thunder light on the unterrified brow....
"And finally he must possess the perfect confidence of the community, that he bear not the sword in vain. To be honest, to be no respecter of persons, is not yet enough. He must be believed such....[H]e [should] be a man towards whom the love and trust and affectionate admiration of the people should flow.2"
Just three individuals -- there were four, but one has gone -- will retain another picture of Justice DeCourcy, against the background of certain Cape Cod dunes, in glorious enjoyment of just out doors, watching with interest the last shots of a close golf game.
It fits with that final scene which we all try to visualize when, in well earned recreation, on certain other links in the north, between lake and hills, where to behold was beauty, where to breathe was to rejoice, where to live was worship. The Finger touched him and he slept.
Henry V. Cunningham,Esquire, addressed the court as follows:
May it please the Court: Mr. Justice DeCourcy came to the Bar with an education that gave him an appreciation of culture that was manifest in his conduct and manner and that was sustained throughout his life.
From the beginning he was what he appeared to be and inspired confidence in his ability and judgment.
He was painstaking and thorough both as to the facts and the law.
In the community where he was born and grew to manhood he established a practice that was a tribute to his repute among his fellow citizens of Lawrence and his extraordinary ability as a wise counsellor and capable advocate. The rewards of this practice, which he prudently invested, gave him a competence which enabled him to devote his efforts to the congenial judicial work which he gladly undertook upon his appointment to the Superior Court.
From the time of his appointment, throughout his judicial career his fine qualities were conspicuous, his knowledge of the law was extensive and accurate, he was familiar with the life and habits of men in all walks, he was patient, considerate, and inclined to lead and direct and not to drive.
Thus he was at the Bar and upon the Bench.
He held to a philosophy of life that enabled him to discriminate between the valued and the valueless; between sound principles and evanescent theories, both social and political.
His literary attainments entitled him to sit among scholars and poets and they were proud of his commendation. He could pay deserved tribute eloquently without fulsome praise or flattery and he graced a public occasion as a true orator.
His friendship was valued by those who held it and his companionship was sought for his charm and genial qualities.
The real qualities which formed his character were his attachment to his family and to his friends, his loyalty, his charity, his sympathy to those in distress; and the help he gave to them was without ostentation. He gave to his friends that kindly interest in their undertakings that encouraged them in difficulty and increased the reward of their success. In sickness or sorrow his sympathy was prompt and cordial.
Once committed to a course, he sustained it throughout and, while firmly bound by the proprieties of his judicial position, he consistently maintained and supported his views.
His charity was in his speech and his action. If there were those who did not please him, he spoke not of them.
He knew the affluent surrounded with luxury, and the lowly in his humble home. He knew the erring, suffering for his fault.
He was uninfluenced by wealth and not disdainful of the poor. He relieved suffering and helped the needy, not in the spirit of the dole, but with the consciousness that he was sharing his plenty with those entitled with him to what had been entrusted to him.
His interest in the erring and his work in their behalf is an important part of the history of our courts.
When he went upon the bench, he felt the need of a personal, additional interest outside of the duties of a presiding justice, and chose that which dealt with the persons who came before the criminal sessions. This added, self imposed task brought him in touch with men of similar interest throughout the country and his interest became a zeal which enthused others in our Commonwealth to the extent of producing our own splendid probation system, which brought together in unity the influences that previously had only sporadic existence in scattered portions of the State.
His interest in the younger members of the bar was kindly and encouraging.
He had a constant interest in education, shown by devotion to his Alma Mater, who honored him as the first layman appointed to its Board of Regents.
He scrupulously followed the system of scholastic philosophy, in recognition of which Harvard College called him to its councils in the direction of her philosophic teaching.
We are commemorating the departure of such a man, whose legal attainments are manifest in the scholarly opinions which he left as part of our Common Law. His other virtues repose with him and can be told to posterity only by our poor words.
Thomas W. Proctor, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:
May it please the Court: The Bar, itself in a state of constant change, gathers here from time to time to pay deserved respect to one of that long procession of able judges that are selected from among us, that serve Massachusetts with fidelity and skill and pass on in the appointed way of man.
We come today to offer our tribute to Judge DeCourcy.
It was my privilege to have had his friendship for many years -- how many I cannot tell. It began when he was a clever and successful advocate, a tried and trusted counsellor. Then he was chosen with general approbation to be a judge of our trial court. As we all know, he served with conspicuous success. We were glad to try our cases before him. He saw the case as it was. He was determined, so far as it lay with him, that justice should be done. If one had a real case, it was safe with him. He was not to be diverted from the real case. He was courteous and helpful, patient and kindly, but the proceedings were in his hands and all knew it.
As was to be expected (though it does not always happen) he was promoted to this Court and sat here many years. It would be, not presumptuous perhaps, but still in doubtful taste, to tell you about his qualities as a judge of this Court. We can only speak of how he appeared to us from the Bar. Nor are we here to speak words of fulsome eulogy. The bare truth is enough. More than that he would himself have scorned. We thought him a good and efficient judge. We thought him still kindly and sweet, industrious and painstaking, intelligent and strong. His career is a refutation of the fallacy that merit goes unnoticed in the present days. He loved his fellow men and was glad to serve them. They were glad to honor him.
Rufus Choate said in one of those rare characterizations which no one else could express except Burke, whose disciple he was: "At the foundation of all splendid and remarkable national distinction there lie at last a few simple and energetic traits: a proud heart, a resolute will, sagacious thoughts, reverence, veneration, the ancient prudence, sound maxims, true wisdom.
With these few simple and energetic traits our friend was endowed in more than common measure. He lived a good, full, useful life. In the restrained language of the ancient Roman phrase, he deserved well of the republic.
Boyd B. Jones, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:
May it please the Court: The memorial submitted and the brethren who have preceded me have so faithfully portrayed the personality of Judge DeCourcy and so adequately told the story of his life, that my words are those only of attestation and emphasis.
With all my soul, with all my heart, with all my mind, and with every responsive emotion and thought, I join in this just tribute to an excellent judge, a useful and honored citizen, an accomplished and cultured gentleman, an able and upright man, one so devoted to his friends and so loyal to high ideals.
If the voices or thoughts of affection and regard can now reach him, he will be gratified that, mingled with them, are those from Essex County, the place of his nativity, the birthplace of his ambitions, the scene of his successful professional career and the early home of his friendships. He was one of the distinguished citizens of that county and one of its most favored sons. He was proud of that distinction and prized that relationship.
At the time of his appointment as a Justice of the Superior Court, he was a leader at the bar, one of the very good lawyers in this Commonwealth, splendidly qualified by his natural endowments, his attainments and professional experience for judicial service; his efficiency as a trial judge was notable and after nine years' service he not only was a distinguished figure on the bench, but also by common consent the natural choice for appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.
He accepted that high position with a true conception of its importance and a vivid realization of its tremendous responsibilities.
As the Children of Israel regarded the ark of the Lord and God's covenants therein, so he looked upon the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth. To him it was a reality that they contained the guaranties of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without which the governmental structure would be but a miserable habitation of unfortunate beings; to him it was a reality that to his associates and himself had been entrusted the safeguarding of those rights.
With ardent enthusiasm, and with all his energy, he strove so to discharge the duties of his high office that it would be the judgment of his own and later generations that he was a fitting successor to the eminent men who had preceded him, and one altogether worthy to sit in the seats of the mighty -- and this he has accomplished.
Posterity will not know his personality, so animated, so winning and attractive, his bearing, so gallant and so courtly, his voice, so pleasing in its expressive intonations, his face, so responsive in its lights and shadows to his varying thoughts and feelings, the bright cheer of his disposition, the inspiring confidence of his temperament, his heart so concerned and interested for the welfare of his friends, and his kindly regard and consideration for the interests of others; but all this and more we have inexpressibly known and prized, and never shall forget.
Chief Justice Rugg responded as follows:
Mr. Attorney General and Brethren of the Bar: Poignant sorrow for loss of Mr. Justice DeCourcy has hardly yet subsided. Prospect of complete rest for the summer encouraged hope for regained strength when, scarce twelve months ago, he came on shipboard to bid me an affectionate Godspeed. Seven weeks later the invisible courier of the air brought to midocean the sad news of his unexpected death. Doubtless "for most of us the fountain of tears is early dried." But on that boat of returning voyagers many an eye was moist as tidings of his going quickly spread. It was difficult to realize that we should see no more in the flesh that familiar figure, nor feel again the kindling warmth of that friendly spirit, and that we were destined to long in vain
". . . for the touch of a vanished hand
And the sound of a voice that is still."
The relations of the members of this court, one with another, are closely personal. The death of one in active service affects the others with peculiar emotions. In speaking of such an one, there is need to guard at once against indiscriminate eulogy and inordinate constraint.
Mr. Justice DeCourcy came to this bench in 1911, days before his fifty-fourth birthday, in the full maturity of physical, mental and moral power. He brought invaluable experience gained from general practice both as adviser and trier of causes. His work at the bar was characterized by the utmost attention to every detail. His preparation was by the full course of study at the laws and also by the tuition of the office. Although gifted with a melodious voice, he spared no pains in its cultivation under the best teachers of vocal expression of his day. He gladly pursued the hard course of training they prescribed to the end of becoming an agreeable and attractive as well persuasive advocate and public speaker. He was no specialist in the practice of the law. The stimulating variety of professional activity incident to life in a growing and not yet large manufacturing city in the midst of the country came to his office. He became familiar with every branch of practical jurisprudence. Son of Essex county, famous from early days as the home of brilliant and learned giants of our profession, he was proud of its illustrious history. In striving to be worthy both of those who had gone and of those who were his adversaries and contemporaries, he added to its firmament a new star, differing from others in glory, but shining for the emulation of those are to follow. His practice at the bar, covering a period of twenty-one years, was supplemented by nine years of service on the Superior Court. There he demonstrated that a successful and leading trier of causes can achieve a position of primacy in presiding over trials by jury. Courage, insight, sagacity, industry, alertness, knowledge of men and of affairs and of law, quickness of perception and action, clearness of thought and expression, enabled him without haste and without delay to make a close approach to the ideal in the accomplishment of justice in the trial court. Thus he brought to this Bench an unusual equipment, giving promise of a career in harmony with those standards of excellence in character and learning demanded of its members by the underlying expectations of the people as well as of members of the Bar. That promise was more than fulfilled by his achievements.
He was a justice of this court for almost exactly thirteen years -- from September 20, 1911, until August 22, 1924. He wrote seven hundred eighteen opinions expressive of the judgment of the court, to be found in thirty-nine volumes of our Reports. The first is Goulding v. Eastern Bridge & Structural Co. 210 Mass. 52, and the last, Morgan v. Republican Publishing Co. 249 Mass. 388. Perhaps his discussion of the obligations incurred by the acceptance of charitable trusts, in Harvard College v. Attorney General, 228 Mass. 396, attracted the widest attention. He wrote only two dissenting opinions and did not join in dissenting opinions of others. His opinions have an excellence all their own. They are brief. They deal only with the precise point to be decided. Rarely do they contain dicta. The citation of supporting authorities is sparing, but accurate and exactly apposite. His statements of facts and of the controlling legal principles, always sufficient, manifest rare power of condensation and singular capacity to seize upon the essential to the exclusion of the subordinate. Herein was made manifest the high skill of the trial lawyer in focusing attention on the vital and ignoring the unimportant. His natural endowment for felicitous speech was extraordinary. He was able easily to fashion the garment of language appropriate for his thought. Nevertheless, he spent much time and toil in the mere art of composition. No labor was accounted lost in search for the apt word to express the desired shade of meaning. He was equally solicitous to be succinct. He was eager to cut out the superfluous sentence, the unnecessary phrase, the redundant word. He was in this respect, as in all others, peculiarly receptive to suggestion from his associates, and invited their criticism touching details as well as substance. With such natural gifts and such genius for care, it was inevitable that his judicial style should show exceptional excellence. Even the purist would be perplexed to point out defects in his writing. The weightier matters of the law suffered no derogation from such attention to form. His work was characterized by patient and thorough investigation and careful deliberation upon every aspect of the case in hand, and mature consideration of the ultimate reach of governing principles. His thought was clear. His expression of it hardly can misunderstood. He was helpful in the discussions around the consultation table. He approached every problem with a heart warm with human sympathy. Unblemished character and adequate learning in the law enabled him to deal with every question in the white light of judicial impartiality. Lithe and slender, of medium height, joyous in all sport appropriate for his years, lover of the out-of-doors, he seemed destined for a long life.
He was an illustration of the truth of the words of a great lord chancellor of the fourteenth century, "Manners makyth man." In that ancient motto, the word "manners" comprises morality as well as deportment. It includes outward manifestations of the inward workings of the elevated soul, grace of bearing, purity of conduct. It comprehends all those elements which make genuine courtesy under all circumstances. These were his in marked degree. He was religious by nature, a faithful attendant upon public worship, strictly observant of all the rites of his church. His was a personality of rare charm. Delightful in conversation, of sparkling and kindly humor, there was never-failing attractiveness in his companionship. He was scholarly by instinct. Lover of the classics, widely read in poetry, literature and history, interested in philosophy, he was friendly with large numbers of men of quite varied accomplishments. Possessed of winsomeness and diversity of tastes, his friends were legion among all kinds of right-minded people. He was deeply attached to the city of his birth, to her people and to her institutions. In his later years she could make no call upon his time, his ripened wisdom, his speech, to which he was not inclined gladly to respond.
The story is told of a poll taken among some of our soldiers overseas during the great war, as to the most important virtue. The result, was an overwhelming majority for loyalty. This incident exemplifies what was perhaps the most conspicuous attribute of our departed friend. He was unflagging in loyalty to his friends, to his university, to his associates, to the Commonwealth, to this court; above all, to duty. Heir in intellect and temperament of the manifold excellencies of the Celtic race, nurtured by the training of our schools and contact with our composite population, uplifted by the precious and noble traditions of civil and religious liberty of our beloved Commonwealth, inspired by profound love of American institutions, Charles Ambrose DeCourcy enriched our civic, professional and judicial life.
An order may be entered that the memorial be spread upon the records of the court.
This session will now adjourn.
1. This memorial was prepared by committees of the Essex Bar Association and of the Bar Association of the City of Boston, acting jointly. Reporter.
2. Debates and Proceedings in Massachusetts Convention of 1853, pages 288, 289.