A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at the house of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, No. 28 Newbury Street, Boston, on Thursday, December 16, 1927, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Samuel Eliot Morison, Ph.D., in the chair.

    The Records of the Annual Meeting in November were read and approved.

    The President reported the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Charles Edwards Park as Corresponding Secretary, and announced that the Council had elected Percival Merritt as Corresponding Secretary of the Society.

    Mr. Clarence Walworth Alvord of Paris, France, was elected a Corresponding Member.

    Mr. Allen French spoke on “Orderly Books of the British Occupation of Boston, 1774–1776.” He discussed the orderly books now known, and pointed out that they, taken as a whole, show as nothing else does the routine military life of the garrison during the siege. They give a picture in minute detail of the daily life of the soldier. Especially valuable are the two orderly books of the Marines.

    MR. Arthur Prentice Rugg communicated a Memoir of Marcus Perrin Knowlton, which Mr. Rugg had been requested to prepare for publication in the Transactions of the Society.




    Marcus Perrin Knowlton was chosen vice-president of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in November, 1902, having been elected to membership in the previous December, and continued to hold that office until his death on May 7, 1918. He was deeply interested in the work of this society. It was congenial to his tastes. He attended its meetings whenever his official duties permitted, and occasionally he contributed by his speech to the excellence of its program. He was born in Wilbraham on February 3, 1839, the son of Merrick and Fatima (Perrin) Knowlton. He prepared for college at Monson Academy and graduated at Yale in the class of 1860. He was admitted to the bar in Hampden County on September 24, 1862, and thereafter resided in Springfield. For many years he was a partner in the practice of law with George M. Stearns, in his day a leading and famous advocate. His practice was of the most general nature. He was a wise counselor. He was endowed with a mind of unusual strength. He was studious and faithful, and achieved a high reputation as a lawyer. His integrity and ability won the confidence of the community in which he lived. He was a president of the Common Council of Springfield in 1872 and 1873. He was representative in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1878, and a member of the Senate in 1880 and 1881. In 1881, at the age of forty-two, he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court by Governor Long. He was singularly fitted to perform the duties of that position. He held counsel strictly to their appropriate functions. No time was wasted. He was prompt and steadfast in his rulings. Trials moved forward without haste but without delay. He was lucid in instructions to juries. Calm, dignified, courteous, firm, his work as a trial judge was exceptionally well done. In 1887 he was appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and succeeded Oliver Wendell Holmes as Chief Justice in 1902. He retired in 1911 at the age of seventy-three, by reason of an affection of the eyes, which fortunately turned out to be temporary. In the remaining years he responded to a call of duty from the federal court to become chairman of the board of trustees charged with the onerous duty of reorganization of the Boston and Maine Railroad. He was twice married; first, to Sophia Ritchie in 1867, and, after her death in 1886, to Rose M. Ladd of Portland, Maine, in 1891. He died in his eightieth year, survived by his widow, a son, and a daughter.

    It was his good fortune to be the son of a farmer and to receive thereby the training in self-reliance, resourcefulness, hard work, and love of nature commonly accompanying such upbringing. He had the acquaintance with common things, sympathy with plain people, regularity of habits, humility of spirit, strength of body, and the virility of mind and soul, which spring from life in the country.

    His taste for studies in history and literature was keen. It was manifested in college and continued throughout his later years. The absorbing interest of his life, however, was judicial work, to which he devoted thirty years of his life. For twenty-four years he was a member of the highest court of the Commonwealth and for nine years its chief justice. The length of this service was exceptional. It has been exceeded in our history under the Constitution by only five. His work was of rare distinction. The mere number of opinions written by him expressive of the judgment of the court is impressive in statement. The total is fifteen hundred and seventy. The average is slightly in excess of sixty-five for each year of his service; but in one twelve months there were one hundred and six opinions from his pen. Manifestly he was a man of energy, capable of sustained endeavor. His decisions touch every branch of law within the jurisdiction of the court. The quality of his judicial utterances is of the first order of excellence. His knowledge of the various branches of the law was thorough. He had great learning. His grasp of legal principles was comprehensive and sure. His mind quickly penetrated through complicated and diverting facts to the main point. In powers of logical reasoning he had few equals. His vision of the field of growth for the law was wide and clear. He realized that practical jurisprudence within established limitations must develop and adapt itself as administered by the courts to new discoveries and to the increase of general intelligence among the body of the people, and that it is capable of expansion to meet the changing conditions of the progress of civilization. His insight into the reach and ultimate effect of legal principles was extraordinary. Of rare intellectual acumen, of strong and masterful temperament, richly endowed in mental power, familiar with the affairs of the market place, he was nevertheless receptive to suggestion and of kindly disposition. His search for the truth was unwearied. He was zealous for the public welfare. His thought was unclouded. His mind came to rest in his final conclusions and he was strong in his convictions. His judicial style was simple, direct, incisive. It was a close approach to perfection. His sentences were short. He used plain words of well-understood meaning. His statement of legal principles was clear and concise, comprehensive and adequate, and so lucid as not to be susceptible of misconception. His opinions carry the conviction of finality to the reader, whether he be learned student, practising lawyer, or plain citizen. In reading what he has written one thinks only of the ideas expressed and never of the medium through which they are conveyed. His personal traits have been admirably characterized by another: “Judged by the highest standards, Judge Knowlton was a great man. For what constitutes a great man? Not wealth or power or fame, — these are largely the accidents of birth or station; but character and service and worth. To give the world an example of absolute honesty, to give one’s self to the service of the world with untiring industry and devotion, to preserve in the midst of the world one’s native modesty and humility, and to recognize, among the seen and the temporal, one’s obligations to the unseen and the eternal, is to achieve a degree of greatness which the world has never failed to recognize and which was splendidly exemplified by Judge Marcus P. Knowlton.” He had in generous measure all the underlying judicial virtues, unimpeachable integrity, a sensitive conscience, absolute impartiality, patience, courtesy, poise, courage, wisdom. From whatever aspect his work is viewed, he is one of the few foremost of our best judges. His contributions to the jurisprudence of the commonwealth and of the country will not perish so long as our system of law shall continue to control the actions of our people. There is poverty in language when attempt is made to portray such a magistrate. The Chief Justice was much more than our words declare. Fortunate is Massachusetts to have been enriched by such a life.