Reenactment of the Wisconsin Bar Association's founding

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Reenactment of the Wisconsin Bar Association's founding

Wisconsin Bar Association's first meeting on Jan. 9, 1878

Master of Ceremonies
Pat Ballman
State Bar President

Cast

Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan
played by
Don Heaney, Past State Bar President

William F. Vilas of Madison, secretary of the organizational committee that formed the association, member of first Executive Committee, served as a U.S. Senator, Postmaster General and Secretary of the Interior
played by
Steven R. Sorenson, Past State Bar President

Moses M. Strong of Iowa County, founder of the State of Wisconsin, Speaker of the Assembly, first Bar Association President who served for 20 years
played by
John Stevens

Edwin E. Bryant of Madison, first Secretary of Bar Association
played by John Walsh, Past State Bar President

S.U. Pinney of Madison, member of Executive Committee and later member of Wisconsin Supreme Court
played by
Jason Westphal, State Bar Government Relations Coordinator

John J. Orton of Milwaukee, Circuit Court Judge and Vice President of Bar Association
played by
Jim Grant, State Bar member

I.C. Sloan of Janesville and Madison, U.W. Law School Dean, served at district attorney for Rock County and as a member of Congress
played by
Dan Rossmiller, State Bar Public Affairs Director

J.C. Spooner of Hudson, served as U.S. Senator and statesman,
played by
John Skilton, Past State Bar President

John Winans of Janesville and Madison, Janesville city attorney and state legislator, served as governor of 12th District and a member of the first Executive Committee
played by
Gary Sherman, Past State Bar President

Script

Setting:

The Chambers of the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Introduction:

By Pat Ballman, Current President of the State Bar Of Wisconsin

Welcome to today's reenactment of the first meeting of the original Wisconsin Bar Association. This reenactment was gleaned from the original minutes of the first meeting and several other historical resources. The writer of this reenactment has taken some liberty in an effort to use a smaller cast than the 50 to 60 lawyers who were present at one time or another during the first meeting, which was held here in the supreme court chambers 125 years ago on this very day at this exact time. The script has also been tightened up to eliminate some of the lengthy recitations of the original Constitution and bylaws, but the significant speeches from that early meeting are preserved just as they were delivered on that 9th day of January in 1878. Following the reenactment we will have the pleasure of hearing from some of those who have served the State Bar since its inception, including a visit from a famous Wisconsin senator thought to be long ago deceased. I'll be back with you at the end of the performance to share a picture of the State Bar of Wisconsin as we know it some 125 years later. Now let's join our host for this reenactment of the first meeting of the Wisconsin State Bar Association, “William F. Vilas,” who was one of the founders of the association. Here he comes now...

William F. Vilas enters from the back to the front Vilas enters mumbling to himself and, pawing through his papers, he looks up at the audience and begins.

 

Vilas:

Vilas

Senator William F. Vilas opens the reenactment ceremony.

Excuse me, I didn't realize we had guests. My you have some funny clothes on. You know, we have a very important meeting which is going to occur here today.

It has taken a long time, but I think old Justice Ryan may just pull it off. Pretty tricky of him to set this meeting when the federal boys are in town holding court. Without the Federal Court in session there is no way he would have ever assembled such a grand group of brothers of the bar.

Why, it was not that long ago that they said we would never get those jackpine boys from up north to ever sit down with us government types, but I think Ryan was right when he said that if we all don't get together there will never be the respect the justice system needs to survive.

Young Johnny Spooner will be here today from up on the St. Croix. He is not bad for a republican; he even thinks he will put me out of the U.S. Senate some day. We will see. But I digress.

Today's not about those bloody senate races he and I will have; It's about a new age of the rule of law here in Wisconsin. With our population growing so fast, we need to have a unified front and, as Ed Bryant said, we can't let those East Coast bureaucrats who run the federal bench tell us free soilers and Jacksonian democrats how the law is to be administered here in Wisconsin.

But before I put those East Coasters down too far, I had better not forget that it was a group of Maine and New York lawyers who built our legal system here in Wisconsin, along with a few of us native born rabble-rousers. For example, Judge Morgan Martin is leaving his judicial bench in Green Bay to be here today. Why, he and his cousin James Doty were the founders of this state along with Dodge and a couple of other good lawyers who have passed on.

Just think, Martin, at age 73, after serving as president of the Territorial Legislature, putting in a term in Congress, and serving on the Wisconsin Constitutional Convention and 30 years on the bench, still thinks it is important enough to travel for days to be down here for this event.

He is not the only state founder to make the trip. Moses Strong from down by Mineral Point is on his way. Last time he was here in Madison we became a state. This time he says he has even bigger plans.

Then there are the Sloan boys who some say run the legal system here in Wisconsin; they are coming in force. Ignasius Sloan, or should I say Dean Sloan from the University of Wisconsin Law School, is coming over with his brother the Attorney General A. Scott Sloan. Those two have done it all.

Dean Sloan started out running the justice halls down in Janesville before being elected to Congress during the Civil War and now he is responsible for reinvigorating the law school.

Brother Scott Sloan has been Dodge County judge, member of the State Assembly, and now attorney general. It is just too bad they brought those East Coast republican ideals with them. But give them time; they just haven't spent enough time in Madison where the rest of us Free Thinkers are.

At least John Winans will be here from Janesville, where he is still hanging in there as city attorney and state legislator beside maintaining a semblance of a Democratic Party.

The way I see it, this is a stroke of genius by Abe Jackson, Sloan, Strong, and Bryant. They took advantage of Judge Hopkins' funeral last September. They had all the leading lawyers in town that day, so they organized a meeting to set up a committee to have everything in place for today's meeting. Their real genius may have been in getting me to be in charge of putting the constitution and bylaws together for this new organization. I also had to get it by my committee they appointed. I had to put enough in there to satisfy the independent northerners while still preserving what those of us in Madison wanted to see. With that done, they knew which judges to get on board, they knew the right time of year to pull it off, and they have assembled the greatest political minds from both parties, young and old. We have them in their 20s and 70s from Milwaukee, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Antigo, Beaver Dam, Prairie du Chien, River Falls, and Superior.

Enough from me, here comes my friend law school Dean Ignasius Sloan now.

I.C. Sloan walks from back up towards the table and begins talking to Vilas; while Sloan and Vilas talk, the rest come in from the back and take a place at the table.

Vilas:

This is a great day. Why, I remember back in September over at the Federal Courthouse it was you, Sloan, who first came up with this idea.

I.C. Sloan:

Ryan

Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan addresses the founders at the first meeting of the State Bar Association.

Nonsense. It was Jackson and you who kept proclaiming the need for an organized Bar Association. If old J.C. Hopkins hadn't died so suddenly, there probably would never have been enough of us around to get this thing done.

Vilas:

You're right, it was his funeral which brought us together, but it was Justice Ryan and Judge Dunwiddie who jumped on our notion of organizing a state bar. They did a nice job of assuring diversity. Besides myself, they talked to their old friend Medbery of Monroe, Ed Bryant of Madison, C.M. Webb of Grand Rapids, and H. Cousins of Eau Claire about serving on the organizing committee.

I.C. Sloan:

What I couldn't believe is how fast you acted. We hadn't even sat down for the evening meal, and you had us back together for this big announcement that you would have a full constitution and bylaws done before today's meeting.

Vilas:

That was Webb's doing. He was worried that if we didn't get things done before the day was over, many of the group from up north would be gone. He was also the one who insisted that this be a state bar association, not an eastern or western bar association.

I.C. Sloan:

I think your determination is what got Chief Justice Ryan so on board. After you gave that stirring speech on the need to unify the whole state into one cohesive bar, he was a believer.

Vilas:

But what better time. We now have attorneys from all over the state here because of Federal Court being in session. There were guys here from Eau Claire, Hudson, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Chippewa, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Prairie du Chien. You can bet there was no way that Ryan would support anything but a total organization. But it was Bryant who came up with the idea of having all different districts, with Ryan selecting the members and presiding over the group himself. He used me to make sure the governor and legislature would stay out of the organization. It was important that we keep this under the control of the supreme court and away from the politicians.

I.C. Sloan:

Well did everyone participate. As I remember, each of the 13 circuits had a representative on the organizing committee. When we left that day, you were going to notify everyone so that the constitution and bylaws could be prepared.

Vilas:

He did, and the chief justice made sure everyone knew that he expected cooperation, and you know what it is like when the chief justice says he wants it done; it gets done. So I did it.

I.C. Sloan:

So who came up with the idea of a January 9th organizational meeting here in Madison?

Vilas:

The Madison boys. I think they saw it as a way to keep control away from the guys over in Milwaukee and up in the Fox Valley. Won't they be surprised by the turnout from up north. I hear Spooner and Bingham are bringing all their buddies from up in the northwest and old Judge Martin has a group coming in from the Fox River Valley.

I.C. Sloan:

 

Hey, everyone seems to be here now, and Ryan looks like he is ready to start.

After Sloan and Vilas finish, Chief Justice Ryan stands and quiets the group and delivers his famous oration.

 

Justice Ryan:Brethren of the Bar:

 

As chairman of the committee which called this meeting, I have the pleasant duty of welcoming you here. I have long desired to see an efficient association of the state bar, and I am happy to think that the auspicious time has come at last when one may be formed.

The uses of such an association are obvious. Without it, the bar cannot properly assert itself, or exercise its due influence in matters of interest to it. Doubtless, in matters bearing on the interests of the profession, individual members of the bar exercise some influence, but such influence is necessarily fragmentary, and sometimes discordant. The bar, as a body, can only have the influence which properly belongs to it, on professional subjects, through an organization by which it can speak with one voice.

The vast body of our law, called the common law, is the work of our profession; the wise and just rules; which have been the legacies of generations of lawyers, through the centuries, to all common law peoples. And these constitute today not only the great body of our municipal law, but the bulwarks of civil and religious liberty, of the rights of persons and of things, more extensive and secure than any written constitution. If it be true that the common law was somewhat due to the free spirit of the people amongst whom it arose, it is none the less true that it has educated all the peoples with whom it has prevailed to higher, firmer and more independent manhood. It may be safe to say that no people, thoroughly educated in the rights of the common law, could be brought to tolerate an oppressive political system. Civilization from time to time outgrows some of the fixed rules of the common law, and it is the business of legislation to relax them, and to adapt the common law to the existing condition of society. And the profession which is educated in the common law, and has mastered it as a service, ought to have an influential voice in all legislation which modifies or repeals its rules.

Audience

Ryan's audience includes, from left: J.C. Spooner, John Winans, and Moses M. Strong.

But it is not outside only, but inside of itself, that the judgment and common voice of the bar should be heard and felt. We are all proud of our profession; proud of the multitudinous worthies who have made it illustrious in the past, and who are showing forth its honor in the present. No profession or calling has given so many great names to American history as the bar. There is no state in the Union on which the names of its great lawyers have not shed lustre. An American law list from the beginning would embrace a large proportion of the names held in honorable memory by the American people. There is a passion for military glory amongst all nations. And the glory of the soldier may be more dazzling than the glory of the statesman-lawyer. But it is less solid. For the truest glory of the soldier, here at least, is to preserve the work of the statesman. The path of the soldier, however patriotic or worthy the war, is destruction. The path of the statesman-lawyer is organization; and the path of every lawyer, worthy the name, is preservation. And in a high sense, true heroism may be in a tribunal as well as on the battlefield. Duty, fearlessly and faithfully performed, against all influences and difficulties, is the only true glory. Moral courage is a higher quality than physical.

He reads American history superficially, who does not see the illustrious dead of our profession battling in the vanguard for all true political and social amelioration. And he who looks upon society, without seeing in the profession the sentinels of social order, see through a glass darkly. In civilization, a community without a bar is worse off than an army encamped without sentinels. For the army may rally against surprise, but a community cannot peaceably defend its rights without the aid of the bar in the administration of justice. If the millennium be coming, it has not come. And the administration of the justice is essential to all social order. There is the strength of the bar, powerful where an army would be powerless. The peaceful social order, the integrity of the state, and every sacred personal right, are in the keeping of our profession. The legislative power would pass laws and the executive draw the sword to enforce them in vain, if there were no courts to administer them. And a court without a bar would be little better than an untrustworthy illusion; a disturbing phantom of justice. For not only must the bar educate competent judges, but it is the efficient and only fit censor of the judges promoted from it; a police power over the intelligence and justice of courts. In common law courts, the bar is as essential as the bench. A learned and independent bar is a condition of true civilization.

But the glory of the bar and the easy access which it gives to high place have drawn towards it men unfitted for it by nature of education. The bar has no exemption from fools or knaves. The foolish lawyer is perhaps the most dangerous of all fools-almost a knave, by assuming duties of such grave import to the well-being of society, without adequate ability or training. Horace says that poets are born, not made; and perhaps orators are born also, though Horace thinks they are made. But though there may be geniuses who think that they are born lawyers, we know that a lawyer is born only of years of patient, steadfast, laborious study. And even then the safest knowledge of the wisest lawyer is the comprehension of how limited and uncertain his knowledge is. A knavish lawyer is certainly the most dangerous of all knaves. For it is to the profession that, in time of peril, all rights of person and property are committed. The bar is the trustee of everything which man holds sacred. And the opportunity to betray is fearfully easy. Indeed, it may be truly said that integrity of character is as essential to a lawyer as professional learning. For without innate love of truth and justice, it is impossible truly to comprehend a profession essentially founded on truth and justice. And it is perhaps amongst the highest glories of the profession, that instances of betrayed trust are so rare in its ranks.

But it must be admitted that there are unworthy members of the bar. The rule of admission is unfortunately lax. The doors are not ajar, but wide open. And there are those who have come in at them who should surely pass out of them. Doubtless all or most of you have had the same experience as myself. At the bar and on the bench I have sometimes seen - not often, but sometimes - conduct even amongst able lawyers, calling loudly for scrutiny or censure; ignorance so great as to be almost guilt, and malpractice so audacious as to be almost folly. Such should not be permitted to abuse public confidence in our profession, or to cast a shadow upon its honor.

The power of courts to weed the profession of its unworthy members is limited and inadequate. Judges may be painfully obliged to surmise professional default without judicial knowledge. All efficient steps to purge the bar must come from the bar itself. And this could scarcely be done - is almost never done - by individual effort. The aggregate bar must speak and act. The great body of the profession should enforce its ethics; censure what is worthy of censure, and move to disbar all who forfeit the honor to belong to it. This I take to be a main object of the association which you propose to form.

And the scrutiny of the profession should not stop at the bar; it should reach the bench. Positively corrupt judges are very rare; the black swans of the profession. But a long life has led me to fear that semi-corrupt judges are not altogether so rare; men who insensibly look out of the courtroom windows to see how the wind blows; men incapable of corrupt motives, but not above the influence of semiconscious partiality; the dullards and cowards of the bench, who dare not look the truth in the very face and declare it to be the truth. The bench has no exemption from weakness or ignorance. And, these are perhaps more dangerous in judicial office than corruption, because neither bar nor people are so intolerant of them. And yet it would be difficult to judge which way works the greater judicial wrong, the weak and ignorant judge or the corrupt judge. The blights upon the administration of justice may not be so easily removed from the bench. But the voice of a united and unanimous bar would be potent to keep them from it.

And it is not only by direct action that a bar association, with these objects, would be felt for good. The existence of such a body, ready and potent to strike, would operate as a wholesome restraint; would strengthen weak conscience in others. We may at least hope that it will be so. We may at least hope that a few years of action and influence of such an association will go towards making universal, that a lawyer is the most trustworthy of men in peril; true to his client when all else desert him; that a good lawyer is essentially a good man; an enlightened, high-minded honorable gentleman.

For obvious reasons, gentleman, I cannot share your deliberations or your work. If I should survive my term of office, I hope to find a place in your association. Until then my work for the honor of the profession must be essentially distinct from yours. And I beg you now to choose your presiding officer that I may retire.

Loud clapping.

 

Moses M. Strong:

Gentlemen, gentlemen, I rise to nominate the Honorable Chief Justice Ryan as president of this meeting and to serve as our leader.

William F. Vilas:

I am pleased to second that nomination.

Chief Justice Ryan:

Nomination

John Winans nominates Edwin E. Bryant of Madison to serve as first secretary of the Bar Association.

As I believe it must be obvious, although I would be greatly honored, I cannot accept this nomination. To serve as the head of the supervising agency while serving as the president of this meeting, would be a definite conflict of interest. I can assure you that despite my inability to serve as your president, I will remain deeply involved in the formation and preservation of the noble alliance we shall form today.

John J. Orton rises.

 

John J. Orton:

Mr. Chief Justice, I rise to nominate a man of true stature and leadership, a brethren from the ancestral home of this state, Mr. Moses M. Strong of Mineral Point.

There is rousing applause. Vilas jumps to his feet.

Vilas:

Mr. Chief Justice, I join my brother John J. Orton in the nomination of Moses M. Strong to be the president of this meeting, I hereby second that nomination.

Rousing applause.

Chief Justice Ryan:

Gentlemen, gentlemen, please come to order. We have received the nomination of Moses M. Strong. Are there any other nominations?

pause

Hearing none, I call for a vote. All those in favor of Moses M. Strong as the president of this new state bar association of Wisconsin, please signify by standing and noting your approval.

The entire group assembled stands and states, “I approve.”

Chief Justice Ryan:

Gentlemen, it is indeed my pleasure to call forward, the president of this meeting and who I trust you will consider as the first president of this bar association, Moses M. Strong. Moses M. Strong accompanied by Vilas and John J. Orton, walks to the front of the room and approaches Chief Justice Ryan.

Chief Justice Ryan:

Moses M. Strong, on behalf of this gathered assembly and by their overwhelming approval, I hereby entrust in you the responsibilities of organizing and perpetuating the values which we all hold so dear in this free society. You are commanded to bring forth a new strength of unity. With this new bar association, I hope you can renew and perpetuate our ethical commitment to a nation that is ruled not by men but by law.

Repeat after me:

Chief Justice Ryan gives the oath of office to Moses M. Strong.

Do you Moses M. Strong solemnly swear that you will faithfully carry out the duties of this the office of president and that you will obey the rules of this court, the Constitution of the United States and the State of Wisconsin, so help you God.

Moses M. Strong:

I do.

Chief Justice Ryan:

Then based upon the power vested in me as the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I do hereby confer unto you the position and the responsibilities of president of this meeting and soon I hope of a new bar association.

Moses M. Strong:

Gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure for me to be here today and to accept your challenge. I will bring to you the leadership you have requested, and I will seek to exercise the faith you have placed in me to maintain and preserve our legal system and this country, so help me God.

Thunderous applause.

Our next order of business will be the selection of a secretary of the meeting.

John Winans:

Mr. President, I nominate Edwin E. Bryant of Madison, Wisconsin, as secretary.

John J. Orton:

Mr. President, I second that nomination and request that a unanimous ballot be cast for Edwin E. Bryant.

Moses M. Strong:

A motion has been made to cast a unanimous ballot for Edwin E. Bryant of Madison as secretary of this meeting. Is there anyone opposed to this motion? If not, all in favor please say aye.

There is a unanimous vote of aye.

I therefore declare Edwin E. Bryant of Madison elected secretary of this meeting. Mr. Bryant would you please come forward and assume the responsibilities of secretary of the meeting.

Edwin E. Bryant:

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you members of the chamber assembled here. Your expression of trust in me is extremely gratifying, and I shall do my best to ensure the quality of this meeting and the completeness of the record.

Moses M. Strong:

Members, it is now my pleasure to call upon William F. Vilas of Madison, Wisconsin, secretary of the organizational committee to state the circumstances which led to the call of this meeting and the action that they have taken. Mr. Vilas,

Mr. Vilas stands and pretends to read the Constitution to the group, but all the audience will hear is a beginning, some mumble, and the end.

Vilas:

Mr. President, I move that the constitution as submitted by the organizing committee and read by me, be submitted to a special review committee to be chosen by you, which committee shall have three members and be given the responsibility of examining the constitution as I have presented. Further, that they be directed to report back to this meeting.

John Winans:

Mr. President, I move to amend Mr.Vilas's motion to provide that this meeting consider the proposed constitution as a committee of the whole, rather than have you create another small committee, and that we approve it and review it section by section.

A second is heard from the crowd.

Moses M. Strong:

Strong

Moses M. Strong receives a standing ovation upon his unanimous election to the office of president.

Gentlemen, we have a motion to amend the original motion of Mr. Vilas to provide that we meet as a committee of the whole and review the proposed constitution on a section-by-section basis and adopt as we go along. Is there any discussion?

Hearing none, I will call for a vote on the amendment. All in favor say aye.

There is a loud group of ayes.

All opposed say nay.

There is a small number of nays.

Based upon the vote, I declare that the amendment has been approved. Now we move to the main motion. All in favor of the main motion as amended please say aye.

Large number of ayes.

Those opposed say nay.

Small number of nays.

The motion stands approved. We will now proceed as in a committee of the whole to consider the proposed constitution.

John Winans:

Mr. Chairman, I move that we approve the constitution as amended and have the same reported out to the membership for final approval.

Moses M. Strong:

Is there a second to the motion?

William F. Vilas:

I second the motion.

Moses M. Strong:

All in favor state aye.

Response unanimous ayes.

In opposition, please state nay.

There are no nays.

Gentlemen, the constitution as prepared is accepted by this committee of the whole. Mr. Winans, you have a motion?

John Winans:

Mr. Chairman, I believe that a committee of one from each judicial circuit should be appointed by you to report nominations for the several offices provided by the constitution.

Moses M. Strong:

Mr. Winans, I think that is an excellent idea. Is there a second to the motion?

Someone yells out a second.

A motion has been made and seconded that I proceed to appoint a nomination committee made up of one representative from each judicial district. All in favor say aye.

Everyone votes aye.

Nay

No votes for nay.

Gentlemen, I appoint the following individuals:

 

First District -

Harley F. Vilas from Delavan

Second District -

John Cayr from Milwaukee

Third District -

A. Scott Sloan from Beaver Dam

Fourth District -

David Taylor from Fond du Lac

Fifth District -

William E. Carter from Platteville

Sixth District -

Thomas B. Tyler from Sparta

Seventh District -

John O. Raymond from Stevens Point

Eighth District -

John C. Spooner from Hudson

Ninth District -

J.C. Gregor from Madison

Tenth District -

Thomas R. Hudd from Green Bay

Eleventh District -

Nelson W. Wheeler from Chippewa Falls

Twelfth District -

John Winans from Janesville

Thirteenth District -

Henry H. Hayden from Eau Claire

 

Moses M. Strong:

Gentlemen, I now believe it is appropriate that the secretary of this meeting procure a book for the enrollment of all members and that the secretary be directed to receive from each member signing the book an admission fee which will be used to support the association as it moves forward. I would suggest we now take recess during which time each of you gentlemen will be given the opportunity to sign the original roll membership, and I ask that you all come forward and sign the roll and pay your admission fee. After that, I would suggest that those of you that have been appointed spend some time meeting, and we will adjourn this meeting until 7:00 p.m., after which time we will reconvene here, and I would ask that each of you give a report indicating what nominations you have made for the various positions, including the representatives from each of the circuits and also for the officers of this association.

Thank you gentlemen. We stand adjourned until 7:00 p.m.

All the gentlemen move forward to sign the book and pay their fee.

During the break between the morning and evening meeting, Vilas comes back to address the audience while the others quietly mill out for a minute or two.

So, what did you think of that oration by Ryan? Now you can see why he is still one of the most famous chief justices in the nation. And wasn't it clever how he maneuvered his way out of the presidency? His goal was not to run the show but to get it started on a firm set of values, and then to see that there was a structure which was strong enough to last for the next hundred years or so. It was important, as he said, to put the right principles at the heart of the organization, and didn't I do a great job on those bylaws and the constitution?

Hey, but I bet you are wondering why the break. Well, remember we are condensing things here a bit and it really took much longer to get to the point when the committees were appointed. So seeing that there were no facilities in the capitol, a break was in order. And if you're out, why not take in some libation and nourishment.

Sloan

I.C. Sloan signs enrollment books. Seated is Edwin E. Bryant, the new association's first secretary.

Interesting enough, stories have it that this is the way things went for the next 20 years. Whenever the bar association would meet, they would start at noon then adjourn till 7:00 p.m. Some didn't make the evening sessions, and some probably would have been better off if they hadn't. Maybe that is why we called it the Bar Association.

However, remember that during this time all the backroom negotiations were going on with the committee that had been appointed. The trick was to get all of the judicial districts to agree on one constitution and set of bylaws. To be sure, Strong and the Sloan boys had Spooner from Hudson and Bingham from Chippewa Falls as well as Taylor from Fond du Lac. These were all Republican politicians who knew how to work the backroom.

We had Bryant from here in Madison, Cary from Milwaukee, Winans from Janesville, and a couple of other Madison boys, plus the chief justice. Just watch how it came out. Note how we balanced the presidency against the rest of the executive officers and then shared the vice president position. Don't tell me there are no politics in the bar.

Hey, here they come. Dinner's over and they are about to report their afternoon's efforts. Watch how they make it seem to be considering things when in fact you and I know it was all a done deal by the time the last sherry was drunk and the last cigar snuffed out.

We return to the script, with Moses Strong calling order.

Meeting called to order at 7:00 p.m.

Moses M. Strong:

Gentlemen, please return. Is there a report from the nominations committee?

Harley F. Vilas:

stands and states

Yes, there is sir.

Moses M. Strong:

Can I have that report?

Harley F. Vilas:

Yes.

Moses M. Strong:

The nominations are as follows:

 

President -

Moses M. Strong from Mineral Point

Vice President:

 

First District -

D.D. Weeks of Whitewater

Second District -

A.R.R. Butler from Milwaukee

Third District -

L.F. Frisbee from West Bend

Fourth District -

David Taylor of Fond du Lac

Fifth District -

J. Allen Barber of Lancaster

Sixth District -

J.W. Morrow of Sparta

Seventh District -

M.A. Hurley of Wausau

Eighth District -

S.H. Clough of Superior

Ninth District -

A.G. Cooke of Columbus

Tenth District -

W.H. Norris of Green Bay

Eleventh District -

J.M. Bingham of Chippewa Falls

Twelfth District -

G.S. Stiel of Janesville

Thirteenth District -

H.H. Hayden of Eau Claire

 

Additionally, we nominate for Secretary, Edwin E. Bryant of Madison; for Treasurer, H.R. Carpenter from Madison.

For the Executive Committee for a three-year term, John Winans of Janesville, William W. Vilas of Madison, and A.A. Jackson of Jackson.

For the Executive Committee for two years, Fred C. Winkler of Milwaukee, Bryant of Oshkosh, and S.U. Pinney of Madison.

For the Executive Committee for one year, J.W. Losey of La Crosse, J.B. Quarrels from Kenosha, and S.D. Hastings Jr. of Green Bay.

Gentlemen, you have heard the nominations. Is there anything further you wish?

John Winans:

I move that we proceed to the election of the officers.

Moses M. Strong:

I believe we can do that, Mr. Winans.

Yes, Mr. Orton?

John Orton stands.

John Orton:

Mr. President, I move that the secretary of this meeting cast the entire vote of the association for Moses M. Strong.

Moses M. Strong:

Thank you, Mr. Orton. Do I hear a second?

John Winans:

I second that motion, sir, and I believe we should act immediately.

Moses M. Strong:

All in favor say aye.

Unanimous ayes.

Opposed?

No nays.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Mr. Vilas.

Vilas stands.

Vilas:

Yes, Mr. Strong.

Moses M. Strong:

What was the vote?

Vilas:

Mr. Strong, I have received 112 votes in favor. That constitutes all members here and voting who have signed the register.

Moses M. Strong:

Thank you, Mr. Vilas.

Gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to assume the presidency of this association.

Ryan

Chief Justice Ryan signs enrollment book as J.C. Spooner looks on. Seated is Edward E. Bryant, the new association's first secretary.

Strong delivers speech.

I thank you for the high compliment implied by my election to the position of first president of the State Bar Association. I do not presume to attribute the compliment so much to personal considerations as to the fact that is my fortune to have outlived in active practice all the other members of our profession who were in practice when I first entered upon it in Wisconsin, in 1839, a distinction which advancing years admonish me I cannot long expect to retain.

Permit me to congratulate you, and the other members of the bar of the state whose names will soon be enrolled with ours, upon the harmonious formation of this association under such favorable auspices.

The chief justice, in his interesting address this day to the meeting whose action has resulted in the formation of this association, has so aptly set forth its advantages and utility, that you may well congratulate yourselves upon the success of your efforts, if it shall so result that your work will be calculated to attain such advantages and usefulness.

So far, your efforts have been limited to the formation of a constitution, which is to form the fundamental law of your organization. This, for the present, is enough. This organic law provides all the machinery essential to the attainment of the objects of the association.

A most important part of this machinery is found in the provision of the four standing committees. The committee on amendment of the law will, if it faithfully perform its duties, find work demanding its attention, not the least important part of which will be the endeavor to obtain such a modification of the laws in relation to the admission of attorneys to practice, as will be calculated, by denying the high privilege of practicing our profession to persons unfit to enjoy it, either from want of learning, general or professional, or want of moral character, to elevate the character of the profession to that high plane which has made its history at once the pride and boast of all who are worthy to share its honors.

The older of you can remember when nothing less than seven years' study - four of which may have been devoted to preparatory studies in college or other high literacy institutions - was requisite to entitle an applicant to earn an examination for admission to the bar. Now, how changed! There are practically no prerequisites of either knowledge of law or knowledge of anything else, as conditions of admission to the bar.

In their endeavors to obtain such modification of the laws as have been shadowed forth, relative to admissions to the bar, the committee on amendment of laws can and should receive essential aid from the standing committee on legal education, whose duties, as defined by the constitution, pertain to this subject. There are also other and obvious ways in which this committee can materially aid in the important work of elevation the tone of the profession.

It is, however, through the agent of the judicial committee, that present active steps must be taken to reform the profession by depriving of its privileges shysters and other unworthy members. It is the province of this committee to hear and consider all complaints against any member of the profession, whether members of this association or not, and to adopt such measures as the committee may deem advisable, to effect their removal from the bar.

It is supposed that none who are not worthy members of the profession will be and remain members of this association. From the nature of the case, no discrimination can be made in original membership, and if shall be found that a “black swan” has had the audacity to enroll his name as a member of the association, it can only be purged of his presence by expulsion on vote of two-thirds of its members. After 60 days, however, no one can become a member of the association except upon a vote of three-fourths of its members, and it is believed that expulsion from the association, or a refusal of admission to it, will have such moral effect that the subject of it will be powerless to contaminate the profession, or inflict much evil upon the community by virtue of being nominally a member of the bar.

Another important characteristic of our association will be its social element. The fact alone that several hundred members of our common profession, in which we take so much interest and pride, meet together annually, and exchange greeting and indulge in common sources of joy and pleasure, and speak of our common or individual experiences, our successes or failures, or as may be - and too often will be - to mingle our griefs over the death of some of our brethren, cannot fail to create and annually cement a bond of sympathy and friendship which will be as lasting as time and holy as love.

Nor will it be an unfitting concomitant of the reunions, that their interest be augmented by such social festivities as shall be appropriate to such occasions.

Again, thanking you for your kind partiality, I await the further pleasure of the association.

Following the speech, I.C. Sloan stands.

I.C. Sloan:

Mr. Chairman, I move that Mr. Vilas be authorized to cast the vote of the association for the several persons named as vice presidents and the report of the committee on nominations.

Moses M. Strong:

Is there a second?

Someone yells out second.

All in favor say aye.

Unanimous ayes.

Opposed?

No nays.

Vilas:

Mr. President, I am proud to announce that the several gentlemen who have been so nominated have each received 112 votes and have been duly elected.

Moses M. Strong:

Thank you, Mr. Vilas.

Gentlemen, I declare that you have been duly elected and you may assume those vice president roles for which you have been elected.

Mr. Pinney.

S.U. Pinney stands.

Silas U. Pinney:

Past presidents

The audience included past presidents (from left) Truman McNulty, Leonard Loeb, Jack DeWitt, and Rod Kittelsen.

I move that Vilas be authorized to cast a vote of the association for the several persons nominated respectively for the office of secretary, treasurer, and members of the Executive Committee.

Moses M. Strong:

Is there a second?

Someone yells out second.

All in favor say aye.

Unanimous vote of ayes.

Opposed?

No nays.

Vilas:

Mr. President, I am proud to announce that we have received 112 votes for each of the individuals nominated for the various offices and for the membership on the Executive Committee.

Moses M. Strong:

I therefore declare that each of you have been elected to the Executive Committee and to the respective standing offices. Further, I make the following appointments to committees:

Each of you shall retire to your work within those committees once this meeting is over.

Mr. Sloan?

I.C. Sloan stands.

I.C. Sloan:

Mr. Chairman, I have the following resolution I would like to introduce.

Moses M. Strong:

Proceed, Mr. Sloan.

I.C. Sloan:

Be it resolved that the several circuit judges of this state be respectfully requested to strictly adhere and observe the laws of this state with reference to the admission of members of the bar.

Moses M. Strong:

Thank you, Mr. Sloan. Is there a second?

Someone yells out second.

Is there any discussion?

John Orton stands.

Mr. Orton:

Mr. Chairman, I think this resolution is improper. I do not believe that we have the authority to tell the circuit court judges of this state how to run their court. I believe this is a matter that has to be dealt with either by the Supreme Court or by the legislature.

Moses M. Strong:

Mr. Sloan?

I.C. Sloan:

Mr. President, I think the time has come that we no longer allow just anyone to practice in our courts. How can we allow the public to be represented by uneducated, unsophisticated novices? This is a travesty, and we need to correct the situation.

Moses M. Strong:

Mr. Vilas?

William W. Vilas:

Mr. President, although I sympathize with the feelings expressed by Mr. Sloan, I have to agree with my colleague from Milwaukee that to force our justices to take a position that may significantly delay the administration of justice would be totally inappropriate. It is not up to us as a bar association to determine the rules by which the courts operate. This should be left to the courts and the State Legislature. For this reason I would oppose the motion.

Moses M. Strong:

Is there any further discussion?

Hearing none, I will call for a vote.

All in favor say aye.

A few ayes.

Opposed?

Loud statement of nays.

I declare that the motion has failed and the resolution is rejected.

Is there any other discussion?

Mr. Sloan?

I.C. Sloan of Madison stands.

I.C. Sloan:

Mr. President, I would like to call the attention of the association to the subject of the cost of reports of the decisions of the supreme court and suggest that action be taken to secure a reduction in the price.

Moses M. Strong:

I believe that would be an excellent topic for discussion, but I don't know if we are prepared to handle that today and we would have to create a committee to do that.

Mr. Orton stands.

John Orton:

Mr. President, I believe that the committee we have already established on the amendment of the law would be the proper committee to consider this subject.

Moses M. Strong:

Mr. Orton, I agree. Therefore, I will simply assign that task to the committee on the amendment of the law.

Silas U. Pinney:

Mr. Chairman, I move that when this meeting is adjourned, the next meeting be held on February 20th at 2:00 p.m. here at the supreme court, unless sooner convened by the Executive Committee.

Moses M. Strong:

Thank you, Mr. Pinney. Is there a second?

Someone yells out a second.

All in favor say aye.

Unanimous vote of ayes.

Opposed?

No nays.

Mr. Bryant, do you have a comment?

Bryant stands.

Bryant:

Mr. Chairman, I would like to offer the following resolution.

Moses M. Strong:

Please proceed.

Bryant:

Past presidents

Past Presidents Lane Ware, Truman McNulty, Leonard Loeb, Jack DeWitt, and Rod Kittelsen enjoy a lighthearted moment following the reenactment ceremony.

Be it resolved that this association tenders its thanks to the Honorable Edward G. Ryan for his valuable service as the chair of the committee which called this meeting and inspired the formation of this association, and for the eloquent and admirable address by which he opened the present session and pointed out the true objectives and uses of our organization.

Moses M. Strong:

Excellent resolution, Mr. Bryant. Is there a second?

Someone yells out a second.

All in favor say aye.

Unanimous vote of ayes.

Opposed?

No nays.

Moses M. Strong:

Gentlemen, on motion, the secretary is instructed to prepare for publication the proceedings of this meeting, including the addresses of Chief Justice Ryan, my address as your President of the Constitution and such bylaws as may be adopted prior to its publication, the role of the membership and such other information as may be appropriate. Further, the secretary shall cause a significant number of copies to be printed and furnished to each member. There shall be three copies going to each member and each lawyer of the state shall receive one copy.

Is there anything further?

Mr. Orton?

John Orton:

Mr. President, I move that we adjourn.

Moses M. Strong:

Is there a second?

Someone yells out a second.

All in favor say aye.

Unanimous vote of ayes.

Opposed?

No nays.

Gentlemen, on motion, this meeting is adjourned until the 20th day of February, 1878 at 2:00 p.m. Thank you very much.

As the meeting ends Vilas comes up

William W. Vilas:

Well this was the start. Moses Strong and Justice Ryan had engineered the creation of a bar association that would serve this state for many years to come. They kept the control in the judicial branch, they preserved self regulation, and many of the principles that Ryan deemed essential, and they did it as gentlemen with compromise and cooperation. There were heated discussions, but we will talk about that another day because I see my arch rival, Spooner, is on his way back. He probably will tell you a whole different story, but remember mine's in the minutes. His is in his dreams, just like his politics. Better go, I have an election to prepare for now that I have this under control.

John Skilton comes out as Spooner and begins his rendition of the next phases of the bar, then he introduces George Stiel who introduces John Walsh who introduces Pat Ballman to finish up. Pat introduces the cast and all of the Bar presidents present in the room.

This Ends The Program