Publication information

Albany Law Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: article
Document title: “Hon. Loran L. Lewis”
Author(s): Browne, Irving
Date of publication: 7 January 1899
Volume number: 59
Issue number: 1
Pagination: 55-56

Browne, Irving. “Hon. Loran L. Lewis.” Albany Law Journal 7 Jan. 1899 v59n1: pp. 55-56.
full text
Loran L. Lewis.
Named persons
Grover Cleveland; Millard Fillmore; James A. Garfield; Ira Harris; Jacob; Loran L. Lewis; Abraham Lincoln; William H. Seward; Sinbad the Sailor.
The article (below) is accompanied on page 55 with a photograph of Loran L. Lewis.

Hon. Loran L. Lewis

     IN the young democracy of the United States most of the strongest characters have been hammered out on the anvil of adverse circumstances. They are the wrought-iron of our people rather than the plastic iron cast in the easy mold of good fortune and old family. The youth of Loran Lodowick Lewis was marked by something of the heroism and pathos that characterized the early career of Lincoln and of Garfield. Born at Auburn, N. Y., in 1825, without any fostering advantages, he received his early education at the public schools, and for about two years at a private school in Auburn. It was always necessary for him to earn his own living, and at first he earned it in a way common to poor American youth—teaching country schools while keeping up his own studies. At the age of 21, and while pursuing his law studies, he set himself up in what would be a rather singular business for a young man at this time, the peddling of law books about the country, obtaining his wares on credit. In this course he so prospered that eventually he was able to own a horse and wagon, and extend his route over nearly every county in the State. After a while he became able to enter on the regular study of the law, and he pursued his reading in the office of William H. Seward, at Auburn. Admitted to the bar on the 4th of July, 1848, in the fall of that year he hung out his “shingle” in Buffalo, on a building occupied by Millard Fillmore, and for many years and now owned and occupied by Mr. Lewis. Acting on the commendable belief shared by most American youth, that every poor young man has an inalienable right to a poor young woman to share his lot, he married in 1852. He steadily and rapidly made his way at the bar, and very early acquired a good reputation as a lawyer fully competent to try causes in court. In a very few years he rose to the front rank of his profession in this regard, and hardly an important cause was tried at Buffalo or in its vicinity in which he was not engaged. Soon he became supreme as an advocate at the Buffalo bar, and it is not too much to say that at the time of his retirement he was the most distinguished and successful jury lawyer ever known at Buffalo, and one of the most eminent and influential in all Western New York. An intuitive reader of the hearts and minds of men, gifted with an unerring tact, master of the art of cross-examination, possessor of a sound common sense and judgment, with a simple and unpretentious style of speaking, and the rare capacity of apparent candor such as made him a thirteenth juror, he got nearly all the verdicts without ever raising his voice so it could be heard outside the court-room. In a word, he treated the jury as if they were men of sense, above flattery or the vociferous arts of the orator and the stealthy persuasion of the demagogue.
     Mr. Lewis devoted his energies to his profession, and although always an ardent Republican, he did not go much into politics. A due recognition of his fitness for the business of legislation was, however, made by his election to the office of State senator for two successive terms, from 1870 to 1874. In this post he achieved honorable distinction and occupied the responsible position of chairman of the committee on canals.
     Meantime there was a growing feeling among the public that Mr. Lewis was of the stuff of which good judges are made, and at the bar his business had grown so large and his success so monotonous that his brethren, without distinction of party, felt that he ought to be a judge at once. Mr. Lewis was not unwilling, for he had acquired a fair competency, and his health was somewhat impaired by the tremendous anxieties of his pre-eminent position. The result was that in 1883, the year of the political tidal wave, which swept Mr. Cleveland into the office of governor by about 200,000 majority, Mr. Lewis was nominated for judge of the Supreme Court, and was the only man elected on the Republican ticket in Erie county [sic], receiving about 3,000 majority. He presided at the circuit until 1890, when he was designated by the governor a member of the General Term, and there remained until the age of 70, in January, 1896. Under the provision of the present Constitution he has held terms of court at Buffalo by appointment of the governor since that time.
     It is given to few men to be both learned and [55][56] wise; it is better that a judge should be wise rather than learned; and Judge Lewis was a wise rather than a learned judge. His learning was quite sufficient, but not cumbersome. He has not added too much to the wearisome burden of print under which our profession groan and labor like Sinbad the Sailor under the Old Man of the Sea. A book was not necessary to enable him to conjure up the essential form of right. He was never the narrow slave of precedent, but always preferred to work out results upon the basic principles of justice. His judicial career was eminently useful to the public and honorable to himself, marked by the mental calmness, clear comprehension, industrious research, earnest reflection, and unswerving impartiality which are the indispensable ingredients of good magistracy. Mr. Lewis was an exception to the general judgment that good advocates make poor judges. In him the love of justice proved superior to the pride of opinion and the habit of taking sides in controversies. He was one of the best circuit judges of late years, possessing the determination to dispatch business with a due regard to the value of the public time, having a just indifference to the common hallucination of every lawyer that his cause is the most important on the calendar, and yet exhibiting an impartiality that commanded respect. I think it may warrantably be said, in a word, that his judicial career sensibly promoted rather than hindered or obscured justice.
     Now at the age of 73, Judge Lewis is living in the same town where he started on his distinguished career half a century ago, and occupying the same office building; comfortable in health, serene in temper, enjoying the well-earned and ample fruits of a life of hard toil; secure in the respect of the community, surrounded by his entire family—the wife of his youth, four children and thirteen grandchildren—retired from practice, but advising his two lawyer-sons in a friendly way, and conferring on the Buffalo Law School, without pecuniary reward, the results of his vast experience and knowledge in lectures on the conduct of causes, unique in style, and invaluable as those of Ira Harris (under which I sat in my youth at Albany); loving ardently the principles of equality and justice which have always animated his spirit, and bearing simply, modestly and quietly the honors which have come to him as the fitting return for a long life of industry, integrity, dignity, religious devotion without bigotry, and an immaculate purity of personal carriage. His life is a striking object-lesson to the young men whom he teaches of the value of a steady and right character, and that the highest rewards of their chosen profession are not the gift of luck or chance or favoritism, but are wrested from society only by such steadfast struggle as Ja ob [sic] sustained when he wrestled all night with the angel.