It is no great disparagement of him to say that he was probably a better reporter than Judge. The eulogies which have been bestowed upon him since his death have altogether outrun his merits. He was not a logician. The conclusions in some of his opinions are absolute, when compared with his statements, non sequiturs. Upon the premises stated by him in the Minnesota milk cases, the decision of the Court obviously should have been exactly the other way. He fired at the reasoning of the judges of the Supreme Court of Minnesota and not at their judgment . . . and their judgment was manifestly correct, upon the premises stated by him in his elaborate reportorial way.
Thompson conceded that Blatchford was "very thoroughly versed" in admiralty, and that his opinions on admiralty were "a valuable contribution to our Federal jurisprudence."
Seymour D. Thompson had also incorrectly assessed the late Justice Blatchford. That the Justice was elaborate in style can hardly be disputed; and that his crucial opinions were, in places, contradictory, seems also a proper judgment. But that these opinions were illogical through a failure of analysis is far less likely. Rather, in Justice Samuel Blatchford, we see the dilemma of the judicial traditionalist and moderate of the 1890's. Trying to bridge the imperatives of an old conservatism and the demands of a new one, he swayed uneasily between them, forced to jettison in the process that purity of legalism so dearly prized in professional mystique.
There are no special studies of Blatchford's life or judicial career, although his major decisions of the early 1890s have been examined in various contexts. Biographies of other justices of the period contain scattered references to Blatchford. Contemporary materials on Blatchford, besides the judicial records, are chiefly notes on cases in law journals and obituaries. Blatchford wrote no articles and made but one public address on record, a technical summary of patent law in 1891. Significant secondary material includes Edward S. Corwin, "The Supreme Court's Construction of the Self‐ Incrimination Clause," 29 Michigan Law Review 1, 191 ( 1930). This is the leading article on the first major period of Fifth Amendment interpretation. An important commentary is Charles G. Haines, "Judicial Review Implied Limitations on Legislatures," 2 Texas Law Review 257, 387 ( 1924); 3 Ibid. 1 ( 1924). These articles are an authoritative survey of the growth of substantive due process as a technique of conservative judicial review with much attention to Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Ry. Co. v. Minnesota. In 43 Harvard Law Review 759 ( 1930) is a major article on the Munn case and its aftermath, including Budd v. New York. See also Arnold M. Paul, Conservative Crisis and the Rule of Law: Attitudes of Bar and Bench, 1887-1895 ( Ithaca, N.Y., 1960).
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Publication information: Book title: The Justices of the United States Supreme Court:Their Lives and Major Opinions. Volume: 2. Contributors: Leon Friedman - Editor, Fred L. Israel - Editor. Publisher: Chelsea House. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 692.
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