The Man Who Rode the Tiger: The Life and Times of Judge Samuel Seabury

By Herbert Mitgang | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20
A Citizen of New York

THE wheel of life had come almost full circle. In three-quarters of a century, Seabury's moments of greatness overbalanced his lesser moments. In law, he had reached the bench at an earlier age and earlier in his career than most judges; he had practiced as he desired, as a barrister; his investigative assignment had given him the chance to do more than settle old political scores; and, as the conscience for the Fusion movement and its outstanding mayor, he had become the first citizen of reform in New York, setting an example for future municipal reformers in the United States.

That evaluation, measured not in public but in personal terms, included shortcomings rather in manner than in character. Beyond his circle of intimates, he could be sanctimonious, humorless, and unforgiving of human failings. Although his aloofness was merely a way of showing respect for the privacy of others, nevertheless he did maintain some distance between his associates and himself; he could be a most generous friend but not a companion. The same unbending will that stiffened his personal relations was the force behind his public achievement. He was born to be admired, not loved.

On his birthday in 1950, he sat in a high-backed leather chair behind the huge oak desk in his small law office at 31 Nassau Street talking with a caller. His mien was still judicial, his blue suit, starched white shirt, and gray, figured tie still gave him a look of

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