Field, Stephen J.
1875 LS while Associate Justice to a powerful San Francisco financier-businessman, helping his friend meet the US Attorney General for a job interview
Autograph ID: 6512
Condition: Very good, 2 mail folds; blue pencil docket on verso
Description: “(1816-1899) Associate Justice 1863-1897. Brother of David Dudley Field and Cyrus Field, uncle of Justice David J. Brewer. To California 1848, 5th Chief Justice of California Supreme Court 1857-63. Lincoln appointed him to the newly created 10th Supreme Court seat to achieve regional balance (Westerner), political balance (Unionist Democrat) and to give the Court someone familiar with real estate and mining issues. Proponent of substantive due process that protected property rights from regulation under the 14th Amendment, as illustrated in his dissents to “The Slaughterhouse Cases” and Munn v. Illinois. Helped end the income tax (Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company), limited anti-trust law (US v. E.C. Knight Company), and the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission. In California, he wrote opinions against California laws discriminating against Chinese immigrants; however, he dissented in Strauder v. West Virginia, which held that excluding African-Americans from a jury that convicted an African-American of murder violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. He joined the majority in Plessy v. Ferguson which upheld racial segregation. He served on 1877 Electoral Commission to settle the 1876 presidential election, voting with Democrats on all issues.
LS marked “Private” at top of 1st 8 x 5 1/4 page, 3pp of a folded sheet, to William C. Ralston. Field has called upon the Attorney General (Edward Pierrepont)”…and said to him what I thought was the suitable word touching the business which called Mr. Morgan to Washington” and Pierrepont “expressed great desire to serve his friend in San Francisco and said he would do so far as it lay in his power.” He relates to Ralston that Morrow’s interview with Pierrepont “was very agreeable and satisfactory.” Field says that Morrow “appears to possess good judgement and much discretion, and i think the chances are greatly in favor of his success.” Field leaves for California later in the month and looks forward “to a very laborious summer in going the rounds of my circuit.”
WILLIAM C. RALSTON (1826-1875) San Francisco businessman- financier, founder of the Bank of California. With riches derived from Nevada’s Comstock Lode, he became one of the richest and most powerful men in California. He built Ralston Hall in Belmont, and the California Theatre on San Francisco’s Bush Street (opened Jan. 18, 1869). He constructed the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, spending $5M on building it, draining his banking empire. It opened Oct. 2, 1875 with early elevators and electric call buttons in the rooms. The hotel survived the 1906 earthquake, destroyed in the ensuing fire, reopening in 1909. In 1871, following a severe drought, he initiated work on surveying for an irrigation scheme in the San Joaquin Valley; his lobbying succeeded in securing 1873 congressional passage of an Act to set up a Water Commission to advise on irrigation of California. In 1875, his financial empire collapsed as a result of the expense of building the Palace Hotel, the failure of his attempt to buy and resell the Spring Valley Water Co., the after-effects of the Panic of 1873, and a crash in the stock value of the Bank of California weeks before the opening of the Palace Hotel. The day after the collapse, his body was found in the San Francisco Bay, the victim of either a stroke during his regular swim or suicide. Streets in Belmont, Cal. and Reno, Nev., were named for him. The town of Modesto was to be named for Ralston; he declined, however, and it was called Modesto. He was portrayed by Ronald Reagan in a 1965 episode of “Death Valley Days.””