REPRESENTATIVE AND LEADING
MEN OF THE PACIFIC
By THE EDITOR.
The ancestors of this gentleman were, on his father’s side, English, on his mother’s, Scotch-Irish. They emigrated to North Carolina at so early a day that all tradition of the event is lost. His father was a merchant and planter in that State. At a time when it was a life office, he held the position of Clerk of the County Court for Anson County. In this county, Tod Robinson was born, A. D. 1812. When he was quite young, his father resigned his office and removed with his family to Alabama.
Tod Robinson came to California from Texas, by way of Panama, in September, 1850. He landed at San Francisco, but not tarrying there, pushed on up the Sacramento river to Sacramento city, then the liveliest and busiest mining camp in the State. Here he settled, and entered immediately on the practice of law. He very soon attained prominence and success. He had not been in the city a year when Judge Thomas resigned his position as District Judge of the Sixth Judicial District, embracing Sacramento county, and Gov. Burnett appointed Mr. Robinson to fill the vacancy. For this honorable and responsible position his extensive legal attainments and his incorruptible integrity eminently fitted him. During the short period of his occupancy of this office, Judge Robinson won the undivided esteem of the bar and the undisguised reverence of the people of his district. In the list of able jurists who have graced the bench of the Sixth Judicial District, Judge Robinson’s name shines with unfading lustre. He had occupied the position only a few months, when, in October, 1851, the Whig party, to the principles of which he was devotedly attached, unsolicited, nominated him as their candidate for Supreme Judge; whereupon he resigned his place on the District bench, and accepted the nomination for the higher office. The Whig party being in a minority, he was defeated. The election over, and having aided so materially in preserving the organization of his party, at the expense of his own personal advancement and comfort, Judge Robinson resumed practice in Sacramento. He formed a partnership with Murray Morrison, since Judge of the Seventeenth Judicial District, which continued for two years. In 1853, Judge Robinson was again nominated by his party for the Supreme Bench. Anticipating defeat, he yet obeyed with alacrity the call of his party to carry the banner of Whiggery in the final charge upon a triumphant foe. The result was as expected—the utter overthrow of the proud and gallant party to whose fortunes he had clung so steadfastly, and in whose last struggles he had been so conspicuous. Judge Robinson again returned to the profession in Sacramento. Soon after the general election in 1853, he entered into partnership with H. O. Beatty, lately Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada, and James B. Haggin, an old and wealthy citizen of Sacramento and San Francisco, now residing in Paris. This partnership lasted two or three years, when Mr. Haggin withdrew, and his place in the firm was filled by Hon. C. T. Botts, afterwards Judge of the Sixth Judicial District. Judge Botts being appointed to the bench, Mr. Heacock, subsequently State Senator from Sacramento, entered the firm. Judge Robinson’s connection with Judge Beatty continued till the year 1862.
Judge Robinson confined himself exclusively to his profession for several years, during which time he built up an extensive and lucrative business. During this important period in the history of Sacramento, his fidelity to his profession and his able management of the heavy litigation he was called upon to conduct, spread his fame as a lawyer throughout California.
In 1862, he accepted the Democrat nomination for Attorney General. In 1863, he was nominated by the same party for Supreme Judge, upon the reorganization of the Supreme Court. On both occasions he was defeated with the rest of his ticket.
He had now resided in Sacramento for thirteen years. The practice of law being almost dead in that place, which the great flood of 1860-61 had almost depopulated, he removed to Virginia City, Nevada, where he resided eighteen months. While residing in that State, he was nominated by the Democratic State Convention for Clerk of the Supreme Court. He could easily have been nominated for the higher place of Supreme Judge, but his friends determined to give him the nomination for the first-named position, because of the great emoluments attached to it. However, his party being defeated, the hopes of his friends were not realized.
Early in the year 1865, Judge Robinson returned to California, and settled with his family in San Francisco, where he has since resided. He still continues to act as counsellor at law, but his health being very feeble, he is seldom in his office and rarely seen in court.
Judge Robinson ranks high as an impressive and eloquent speaker. He is a cogent, logical reasoner, a racy debater, and can hurl the shaft of irony with cutting effect. His clear and mellow utterances, his earnest manner, his dignified, polished diction, often reaching solemnity in its calm and graceful flow, render him at all times an agreeable and pleasing speaker. He is quite fond of poetry, and a close student of Shakespeare. In addressing public audiences he is decidedly happy in his quotations from the immortal bard of nature. He is devoted to his large family, in whose society he passes nearly all of his time. His private life is without a blemish.
Judge Robinson has nearly passed the meridian of his usefulness. His voice will probably never again thrill the listening crowd, nor his form be seen rising to confront the expectant jury. He has not been exempt from the ordinary lot of morals. His life has been eventful and his career checkered. Disappointments have visited and trials perplexed him. Time has laid his hand heavily upon him. Disease had racked and enfeebled his frame. He expects soon to be called upon to “resign this pleasing, anxious being.” But his heart is still young—nor time, nor disappointment, nor disaster can ever subdue his free spirit or “chill his mental glow.” His independent nature, and his devotion to a principle, command the respect of his political opponents. He has always dared to pursue the course his sense of right, suggested, regardless of the clamors of the fickle multitude. He could not be flattered by the breath of popular applause nor be made to submit to the demands of the mob—“that many-headed, monster thing.” The injunction of his own favorite poet has been to him an ever present guide and comforter.
“This above all ! To thine own self be true !
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
The EDITOR trusts that he has not passed beyond the limit of faithful biographical sketch in the above expressions. He could not have said less, in humble acknowledgment of past kindness on the part of his subject, in the bosom of whose family he found shelter, in boyhood, from a multitude of woes which had nearly crushed his spirit.
The following terse language applies to Judge Robinson with as much force and propriety as to Dr. Akenside:
“He is exclusive in his social taste, but with a high standard of integrity; more proud than vain, and more fastidious than companionable. Intimately known to but few, he is respected by all as a gentleman and a scholar. His formal address might impress a stranger with the idea of accomplished pedantry; but once fairly engaged in conversation with a genial and appreciative auditor, the philosopher and the man of cultivated taste and elevated sentiment appears conspicuous.”
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Shuck, Oscar T., “Representative & Leading Men of the Pacific”, Bacon & Co., Printers & Publishers, San Francisco, 1870. Pages 495-502.
© 2008 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.