This speech by Judge Abram H. Hopkins was delivered at the dedication of the new addition to the Court House on July 9, 1955.
His Excellency, Thomas B. Stanley, the Governor of Virginia, Congressman Tuck, Distinguished visitors, my countians, ladies and gentlemen.
We feel highly honored to have with us the present Governor and the Ex-Governor of Virginia. We are honored to have with us the other distinguished guests
We welcome you, one and all, to the dedication of the new addition to this Court House.
I do not believe it is boastful to say that Franklin County now has one of the best equipped Court Houses in Virginia.
I am thankful to the Board of Supervisors for the presence and wisdom with which they met and solved the problem which confronted them. I am thankful to the loyal and patriotic men and women of this county who made this Court House possible and paid for the building in one year by increased taxation. The taxpayers of Franklin County paid for this Court House. This is your Court House. I trust you will never regret your actions.
On behalf of the Court and the Board of Supervisors, I accept this building and dedicate every brick and every mortar that has gone into the building thereof to the services of the men, women and children of this county.
Our civilization is centered around the court houses. The rights and liberties of our people depend upon the courage, integrity, wisdom and fidelity of those who have the responsibility of administering the laws.
When God made man, He created in him an admixture of good and evil, truth and falsehood, hate and love, depravity and sublimity, cupidity and generosity, loyalty and ingratitude, benevolence and malevolence, cruelty and kindness, honor and dishonor, courage and cowardice and posited him in a state of nature on a strange land, infested with enemies to contend with destiny in an ever changing world.
When man lived in a state of nature, he became aware that God had endowed him with a brain superior to all living things. He was thus able to dig for himself a cave which would protect him from the elements. He learned how to make clubs with which to overcome the beast of the forest. He made bows and arrows with which he killed the fowls of the air. He built himself a canoe with which he sailed the seas and made the fish of the sea his own. He learned how to plat seed, till the soil and gather food at harvest time. He thus, made himself master of all living things, in the air, on the land and in the sea except man. He learned that there was but one enemy that he could not subdue, could not overcome, and that enemy was man. He learned that no scheme nor ingenuity could be devised which would protect him from the envy and jealousies of cruel man. He learned that regardless of the supply of venison he might lay up for the snows of winter, a stronger man at any time might deprive him of the fruits of his labor.
THE REASON FOR LAW
Men, in their dilemma, conceived of the idea of adopting some sort of rules and regulations based on justice and equity and which all, without exception, would be obliged to conform.
"After a while the desire of self-preservation gathered them into cities; but when they were gathered together, having no art of government, they evilly entreated one another, and were agin in process of dispersion and destruction. Zeus feared that the entire race would be extinguished, and so he sent Hermes to them, bearing reverence and justice to be the ordering principles of cities and the bonds of friendship and conciliation. Hermes asked Zeus how he should impart justice and reverence among men; should he distribute them as the arts were distributed; that is to say, to a favoured few only, one skilled individual having enough of medicine or of any other art for as many unskilled ones? "Shall this be the manner in which I am to distribute justice and reverence among men, or shall I give them to all?" "To all", said Zeus, "I should like them all to have a share; for cities cannot exist, if a few only share in the virtues, as in the arts. And further, make a law by my order, that he who has no part in reverence and justice shall be put to death, for he is a plague of the State".
THE PURPOSE OF LAWS
Truly, "Life is a pendulum betwit smiles and tears". Prosperity follows adversity and adversity follows prosperity. The same God that sends the snows of winter causes the jonquils to bloom in the springtime. The man who would play well his part in the great drama we call life, must keep his fortitude at part with his fortune, and take without flinching, whatever fate decrees.
We are living in an age seething with envy, prejudice and calumnies, and many are trying to rise by keeping others down. It may be said today, as was said by a Roman philosopher 1900 years ago: "Tis oftener the tall pine that is shaken by the wind; 'tis the loftiest tower that falls with the heaviest crash, and 'tis the tops of the mountains that lightning strikes".
It is the nature of man to enjoy, at times, inflicting pain on others. Perhaps the severest pains that men inflict on each other are motivated by jealousy and avarice. It was jealousy that caused Cain to kill his brother, Abel. It was jealousy that brought about the crucifixion of Christ. Shakespear said:
"O! Beware my lord of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on."
In Voltaire's masterpiece, Candide, we read:
Martin said to Candide, "I see nothing strange in their passions; I have seen so many extra-ordinary things that nothing seems extra-ordinary to me". "Do you think", said Candide, "that men have always massacred each other, as they do today? Have they always been liars, cheats, traitors, brigands, weak, flighty, cowardly, envious, gluttonous, drunken, grasping and vicious, bloody, backbiting, debauched, fanatical, hypocritical and silly?" "Do you think the sparrow-hawks have always eaten the pigeons they came across?" "Yes, of course", said Candide. "Well", said Martin, "If sparrow-hawks have always possessed the same nature, why should you expect men to change theirs?"
We are not quarreling with human nature, as there is nothing we can do to change it, but it does become the obligation of government to enact those laws which, so far as is humanly possible, will protect men from the wrongs of others."
THE SCALES OF JUSTICE
I love the sculptor's dream of justice which has been sanctioned by the Nations of the world. The sculptor represents justice as "A pure and beautiful maiden, modestly and chastely robed with a blindfold over her eyes and with her virgin hand holding the scales of justice suspended and poised in the open light of day before the world". The rights of our citizens depend upon holding the scales of justice equally balanced, but whenever we see the scales suspended from the hands of an unclean and diseased wanton, her eyes peeping from behind the blindfold in order to see who has the greater influence or political power and reaching forth the hand which had dropped the sword of justice to put lust and avarice into the scale to bear down truth and right, justice becomes but a mockery and we have a government, controlled by men and not by laws.
Truly, those of us who now occupy the stage ere long "shall be dead and turned to clay, fit only to stop a hole to keep the wind away". But the verdicts rendered in this room will have an influence on the lives of people yet unborn.
May we who are now charged with the responsibility of deciding human rights in controversies arising between man and man, in this building, dedicated to the administration of justice; and may those who are to come after us, never peep from behind the blindfold.
Franklin County Courthouse