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Frederic R. Coudert

Lawyer/Public Servant

Centurion, 1889–1903

Full Name Frederic René Coudert

Born 1 March 1832 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Died 20 December 1903 in Washington, District of Columbia

Buried Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, New York

Proposed by James C. Carter, Nicholas Fish, Edward Patterson, William P. Chambers, George de Forest Lord, and Charles T. Barney

Elected 4 May 1889 at age fifty-seven

Century Memorial

At a dinner given to Monsieur Bartholdi in this city, on the completion of the Statue of Liberty, Frederic R. Coudert brought tears to the eyes of the sculptor with his apostrophe to that grandiose monument as, “Notre chère déesse Alsatienne qui a opté pour la France.” In Mr. Coudert himself the precious and enduring spirit of France cast its lot with the sister republic, the semi-kindred nation, and his fellow Americans gladly recognize the debt they owe him. It is just half a century since he was admitted, at the age of twenty-one, to the bar of this State, and his prestige and influence steadily grew during that long period. In his profession, partly by the happy circumstances of his descent and connections, in part by his attachment to the broadest study of the law, his practice was largely international. He served with distinction in the International Congress on the Law of Nations at Antwerp, in 1877, and at Liverpool in 1882; on the Bering Sea Commission of 1895; on the Venezuela Commission and on the succeeding Arbitration in 1897 and 1898. He was offered one of the chief diplomatic posts in Europe, a seat in the Court of Appeals of New York, and a nomination to the United States Supreme Court—any one of which he would have honored—but the only office he was willing to accept was that of member of the Board of Education in this city. It was as if one of Napoleon’s veterans deliberately kept the marshal’s baton in his knapsack, choosing to fight in the ranks.

His fighting was gallant and unceasing. Who that shared, or even watched, his contests for honest party rule, for the purity of the bench, for decency in city affairs, does not recall the intrepidity of his joyous bearing and what foe of these good causes can forget his brilliant and merciless assauts? Honors appropriate to his gifts came easily to him and were borne with innate grace and dignity. He was Doctor of Laws by the election of three colleges, including Columbia, his Alma Mater, and received from the latter its first degree of Juris Utrius Doctor. He was President of the old Manhattan Club, of the Bar Association, of the Columbia College Alumni, of the Young Men’s Democratic Club, of the Catholic Historical Society, and of the French Benevolent Society, not to mention numerous corporate directorships for which his fidelity and ability indicated him. This incomplete list betrays the scope and variety of his qualities and interests. For his associates of the Century, besides the eminent jurist, the courageous and faithful citizen, the brilliant orator there lives in our memory the friend, gentle, sparkling, wise, endlessly refreshing.

Edward Cary
1904 Century Association Yearbook