James Harrington Boyd of the Toledo bar, is especially known as the author and leading promoter of the Ohio
Workmen's Compensation Law, one of the most striking and advanced measures of state policy of our times. He was
the chairman of the notable commission appointed by Governor Harmon under a legislative act in 1910, "to inquire
into the question of employers liability and other matters." As the result of the hearings and investigations
of the commission, he drafted the original bill creating the State Liability Board of Awards, which became a law
in June, 1911; and he was special counsel for the state in a case brought before the supreme court to test the
validity of the act and unanimously decided by that tribunal in the state's favor (1912). Mr. Boyd is probably
the most conspicuous American advocate of the distinctive policy of state compulsory insurance for the protection
and benefit of workmen and their dependents, and has devoted much of his time and energy to the promotion of this
cause throughout the United States generally and also in Canada. He is the author of the standard book on the subject
of workmen's compensation systems.
He was born in Keene, near Coshocton, Coshocton county, Ohio. December 7, 1862, son of James and Mary (Ross) Boyd.
On his father's side he is of Scotch-Irish descent. His paternal grandparents were early settlers in Coshocton
county, and his father was a lifelong resident there, successfully engaged in agricultural pursuits, active and
prominent in the church, a justice of the peace, and altogether a respected and useful citizen. The grandmother
of Mr. Boyd was a native of Kentucky and was a grandniece (maternally) of the renowned pioneer, Daniel Boone.
Reared on the home farm, James Harrington Boyd received a district and village school education until the age of
sixteen and was then a student in Coshocton high school. After teaching country school for one year he prepared
for college in the Wooster (Ohio) University, 1881-83, entered Princeton College, and was there graduated as Bachelor
of Arts in 1886.
During the year 1886-87 he held the mathematical fellowship of that institution, and in 1888 the Master of Arts
degree was conferred upon him. He was professor of mathematics in Macalester College at St Paul, Minnesota, for
some two years, when he went abroad, and from 1890 to 1893 pursued advanced studies in mathematics and physics
at the University of Gottingen, Germany. In 1892 he received the degree of Doctor of Science from Princeton. Becoming
connected with the teaching staff of the University of Chicago in 1893, he served as tutor of mathematics until
1895 and as instructor of mathematics from 1895 to 1902. While there he was president of Lincoln House three years
and treasurer of the Quadrangle Club in 1900-01. Resigning his position in the university, he entered the Harvard
Law School, where he took a special course in 1902-03, and was then admitted to the bar.
Since the, year 1904 he has been successfully engaged in the practice of his profession in Toledo. He represented
the Ohio Bar Association at the annual convention of the American Bar Association held in Portland, Maine, in August,
1907; and he was a member of the committee on judicial administration and legal reform of the Ohio Bar Association
in 1909. At the election of 1908 he was the democratic candidate for judge of the circuit court in the sixth judicial
While studying in Germany some twenty years ago, Mr. Boyd became interested in the principles and operations of
the workmen's industrial insurance system of that country, instituted in 1883 as a government policy by the influence
of Prince Bismarck: He afterward familiarized himself with the workings of the German system from year to year
and with the results following the adoption of similar measures in other countries.
At the Ohio legislative session of 1910 an act was passed (senate bill No. 250) which provided for the creation
of a so called Employers' Liability Commission "to inquire into the question of employers' liability and other
matters." The commission was appointed in June of that year by Governor Harmon, and consisted of five members:
James Harrington Boyd of Toledo; J. W. Perks of Springfield; W. J. Rohr of Cincinnati; W. J. Winans of Galion;
and J. P. Smith of Cleveland. Mr. Boyd was elected chairman From September to the early part of December twenty
seven hearings were held in the cities of Dayton, Cincinnati, Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo, and Columbus. Under
the direction of the commission a special investigation was made by experts, at a cost of seven thousand dollars,
concerning the economic effects of industrial accidents in Cuyahoga county during the years 1905-10 upon married
and single men and their dependents. In the month of November, 1910, Mr. Boyd was in attendance at the notable
Chicago conference of employers' and workmen's compensation commissions, in which ideas were exchanged by representatives
of the United States government and various states, and he took an active part in its proceedings.
The Ohio commission continued its sessions in Columbus from December, 1910, until the latter part of April, 1911.
An elaborate report, embodying its transactions and findings, was compiled and submitted to the twenty ninth general
assembly, together with a bill (house bill No. 282, introduced by Mr. Black), which comprehended its conclusions.
The report was quite distinctively the personal work of Chairman Boyd, and the bill was drawn by him. After being
debated and passed with various amendments in the two houses, the measure was, agreed to in its final form by a
conference committee, repassed almost unanimously, and approved by the governor on the 15th of June, 1911. Upon
the completion of its labors the commission went out of existence, having devoted nearly a year of continuous work
to its important duties. The cost of its services to the state, including the Cleveland investigation and the publication
of ten thousand copies of its report, was some sixteen thousand dollars for incidental expenses. A bill was introduced
into the seventy ninth general assembly which provided for the payment of a gross sum of sixteen thousand dollars
to the five members of the commission for their services, but it failed to pass, and up to the present time they
have gone entirely unrecompensed.
It was stipulated that the act should take effect on the 1st of January, 1912, but owing to the tendency in the
supreme court at that time of the case to test the question of constitutionality, it did not come effectively into
operation until the following March. As already noticed, Mr. Boyd represented the state as special counsel in the
test case, which was unanimously decided in favor of the state ( January 12, 1912). An adaptation of his very able
brief on that occasion, embodying both the economic and legal basis of compulsory industrial insurance for workmen,
was published in the Michigan Law Review for March and April, 1912, and has since been reprinted in pamphlet form.
Without attempting an analysis of the somewhat elaborate act of 1911 (which is readily accessible to all interested
readers), its principal provisions may be summarized as follows: 1. A State Liability Board of Awards (consisting
of three members) was created, which was charged with the administration of the act. 2. Classification of employments
with respect to hazard was directed, as a basis for fixing rates of premium. 3. Every employer having in his service
five or more workmen regularly was, upon payment into the state insurance fund of the required premiums, exempted
from liability for damages at common law or by statute on account of the death or injury of any employe, except
that the right of court proceedings was reserved to employes, or dependents in certain limited cases. 4. Every
employe or surviving dependent applying to the state board for an award, was declared to have waived the right
of court proceedings; and conversely every such person exercising the option of court proceedings was debarred
from receiving a state award. 5. Ninety per cent of the assessed premium in every case was required to be paid
into the state insurance fund by the employer, and ten per cent by his employes. 6. All awards on account of injury
or death were made calculable on the basis of sixty six and two thirds per cent of the earning capacity of the
individual concerned, payments to continue not exceeding six years and not to exceed in any case more than twelve
dollars a week or a maximum of three thousand, four hundred dollars.
It will be observed that the essential feature of the act of 1911 was its substantially compulsory character. However,
in its compulsory arrangements it fell somewhat short of the recommendations of the commission. On the other hand,
the commissioner's bill fixed a maximum of only sixty per cent of average earnings as the basis of awards, whereas
the legislature allowed sixty six and two thirds per cent. On the whole, the legislature quite satisfactorily and
thoroughly met the expectations of Mr. Boyd and his associates; and when the new law, fully sustained by the supreme
court, went into comprehensive operation at the beginning of March, 1912, it was regarded by the advocates of state
compulsory industrial insurance as one of the most advanced measures of its kind.
The underlying incentives and motives of this and similar legislation elsewhere have been most forcibly and completely
presented by Mr. Boyd in many formal addresses, as well as in his important published work, which will presently
be referred to. A study of carefully compiled statistics, both in this country and abroad, demonstrates (to quote
from Mr. Boyd) 'Not only that the common (and liability) law remedy in its present form does not furnish compensation
of any kind in to exceed twelve per cent of the cases of injury to employes, and even in those cases in which compensation
is paid, the compensation paid does not on the average exceed one fifth of what is regarded as adequate compensation,
but also that no modification of the common law remedy can be made whereby these results will be materially improved;
hence the old common law remedy must be abandoned and a new remedy substituted therefor." An examination of
the detailed facts in support of these remarkable statements is exceedingly interesting, and shows beyond question
the utter inability of the average workman and his dependents to recover substantially for injuries by any process
unassisted or unaruaranteed by the state. The imperative obligation of society to assume the responsibility for
compensation for injuries and fatalities in the industries is evidenced by statistics which prove that only about
twenty eight per cent of such injuries and fatalities is occasioned by the exdusive fault of the workman, whereas
the remaining seventy two per cent is attributable in largest part to the inevitable risk of the industries and
in minor but still very appreciable degrees to the direct fault of the employer, or of employer and workman jointly.
The foregoing is of course only a very brief and imperfect indication of the economic basis of state compulsory
industrial insurance, but it expresses the elements of the subject, from which has been evolved the present extensive
The Ohio act of 1911 was very considerably amended by an act passed by the eightieth general assembly and approved
by Governor Cox on the 14th day of March, 1913. This measure retained the sixty six and two thirds percentage of
average earnings as the basis of awards; extended the benefits of the law to all employes of the state, county
and local governments; abrogated the requirement for a payment of ten per cent of the premium by employes and required
the entire premium to be paid by employers; and noticeably intensified the compulsory spirit and effect of the
system. On the other hand, it introduced an innovation by extending to employers of certain financial standings
the option of making direct compensation for injuries and deaths among their own employes, and thus withdrawing
as contributors to the state insurance fund - subject, however, to the satisfaction and supervision of the State
Liability Board of Awards. Altogether, the tendency of the amendments of 1913 is more fully to put into effect
the recommendations of the original commission headed by Mr. Boyd.
Among the noteworthy addresses delivered by Mr. Boyd at various times on the subject of compulsory industrial state
insurance to compensate workmen or their dependents for injuries or fatalities the following may be mentioned:
Before the Ohio State Board of Commerce at Columbus, November 17, 1910 (See Legislative Reference Department, Ohio
State Library); before the National Civic Federation in New York, December 18, 1910, (See Proceedings of National
Civic Federation, 1911); before the Ohio State Bar Association at Cedar Point, July 12, 1911, (See Proceedings
of same, 1911); before the Employers' Liability and Workmen's Compensation Commission of the United States at Chicago,
October 17, 1911, (See Hearings of same for 1911, page 717); before Sir William Ralph Meredith, C. J., C. P., sole
commissioner on workmen's compensation of Ontario, at Toronto, January 15, 1912, (See Interim Report, Workmen's
Compensation Commission of Ontario, 1912); before the Manufacturers' Association of Central Canada at Berlin, Ontario,
February 15, 1912, (See the Berlin News Record, February 17, 1912); before the committee on judiciary of the house
of representatives, sixty second congress at Washington, March 15, 1912, (See Hearings of same on H. R. 20,487,
S. 5,382, March 15 and 26, 1912, page 4); and before the Pennsylvania Accident Commission at Pittsburgh, April
15, 1912, (See Report of same).
In the year 1913 Mr. Boyd published an exhaustive work entitled "A Treatise on the Law of Compensation for
Injuries to Workmen under Modem Industrial Statutes," (two volumes, 1,670 pages; Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis).
This is the first complete presentation of the subject and embodies the history of development in the United States
and foreign countries, complete texts of all state acts, every construction placed upon each state act, all foreign
acts and schedules, all the procedure, law and forms, etc.
During his early career Mr. Boyd wrote and published several valuable contributions to mathematical literature,
including Boyd's "College Algebra," a translation of Brict and Bouquet's "Geometric Antique,"
and various mathematical papers. He has also been a frequent writer for legal journals and the general press on
miscellaneous topics. Mr. Boyd has published the following legal papers: 1. "Workingmen's Insurance"
- The World Today, July, 1911, page 821; 2. "Workmen's Compensation or Insurance of Workmen and their Dependents
Against the loss of Wages Arising out of Industrial Accidents" - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. XVII,
No. 4, page 540, January, 1912; 3. "Economical Basis of Compulsory Industrial Insurance" - Michigan Law
Review, March, 1912, Vol. X, No. 5; 4. "Legal Basis of Compulsory Industrial Insurance" - Michigan Law
Review, April, 1922, Vol. X, No. 6; 5. "Important Constitutional Questions, New in Form, Raised by the Texas
Workmen's Compensation Act" - Yale Law Journal, Vol. XXV, No. 2, page 100, December, 1915; 6. "State
Workmen's Compensation Acts and the Federal Employers Liability Act" - Yale Law Journal, Vol. XXV, No. 7,
page 548, May, 1916; 7. "Socialization of the Law" - The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. XXII. No.
6, May, 1917; 8. "The Treaty Making Power of the United States and Alien Land Laws in the States" - California
Law Review (University of California) May, 1918. Mr. Boyd's tastes and interests extend to departments of culture
of a less scientific and precise character than those to which his former activities have been devoted. In recent
years he has occupied himself somewhat as a collector, especially of colonial pewter, glass and ceramics.
Mr. Boyd married March 25, 1896, in Portland, Maine, Susan Adams; daughter of John M. Adams, and has three children:
Helen, Mary and James Harrington, Jr.
Mr. Boyd is a member, among other organizations, of the Ohio and American Bar associations and the American Academy
of Political and Social Science. In politics, while generally taking an independent attitude in local affairs,
he is a supporter of the democratic party on principle, his views being in accord with those of the present national
Published in Ryan's History of Ohio, 1913.
Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio
BY: John M. Killits, A.M., LL.D.
S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago and Toledo
Lucas County, Ohio Biographies
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