Salmon P. Chase

Salmon P. Chase
Salmon Portland Chase
6th Chief Justice of the United States
In office
December 6, 1864[1] – May 7, 1873
Nominated by Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by Roger B. Taney
Succeeded by Morrison R. Waite
25th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
March 7, 1861 – June 30, 1864
President Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by John A. Dix
Succeeded by William P. Fessenden
23rd Governor of Ohio
In office
January 14, 1856 – January 9, 1860
Lieutenant Thomas H. Ford (1856–1858)
Martin Welker (1858–1860)
Preceded by William Medill
Succeeded by William Dennison Jr.
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1855
Preceded by William Allen
Succeeded by George E. Pugh
In office
March 4 – March 7, 1861
Preceded by George E. Pugh
Succeeded by John Sherman
Personal details
Born January 13, 1808(1808-01-13)
Cornish, New Hampshire, U.S.
Died May 7, 1873(1873-05-07) (aged 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Free Soil, Liberty, Republican, Democrat
Spouse(s) i) Katherine Jane Garmiss
ii) Eliza Ann Smith
iii) Sarah Bella Dunlop Ludlow[2]
Alma mater Cincinnati College
Dartmouth College
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Judge
Religion Episcopal

Salmon Portland Chase (January 13, 1808 – May 7, 1873) was an American politician and jurist who served as U.S. Senator from Ohio and the 23rd Governor of Ohio; as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln; and as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Chase was one of the most prominent members of the new Republican Party before becoming Chief Justice. Chase articulated the "Slave Power conspiracy" thesis well before Lincoln. He coined the slogan of the Free Soil Party, "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men." He devoted his energies to the destruction of what he considered the Slave Power – the conspiracy of Southern slave owners to seize control of the federal government and block the progress of liberty.


Early life and education

Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshire to Ithamar Chase and his wife Janet Ralston. His father died when the boy was nine years old. Janet Chase was left a widow with "a small amount of property and ten surviving children". Salmon was raised by his uncle, Philander Chase, an Episcopal bishop.[3]

He studied in the common schools of Windsor, Vermont and Worthington, Ohio, and at Cincinnati College before entering the junior class at Dartmouth College. He was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity and Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated from Dartmouth in 1826. While at Dartmouth, he taught at the Royalton Academy in Royalton, Vermont.

Chase moved to the District of Columbia, where he studied law under U.S. Attorney General William Wirt and continued to teach. He was admitted to the bar in 1829.

Entrance into politics

In 1830, Chase moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he quickly gained a position of prominence at the bar. He published an annotated edition of the laws of Ohio which was long considered a standard. The death of his first wife in 1835 triggered Chase's spiritual reawakening and devotion to causes more aligned with his faith, including abolition.

He worked initially with the American Sunday School Union and began defending fugitive slaves. At a time when public opinion in Cincinnati was dominated by Southern business connections, Chase, influenced by local events, including the attack on the press of James G. Birney during the Cincinnati Riots of 1836, associated himself with the anti-slavery movement. Chase was also a member of the literary Semi-Colon Club, whose members included Harriet Beecher Stowe and Calvin Stowe.[4] Chase became the leader of the political reformers, as opposed to the Garrisonian abolitionist movement.

For his defense of escaped slaves seized in Ohio under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, Chase was dubbed the Attorney General for Fugitive Slaves. His argument in the case of Jones v. Van Zandt on the constitutionality of fugitive slave laws before the U.S. Supreme Court attracted particular attention. In this and similar cases, the court ruled against him, and John Van Zandt's conviction was upheld. Chase contended that slavery was local, not national, and that it could exist only by virtue of positive state law. He argued that the federal government was not empowered by the Constitution to create slavery anywhere and that when a slave leaves the jurisdiction of a state where slavery is legal, he ceases to be a slave; he continues to be a man and leaves behind the law that made him a slave.

Elected as a Whig to the Cincinnati City Council in 1840, Chase left that party the next year. For seven years he was the leader of the Liberty Party in Ohio. He helped balance its idealism with his pragmatic approach and political thought. He was skillful in drafting platforms and addresses, and he prepared the national Liberty platform of 1843 and the Liberty address of 1845. Building the Liberty Party was slow going. By 1848 Chase was leader in the effort to combine the Liberty Party with the Barnburners or Van Buren Democrats of New York to form the Free Soil Party.

The Free Soil movement

Salmon P. Chase

Chase drafted the Free-Soil platform, and it was chiefly through his influence that Van Buren was their nominee for President in 1848. In 1849, Chase was elected to the U.S Senate from Ohio on the Free Soil ticket. Chase's goal, however, was not to establish a permanent new party organization, but to bring pressure to bear upon Northern Democrats to force them to oppose the extension of slavery.

During his service in the Senate (1849–1855), Chase was an anti-slavery champion. He spoke ably against the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska legislation, and the subsequent violence in Kansas, convinced Chase of the futility of trying to influence the Democrats.

He was a leader in the movement to form a new party opposing the extension of slavery. He tried to unite the liberal Democrats with the dwindling Whig Party, which led to establishment of the Republican Party. "The Appeal of the Independent Democrats in Congress to the People of the United States", written by Chase and Giddings, and published in the New York Times on January 24, 1854, may be regarded as the earliest draft of the Republican party creed.

In 1855 he was elected governor of Ohio. Chase was the first Republican governor of Ohio, serving from 1856 to 1860, where he supported women's rights, public education, and prison reform.

Chase sought the Republican nomination for president in 1860. With the exception of William H. Seward, Chase was the most prominent Republican in the country and had done more against slavery than any other Republican. But he opposed a "protective tariff", favored by most other Republicans, and his record of collaboration with Democrats annoyed many Republicans who were former Whigs.

At the 1860 Republican National Convention, he got 49 votes on the first ballot, but he had little support outside Ohio. Abraham Lincoln won the nomination, and Chase supported him.

Chase was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1860. However, three days after taking his seat, he resigned to become Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln. He was a member of the Peace Convention of 1861 held in Washington, D.C., in an effort to prevent the impending war.

Secretary of the Treasury

Edwin Stanton (Secretary of War) Salmon Chase (Treasury secretary) President Lincoln Gideon Welles (Secretary of the navy) William Seward (Secretary of State) Caleb B. Smith (Cabinet) Montgomery Blair (Cabinet) Edward Bates (Attorney General) Emancipation Proclamation draft Unknown Painting use cursor to explore or button to enlarge
First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln by Francis Bicknell Carpenter[5]Use your cursor to see who is who

Chase served as Secretary of the Treasury in President Lincoln's cabinet from 1861 to 1864, during the Civil War. In that period of crisis, there were two great changes in American financial policy, the establishment of a national banking system and the issue of paper currency. The former was Chase's own particular measure. He suggested the idea, worked out the important principles and many of the details, and induced the Congress to approve them. It not only secured an immediate market for government bonds, but also provided a permanent uniform, stable national currency. Chase ensured that the Union could sell debt to pay for the war effort. He worked with Jay Cooke & Company to successfully manage the sale of $500 million in government war bonds (known as 5/20s) in 1862.[6]

Obverse of $10,000 bill featuring Salmon P. Chase

The first U.S. federal currency, the greenback demand note, was printed in 1861-1862, during Chase's tenure as Secretary of the Treasury. These greenbacks formed the basis for today's paper currency. It was Chase's responsibility to design the notes. In an effort to further his political career, his face appeared on a variety of U.S. paper currency, starting with the $1 bill so that the people would recognize him.

Perhaps Chase's chief defect was an insatiable desire for high office.[7] Throughout his term as Treasury Secretary, Chase exploited his position to build up political support for another run at the Presidency in 1864.

He also tried to pressure Lincoln by repeatedly threatening resignation, which he knew would cause Lincoln difficulties with the Radical Republicans.

To honor Chase for introducing the modern system of banknotes, he was depicted on the $10,000 bill printed from 1928 to 1946. Chase was instrumental in placing the phrase "In God We Trust" on United States coins.[1]

Chief Justice of the United States

Salmon P. Chase in his elder years.

In June 1864, Lincoln surprised Chase by accepting his fourth offer of resignation; Lincoln had secured renomination and the Federal Treasury was in solid shape, so Lincoln no longer needed Chase.

But to placate the Radical wing of the party, Lincoln mentioned Chase as a potential Supreme Court nominee. When Chief Justice Roger B. Taney died in October, Lincoln named Chase to replace him. Lincoln issued on the nomination on December 6, 1864. Chase was confirmed by the Senate that very day, and immediately received his commission, holding the office from 1864 until his own death in 1873. Chase was a complete change from the pro-slavery Taney; one of Chase's first acts as Chief Justice was to admit John Rock as the first African-American attorney to argue cases before the Supreme Court.[8]

The Chase Court, 1866

In his capacity as Chief Justice, Chase presided at the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Among his most important decisions while on the court were:

  • Texas v. White (74 U.S. 700), 1869, in which he asserted that the Constitution provided for a permanent union, composed of indestructible states, while allowing some possibility of divisibility "through revolution, or through consent of the States.";[9][10]
  • Veazie Banks v. Fenno (75 U.S 533), 1869, on banking legislation of the Civil War that imposed a tax of 10 percent on state banknotes; and
  • Hepburn v. Griswold (75 U.S. 603), 1870, which declared certain parts of the legal tender acts to be unconstitutional. When the legal tender decision was reversed after the appointment of new Justices, in 1871 and 1872 (Legal Tender Cases, 79 U.S. 457), Chase prepared a very able dissenting opinion.

Toward the end of his life he gradually drifted back toward his old Democratic allegiance, and made an unsuccessful effort to secure the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1868. He "was passed over because of his stance in favor of voting rights for black men."[8] He helped to found the Liberal Republican Party in 1872, unsuccessfully seeking its presidential nomination. Chase was also a Freemason,[citation needed] active in the lodges of Midwestern society. He collaborated with John Purdue, the founder of Lafayette Bank and Purdue University. Eventually, JP Morgan Chase & Co. would purchase Purdue National Corporation of Lafayette, Indiana in 1984.

As early as 1868 Chase concluded that:

"Congress was right in not limiting, by its reconstruction acts, the right of suffrage to whites; but wrong in the exclusion from suffrage of certain classes of citizens and all unable to take its prescribed retrospective oath, and wrong also in the establishment of despotic military governments for the States and in authorizing military commissions for the trial of civilians in time of peace. There should have been as little military government as possible; no military commissions; no classes excluded from suffrage; and no oath except one of faithful obedience and support to the Constitution and laws, and of sincere attachment to the constitutional Government of the United States."[11]

Death and legacy

Grave of Salmon Chase in Spring Grove Cemetery. Docent is dressed in period clothing.

Chase died in New York City in 1873. His remains were interred first in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and later re-interred in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.[12][13][14] Chase had been an active member of St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral, Cincinnati.

The Chase National Bank, a predecessor of Chase Manhattan Bank which is now JPMorgan Chase, was named in his honor, though he had no financial affiliation with it.

Chase Hall, the main barracks and dormitory at the United States Coast Guard Academy, is named for Chase in honor of his service as Secretary of the Treasury, and the United States Coast Guard Cutter Chase (WHEC 718) is named for him.

Chase's portrait is on the $10,000 bill, but it is out of circulation.

Chase County, Kansas is named in his honor. As is Chaseville, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina (which only lasted from 1868–1871), New York, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Chase Hall at Harvard Business School is also named in his honor.

Also, the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court Chase Rodgers is genealogically connected to Salmon P. Chase.

The Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University is named in his honor.

See also


  1. ^ "Federal Judicial Center: Salmon Chase". 2009-12-12. Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  2. ^ Niven, John (1995). Salmon P. Chase. Oxford University Press. pp. 96. ISBN 9780195046533. 
  3. ^ Lydia Rapoza, "The Life of Salmon P. Chase, Attorney General of Fugitive Slaves 1808-1873"
  4. ^ Gates, Henry Louis, Jr; and Hollis Robbins. "The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin" WW. Norton, p. xxxii
  5. ^ Reference. Lincoln met with his cabinet on July 22, 1862 for the first reading of a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Sight measurement. Height: 108 inches (274.32 cm) Width: 180 inches (457.2 cm)
  6. ^ Geisst, Charles R. (1999). Wall Street. Oxford University Press. pp. 54. ISBN 9780195115123. 
  7. ^ Salmon Portland Chase Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 Edition, Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 956
  8. ^ a b Chase's biography at HarpWeek
  9. ^ Aleksandar Pavković, Peter Radan, Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession, p. 222, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
  10. ^ Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868) at Cornell University Law School Supreme Court collection.
  11. ^ J. W. Schuckers, The Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase, (1874). p. 585; letter of May 30, 1993, to August Belmont
  12. ^ Salmon P. Chase memorial at Find a Grave.
  13. ^ Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook Supreme Court Historical Society at Internet Archive.
  14. ^ See also, Christensen, George A., Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited, Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, Pages 17 - 41 (19 Feb 2008), University of Alabama.

Secondary sources

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Salmon Chase is one of the major figures in the extensively researched historical novel "Lincoln" by Gore Vidal.

Primary sources

Further reading

  • Abraham, Henry J. (1992). Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. 3d. ed.. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506557-3. 
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies,1789-1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1568021267; ISBN 978-1-56802-126-3.. 
  • Frank, John P.; Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, editors (1995). The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0791013774; ISBN 978-0-7910-1377-9. 
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. (1992). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195058356; ISBN 978-0-19-505835-2.. 
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0871875543. 
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 590. ISBN 0815311761; ISBN 978-0-8153-1176-8.. 
  • Warden, Robert B. (1874). An account of the private life and public services of Salmon Portland Chase. Cincinnati: Wilstach, Baldwin and Co..  - Authorized biography.

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
William Allen
United States Senator (Class 3) from Ohio
Served alongside: Thomas Corwin, Thomas Ewing, Benjamin Wade
Succeeded by
George E. Pugh
Preceded by
George E. Pugh
United States Senator (Class 3) from Ohio
Served alongside: Benjamin Wade
Succeeded by
John Sherman
Political offices
Preceded by
William Medill
Governor of Ohio
Succeeded by
William Dennison
Preceded by
John Adams Dix
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Abraham Lincoln

Succeeded by
William P. Fessenden
Legal offices
Preceded by
Roger B. Taney
Chief Justice of the United States
Succeeded by
Morrison Waite

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