Salmon P. Chase (January 13, 1808 – May 7, 1873)

Salmon Portland ChaseSalmon Portland Chase was an American politician and jurist in the Civil War era who served as U.S. Senator from Ohio and Governor of Ohio; as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln; and as Chief Justice of the United States.

Chase articulated the "Slave Power conspiracy" thesis well before Lincoln did, and he coined the slogan of the Free Soil Party, "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men." He devoted his enormous 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.

Perhaps Chase's chief defect as a statesman was an insatiable desire for supreme office. Never truly accepting his defeat at the 1860 Republican National Convention, throughout his term at the Treasury Department Chase repeatedly attempted to curry favor over Lincoln for another run at the Presidency in 1864. Chase had attempted to gain leverage over Lincoln three previous times by threatening resignation (which Lincoln declined largely on account of his need for Chase's work at Treasury), but with the 1864 nomination secured and the financial footing of the United States Government in solid shape, in June 1864, to Chase's great surprise, Lincoln accepted his fourth resignation offer. Partially to placate the Radical wing of the party following the resignation, however, Lincoln mentioned Chase as an able Supreme Court nominee. Several months later, upon Roger B. Taney's death in 1864, Lincoln nominated him as the Chief Justice of the United States, a position that Chase held from 1864 until his own death in 1873. In striking contrast with Taney, in one of Chase's first acts as Chief Justice, Chase appointed John Rock as the first African-American attorney to argue cases before the Supreme Court. In his capacity as Chief Justice, Chase presided at the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.¹

It was Salmon P. Chase who suggested the official title as "Chief Justice of the United States," rather than the incorrect "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court." His intention was to emphasize the Court's role as a coequal branch of government.²

Salmon P. Chase Quotes

"A resignation is a grave act; never performed by a right minded man without forethought or with reserve."

"I never refused my help to any person black or white; and I liked the office nonetheless because there were neither fees nor salary connected with it."

"The law of the Creator, which invests every human being with an inalienable title to freedom, cannot be repealed by any interior law which asserts that man is property."

"All men are born equally free."

Noteworthy Sites

¹ ² Salmon P. Chase - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Books on Salmon P. Chase
Books on The Supreme Court
All Supreme Court Posters & Prints
Salmon P. Chase Biographical Profile
The Salmon P. Chase Court

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