salmon p. chase

The American statesman. Salmon P. Chase was an ardent advocate of Negro rights. He was appointed secretary of the Treasury by President Lincoln, who later made him chief justice of the Supreme Court. He played an important role in the rights of the Negroes.

The early life of Salmon P. Chase

Salmon P. Chase was born in Cornish, N.H., on Jan. 13, 1808. He attended public school at Keene, N.H., and, for a time, a private school in Vermont. He established a reputation for good behavior, scholarly interest, and deep religious feelings. When he was 9 years old his father died, and soon he was placed under the stern direction of his uncle, Philander Chase, one of the great pioneer leaders in the American Episcopal Church. Philander, “a harsh, autocratic, determined man of God,” conducted a church school near Columbus, Ohio, where Salmon pursued classical and religious studies.


When Philander, now Bishop Chase, became president of Cincinnati College, Salmon was his student. In less than a year, for some unexplained reason, Salmon left the college and entered Dartmouth College as a junior. He graduated in 1826 without marked distinction.

Salmon P. Chase as a young Lawyer

Salmon P. Chase had by this time decided to become a lawyer, not a clergyman, but he had not lost his religious devotion. For a time Chase conducted a school for boys in Washington, D.C., and read law under the nominal supervision of William Wirt, one of the nation’s best lawyers.


He was admitted to the bar in December 1829. As a practicing lawyer, Chase made his permanent home in Cincinnati. It was a wise choice. Located on the north bank of the Ohio River, with its busy western trade and with slave territory on the opposite bank, Cincinnati offered splendid opportunities to a young lawyer of ability and strong moral views.

salmon p. chase

Attorney for runaway Negroes

Chase’s legal talents were quickly recognized, and soon he was being called the “attorney for runaway Negroes.” His most famous case was the defense of John Vanzant, who had been arrested while carrying several Kentucky runaways to free. Chase and William H. Seward, as unpaid lawyers, carried Vanzant’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where their eloquent appeals for Negro rights on constitutional grounds attracted national attention.


Chase’s insistence that any United States law could support no claim to persons as property won antislavery support among those who rejected William Lloyd Garrison’s extreme militant views. It also served to advance Chase’s political standing in Ohio and led to correspondence with such national antislavery figures as Charles Sumner.

Salmon P. Chase: Political Rise

Salmon P. Chase wore two hats in 1855. Before that, he served as a U.S. Senator for Ohio from 1849 to 1855. An opponent of slavery, he was a rising star in the newly formed Republican Party. In 1855, Ohio voters elected him as their first Republican governor. During his two terms (1856-1860), Chase focused on progressive reforms like improved education, prison changes, and even property rights for women.


Salmon P. Chase as a young man, Chase had voted as a Whig, but when the Liberty Party emerged, his strong antislavery feelings drew him into its ranks. He was active in its development but was always ready to change parties if slavery could be ended more quickly by another agency. As he said, he sympathized strongly with the Democratic Party in “almost everything excepting its submission to slave-holding leadership and dictation.”

This was good politics in the state of Ohio, where widely differing peoples and interests kept party lines. When the Liberty Party gave way to the Free Soil Party in 1848, Chase cautiously followed and a year later was elected to the U.S. Senate by a coalition of Democrats and Free Spoilers. In the Senate, Chase worked “to divorce our National and State governments from all support of Slavery” and through constitutional means to “deliver our country from its greatest curse.” He labored to unite all the antislavery groups in a futile effort to capture the Democratic Party and to make it the champion of freedom.

Chase viewed the steps leading to the Mexican War as a proslavery drive but supported war measures as an obligation to the soldiers. He backed the Wilmot Proviso, opposed the Compromise of 1850, and was one of the groups that issued the “Appeal of the Independent Democrats,” with its false charge that Stephen Douglas’s.


Nebraska Bill had opened that territory to slavery. Chase was important in creating the new Republican Party. In his state, he molded dissenting groups into an efficient machine and in 1855 was elected governor. He was reelected in 1857 and, because of his antislavery political record, was widely considered a presidential candidate. Because of his shifting political course, however, he could seldom count on solid support from the politicians in his party.  


Apparent at the first Republicans knew he could seldom count on solid support from his party. Apparent at can National Convention in Philadelphia in 1856, these politicians became clearer at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1860. There, although a “favorite son” candidate, he could not muster a solid vote from his delegation Yet Chase and his state were so imprinted to the party that a place in Lincoln’s Cabinet was an Ohio foregone conclusion.  


The same held for William H. Seward and the state of New York. The difficulty was that each of these men thought of himself as superior to the other and even to Lincoln. Both wanted to head the Cabinet as secretary of state, and the rivalry continued men after Lincoln had named Seward to the State-Led apartment and made Chase secretary of the Treasury.

A work on the emancipation of the Negro

Salmon P. Chase was a champion against slavery; he frequently defended runaway slaves in court. He played a key role in forming antislavery political parties like the Free Soil Party and the Republican Party. Throughout his career, he worked towards the emancipation of the slaves. He changed parties many times with the sole purpose of achieving his goals.


He strongly believed that no ‘person’ could take anyone’s property and insisted that slaves should have the rights of American citizenship. He devoted his entire life to the emancipation of slaves and was successful in achieving his goal.

Salmon P. Chase: Secretary of the National Treasury

Salmon P. Chase served as 25th U.S. Secretary of the National Treasury during Abraham Lincoln’s administration (1861-1864). President Abraham Lincoln appointed him. At the same time, the outbreak of the Civil War in America put a lot of strain on the economy. But Chesney’s skill made it through with the Southern trade cut-off, Chase implemented new taxes and created the Bureau of Internal Revenue. He also established a national banking system with a uniform currency, the “greenbacks.” These reforms helped keep the Union solvent during the war.


Chase’s task of directing the nation’s finances during the Civil War was difficult. Vast sums of money had to be borrowed, bonds marketed, and the national currency kept as stable as possible. Interest rates soared: specie payments had to be suspended, and soon a resort 10 paper money was reluctantly accepted. Yet with the aid of banker Jay Cooke, Chase somehow met the crisis and capped his accomplishments by creating the national banking system, which opened a market for bonds and stabilized currency.


As a member of a Cabinet in which Seward attempted to play the part of “prime minister,” Chase led the opposition. To check Seward, he demanded regular Cabinet meetings and gave guarded approval to the provisioning of FL. Sumter, and openly criticized Seward’s handling of foreign affairs.


He was equally critical of Lincoln, whom he viewed as incompetent and confused. His main complaints were against the retention of Gen. George McClellan and the refusal to use Negro troops. His constant disagreement with administration policies gained him a following among the Radical Republican element in Congress. In 1862 this led to a Cabinet crisis.


A group of senators, influenced by Chase’s complaints, held a secret caucus and drew up a document to be presented to the President, demanding “a change in and a partial reconstruction of the Cabinet.” It was an effort to remove Seward and to advance Chase. On learning of the plan, Seward sent his resignation to the President, who put it aside. Then, by bringing the protesters and the rest of the Cabinet together for a frank discussion, Lincoln skillfully led Chase to repudiate some of his charges.


This hurt Chase with both friend and foe. The next morning he offered his resignation. Lincoln now held both Seward’s and Chase’s resignations and, having gained the upper hand, refused to accept either.

Salmon P. Chase: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

In the campaign of 1864 Chase made several speeches for Lincoln, and when Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney died in October 1864, Lincoln appointed Chase to that important office. Salmon P. Chase Served as the 6th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1864-1873). He arrived at the Court during a tumultuous period – the Civil War’s end and Reconstruction.


Chase presided over the Supreme Court during the troubled Reconstruction period. The important tasks were to restore the Southern judicial systems and to uphold the law against congressional invasion. Perhaps Chase best revealed his devotion to justice in his insistence on the judicial character of the impeachment proceedings against Lincoln’s successor, President Andrew Johnson.


Despite his new position, Chase’s political ambitions persisted. He even presided over President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial in the Senate! He also continued to advocate for his strong views, including support for universal male suffrage and opposition to military rule in the South.


Chase’s tenure (1864-1873) saw the Court grapple with defining the balance of power between federal and state governments after the Civil War. He wrote influential decisions on legal tender and federalism. However, Chase’s legacy is marked by the challenges of serving as Chief Justice during such a transformative era, while still harboring his political aspirations.


Nomination for US President

Meanwhile, Chase retained his ambition to become president, and with the aid of his beautiful daughter Kate, he made strenuous but futile efforts to secure the Democratic nomination in 1868 and the Liberal Republican nomination in 1872, but they were unsuccessful.

Deaths in family life

Salmon P. Chase’s private life was filled with gloom. His first wife died a year after their marriage, his second after 5 years, and his third after 6 years. Of his six children, only two daughters grew to womanhood. The effects of death, always so near, deepened his religious fervor. Days spent in Bible reading and prayer, and soul torture for possible neglect of duty in not impressing others with the need for salvation, left a deep mark on the man.


Salmon P. Chase was a relentless advocate for abolishing slavery. Throughout his career, he fought for Negro rights, both in courtrooms and in political arenas. He championed runaway slaves, helped form anti-slavery parties, and even switched political allegiances to further his goal. As Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War, he played a crucial role in financing the Union cause.

Later, as Chief Justice, he navigated the Reconstruction era, upholding the law and advocating for a just balance of power. Though his political ambitions sometimes overshadowed his judicial role, Chase’s dedication to ending slavery and building a more equitable nation remains a significant part of American history. His name was recorded in American history as a symbol of righteousness, patriotism, and humanitarianism. He died of a stroke in 1873.

His name was recorded in American history as a symbol of righteousness, patriotism, and humanitarianism.

He died of a stroke in 1873.


Read further article : Samuel Adams

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