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Salmon Portland Chase (January 13, 1808 – May 7, 1873) was an Americanmarker politician and jurist in the Civil War era who served as U.S. Senator from Ohiomarker 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.

Early life and education

Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshiremarker to Ithmar Chase and his wife Janet Ralston. He lost his father when he was nine years old. Janet 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.

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

Chase then 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, Ohiomarker. Here 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 Abolitionism. 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 probably by James G. Birney, associated himself after 1836 with the anti-slavery movement. He became recognized as the leader of political reformers as opposed to the Garrisonian abolitionist movement.

From his defense of escaped slave seized in Ohio under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, he was dubbed the Attorney General for Fugitive Slaves. His argument in the famous Jones v. Van Zandt case testing the constitutionality of fugitive slave laws before the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker attracted particular attention. In this as in other similar cases, the court ruled against him, and John Van Zandt's conviction was upheld. In brief, 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, because he continues to be a man and leaves behind him 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 undisputed leader of the Liberty Party in Ohio. He helped balance the idealism of the party with his pragmatic and political thinking. He was remarkably skillful in drafting platforms and addresses, and it was he who 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 Yorkmarker to form the Free Soil Party.

The Free Soil movement

Salmon P.
Chase
In 1849, Chase was elected to the United States Senate from Ohiomarker on the Free Soil Party ticket. In 1855 he was elected governor of Ohio. He drafted the famous Free-Soil platform, and it was chiefly through his influence that Van Buren was nominated for the presidency. 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 adopt a policy opposed to the further extension of slavery.

During his service in the Senate (1849–1855), Chase was pre-eminently the champion of anti-slavery in that body. No one spoke more ably than he did against the Compromise Measures of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill 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 assumed the leadership in the Northwest of the movement to form a new party to oppose the extension of slavery. He attempted to unite the liberal Democrats with the dwindling Whig Party, an action that 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 of January 24, 1854, may be regarded as the earliest draft of the Republican party creed. Chase was the first Republican governor of Ohio, serving from 1856 to 1860, where he also supported women's rights, public education, and prison reform.

Chase sought the Republican nomination for president in 1860; at the Party convention, he got 49 votes on the first ballot, but was unable to gain enough support in other states. After his disappointment, he threw his support to Abraham Lincoln. 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 failed to secure the nomination. His views on the question of protection were not orthodox from a Republican point of view, and the old line Whig element could not forgive his previous coalition with the Democrats.

He was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1860; took his seat March 4, 1861, but resigned three days later to become Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln. He was member of the Peace Convention of 1861 held in Washington, D.C.marker, in an effort to devise means to prevent the impending war.

Secretary of the Treasury

Chase served as Secretary of the Treasury in President Lincoln's cabinet from 1861 to 1864, during the first three years of the Civil War. That period of crisis witnessed two great changes in American financial policy, the establishment of a national banking system and the issue of a legal tender paper currency. The former was Chase's own particular measure. He suggested the idea, worked out all of the important principles and many of the details, and induced the Congress to accept them. It not only secured an immediate market for government bonds, but it also provided a permanent uniform national currency, which, though inelastic, is absolutely stable. Chase worked to ensure 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.

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. Thus, it was his responsibility to design the notes. In an effort to further his political career, his own face appeared on a variety of U.S. paper currency, starting with the $1 bill—so that the most amount of people could see him.

Most recently, in order to honor the man who introduced the modern system of banknotes, Chase was on the $10,000 bill, printed from 1928 to 1946. Salmon P. Chase was instrumental in placing the phrase "In God We Trust" on United States currency.[27865]

Chief Justice of the United States

Salmon P.
Chase in his elder years.
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.

The Chase Court, 1868
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 (7 Wallace, 700), 1869, in which he asserted that the Constitution provided for an indestructible union, composed of indestructible states, while allowing some possibility of divisibility "through revolution, or through consent of the States.";
  • Veazie Bank v. Fenno (8 Wallace, 533), 1869, in defense of that part of the banking legislation of the Civil War that imposed a tax of 10 percent on state banknotes; and
  • Hepburn v. Griswold (8 Wallace, 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 judges, in 1871 and 1872 (Legal Tender Cases, 12 Wallace, 457), Chase prepared a very able dissenting opinion.


Toward the end of his life he gradually drifted back toward his old Democratic position, and made an unsuccessful effort to secure the nomination of the Democratic party for the presidency in 1868, "but was passed over because of his stance in favor of voting rights for black men." He helped to found the Liberal Republican Party in 1872, unsuccessfully seeking its presidential nomination. Chase was also a freemason, active in the lodges of Midwestern society, and a collaborator with John Purdue, the founder of Lafayette Bank and Purdue Universitymarker. Eventually, JP Morgan Chase & Co. would purchase Purdue National Corporation of Lafayette, Indiana, a merger fully completed 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."


Death and legacy

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Chase died in New York City, New York in 1873. His remains were interred first in Oak Hill Cemeterymarker in Washington, D.C.marker, and later reinterred in Spring Grove Cemeterymarker, Cincinnati, Ohiomarker. 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 J.P.MorganChase, 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. Chase's portrait is on the $10,000 bill. In addition, Chase County, Kansas is named in his honor.

Kate Chase

His daughter Katherine Chase, known as Kate, was a notable socialite, acting as her father's official hostess in Washington and unofficial campaign manager. She was known as the Civil War "Belle of Washington". Her November 12, 1863, marriage to the textile magnate, Rhode Islandmarker politician William Sprague, did not flourish. After Salmon Chase's death, the Sprague marriage deteriorated further. Sprague had affairs, became an alcoholic, and constantly belittled Kate's spending habits. Kate in turn reputedly had an affair with New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. The Spragues divorced in 1882. Kate Chase died in poverty in Washington, D.C. in 1899. She was buried alongside her father in Cincinnati.

See also





References

  1. Lydia Rapoza, "The Life of Salmon P. Chase, Attorney General of Fugitive Slaves 1808-1873"
  2. Salmon Portland Chase Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 Edition, Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 956
  3. Chase's biography at HarpWeek
  4. Aleksandar Pavković, Peter Radan, Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession, p. 222, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
  5. Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868) at Cornell University Law School Supreme Court collection.
  6. J. W. Schuckers, The Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase, (1874). p. 585; letter of May 30, 1868, to August Belmont
  7. Salmon P. Chase memorial at Find a Grave. See also, Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook. Supreme Court Historical Society. 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.
  8. [1]
  9. Kate Chase Sprague memorial at Find a Grave.


Secondary sources





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

Primary sources



Further reading



External links




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