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Salmon P. Chase

Salmon P. Chase


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Salmon P. secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War (1861-65). A staunch abolitionist, Chase spent his early career as a lawyer and became known as “the attorney general for fugitive slaves” for his frequent defenses of runaway blacks. After representing Ohio in the U.S. Senate from 1849 to 1855, Chase went on to serve as the state’s governor from 1855 to 1859. He made a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860 before serving as Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of the Treasury. Chase was responsible for managing the finances of the Union during the Civil War and was instrumental in establishing the national banking system and issuing paper currency. Chase resigned his position in June 1864 and was appointed chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court later that year. He would serve until his death in 1873 at the age of 65.

Salmon P. Chase: Early Life

Salmon Portland Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, on January 13, 1808. Following his father’s death in 1817, Chase was sent to Ohio to live with his uncle Philander Chase, an Episcopalian bishop. Chase attended Cincinnati College starting in 1822 and then Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1826. After leaving Dartmouth he traveled to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a teacher before studying law under U.S. Attorney General William Wirt.

Chase moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1830 and began practicing law. During this time he helped establish his legal reputation by writing a multi-volume history of Ohio laws and statutes. In 1834 he married Catherine Garniss, the daughter of a local businessman. The brief marriage ended with her death in 1835. Chase married Eliza Smith in 1839, and the two would have three children before her death in 1845. Chase would marry his third wife, Sarah Bella Dunlap Ludlow, in 1846.

In 1837 Chase argued before the Ohio Supreme Court in defense of James G. Birney, an abolitionist charged with harboring an escaped slave. His eloquent indictments of the Fugitive Slave Law were later reprinted in newspapers and widely circulated. Chase gained further acclaim when he defended the abolitionist John Van Zandt before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1847. While Chase lost the case, his impassioned defenses of Van Zandt and other abolitionists and runaway blacks eventually earned him the nickname “the attorney general for escaped slaves.”

Salmon P. Chase: U.S. Senate and Governor of Ohio

Chase first entered politics in 1840, when he served in the Cincinnati city council. He later led the abolitionist Liberty Party and was instrumental in combining it with antislavery Democrats and Whigs to form the Free Soil Party, which opposed the expansion of slavery into the western U.S. territories. Chase coined the party’s famous motto: “Free Soil, Free Labor and Free Men.”

In 1849 Chase won a seat in the U.S. Senate on the Free Soil ticket, though he later classified himself as an “Independent Democrat.” While in Congress Chase was a prominent opponent of the Compromise of 1850, which introduced new fugitive slave laws. He was also vocal in his criticisms of 1854’s Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the Kansas and Nebraska territories to choose whether they would allow slavery instead of banning the practice outright.

After leaving the U.S. Senate Chase became aligned with the newly formed Republican Party, and in 1855 he was elected governor of Ohio on the Republican ticket. As governor he helped guide a resolution opposing the Fugitive Slave Law through the state legislature.

Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury

In 1860 Chase attempted to run for president but lost the Republican nomination to Abraham Lincoln. He was elected to the U.S. Senate that same year but resigned in March 1861 after being appointed secretary of the Treasury in Lincoln’s new administration.

With the start of the Civil War (1861-65), Chase became responsible for managing the nation’s finances during the massive Union war effort. Among other measures, he took out a $50 million loan from private bankers, instituted new taxes, increased the number of treasury agents and helped push for the establishment of what would become the Internal Revenue Service.

Although he disagreed with the concept on principle, in 1862 Chase helped pass the first Legal Tender Act, which allowed the government to issue paper money as payment for debts. The U.S. government quickly printed $150 million in “greenbacks,” and Chase became famous after he saw to it that his own face appeared on the dollar bill. In order to ensure that the banking community accepted the new currency, Chase conceived the National Banking Act, which was voted into law in February 1863. Considered one of Chase’s finest accomplishments, this measure created a national bank and a single currency, enabling the federal government to issue millions of dollars in bonds to help fund the war effort.

While Chase reacted ably to the massive funds shortage presented by the Civil War, his relationship with Abraham Lincoln was often strained. Chase believed himself the superior leader and was resentful over having lost the 1860 Republican nomination to Lincoln. During his tenure as secretary of the Treasury, Chase threatened Lincoln with his resignation three times in order to force the President’s hand on political appointments. When Chase offered his resignation for the fourth time in June 1864, Lincoln chose to accept. His bluff called, Chase reluctantly stepped down as secretary of the Treasury that same month.

Salmon P. Chase: Supreme Court and Later Life

Despite their personal differences, Lincoln recognized Chase’s skill as a scholar and lawyer. Following the death of Chief Justice Roger Taney, he appointed Chase to serve as the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in November 1864. Chase would serve on the court until his death, presiding over many of the most important legal matters of the Reconstruction era. Chase was noted for his even-handed supervision of the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and ruled in Mississippi v. Johnson that the president was within his rights to enforce Reconstruction measures in the South. Chase was also instrumental in seeing John Rock become the first black attorney to argue before the Supreme Court.

Chase later presided over several other landmark cases including Texas v. White, in which the court ruled that secession was illegal and the Union indestructible. In the case of Hepburn v. Griswold, Chase ruled that the Legal Tender Acts—ironically instituted during his tenure as secretary of the Treasury—were in fact unconstitutional.

During his time on the Supreme Court Chase frequently flirted with making another run at the presidency. He was unsuccessful in an 1868 attempt to win the Democratic nomination and also failed in a bid to run as the Liberal Republican candidate in 1872. Chase died in 1873 at the age of 65. The Chase National Bank, founded in 1877, was named in his honor.


The law school was founded in 1893 and accredited by the American Bar Association in 1959. The school was named for U.S. Chief Justice, Salmon P. Chase, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Prior to his appointment, Chase was one of the most prominent politicians of the mid-19th century, serving as a U.S. senator from Ohio, the governor of Ohio, and the Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln. He began practicing law in Cincinnati in 1830, and became an advocate for abolition and the anti-slavery movement, lending his skills to the cause of fugitive slaves, often free of charge. He spoke passionately on behalf of African Americans when their status and rights were not recognized and became known as the "attorney general of runaway slaves" for his frequent defense of slaves and those who harbored them. In 2013, members of Chase's family presented the Cincinnati Museum Center with a sterling silver pitcher given to him in 1845 by a group of grateful African Americans. [2]

The Salmon P. Chase College of Law was initially founded as an evening law school affiliated with the Cincinnati YMCA. Classes were held in the YMCA building on Central Parkway in downtown Cincinnati from 1917 to 1972. In 1971, Chase crossed the Ohio River and merged into the Kentucky state university system by becoming a part of Northern Kentucky University (then "Northern Kentucky State College"). [3] During summer 1972, the law school moved from downtown Cincinnati across the Ohio River to NKU's Covington campus. In 1981, Chase moved to its present location on the NKU campus in Highland Heights, remaining within the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky metropolitan area. In 2006, the college of law was rebranded NKU Chase College of Law.

NKU Chase's moot court program was ranked number 22 by the Blakely Advocacy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center for the 2012–2013 academic year. [3] Ranking is based on points awarded for achievement in national moot court competitions. Some of NKU Chase's 2012–13 competition team successes include:

  • Scribes Best Brief of the Year Award (chosen from the Wagner Labor & Employment Law competition brief) [3]
  • National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare & Adoption Law – champion and runner-up, second place brief, and best final-round advocate
  • South Texas Mock Trial Challenge – octo-finalist
  • Mugel National Tax Moot Court – semi-finalist, best brief, and second and third place best oralists
  • Robert F. Wagner Labor & Employment Law Moot Court Competition – quarter-finalist and best brief
  • Regional Transactional LawMeet – second place
  • ABA Regional Client Counseling Competition – third place and
  • ABA Regional Arbitration Competition – champion.
    , member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina's 1st district. , judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio , US House of Representative from Ohio
  • Michelle M. Keller, justice, Kentucky Supreme Court U.S. senior judge of the United States Tax Court
  • Candace Smith, magistrate judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky

United States federal judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Timothy Black of Brookline, Massachusetts


Further readings

Blue, Frederick J. 1987. Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics. Kent, Ohio: Kent State Univ. Press.

Cushman, Claire, ed. 1993. The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1993. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly.

Friedman, Leon, and Fred L. Israel, eds. 1969. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court, 1789–1969: Their Lives and Major Opinions. New York: Chelsea House.

Hyman, Harold Melvin. 1997. The Reconstruction Justice of Salmon P. Chase. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

Niven, John. 1995. Salmon P. Chase: A Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.


Eliza Chase

Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary
And husband of Eliza Chase
Henry Ulke, Artist

Salmon Portland Chase was born on January 13, 1808, in Cornish, New Hampshire. He was the ninth of eleven children born to Ithmar Chase and Janet Ralston Chase. His father died when Salmon was nine years old, leaving his widow a small amount of property and ten surviving children. Chase’s education began in 1816 in Keene, New Hampshire, than at a better school in Windsor, Vermont.

His uncle, Philander Chase, an Episcopal Bishop, took Salmon to the woods of Ohio. Young Chase attended the bishop’s school at Worthington, near Columbus. Chase had no love for the monotonous life of farm work. His uncle worked him hard while he simultaneously studied Greek for two years.

In 1822, Cincinnati College appointed Bishop Chase president of the college. At fifteen years old, Salmon Chase was admitted as a sophomore. The Bishop only served there a year, then traveled to Great Britain to raise money for the founding of the Theological Seminary in Ohio, later to be called Kenyon College.

When his uncle left his position as president the following year to travel to England, Salmon Chase returned to New Hampshire, and enrolled at Dartmouth College as a junior, graduating with honors in 1826.

After graduation, Chase moved to Washington, DC, where he taught school while studying law under William Wirt, who was United States Attorney General in the administration of John Quincy Adams. Although he wanted to practice law in Washington, Chase did not meet the residency requirement.

Ohio allowed him to use the time he had lived there with his uncle after he passed the bar in 1829, he moved to Cincinnati to set up his law practice. As a young lawyer, Chase consolidated Ohio’s statutes into a three-volume reference work. This important contribution to Ohio’s legal literature helped improve his professional reputation.

Marriage and Family
Chase married Catherine Jane Garniss on March 4, 1834. She died the following year while giving birth to the couple’s first child, a girl who died a few years later.

Chase married Eliza Ann Smith on September 26, 1839. Eliza gave birth to Kate (Katherine Jane) Chase on August 13, 1840, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eliza Chase died of consumption shortly after Kate’s fifth birthday. Consumption, known today as tuberculosis, was a common disease with no cure.

On November 6, 1846, Chase married Sarah Bella Dunlop Ludlow, with whom Kate Chase had a difficult relationship. After Sarah’s death, also of consumption, on January 13, 1852, Chase did not remarry. Widowed three times and haunted by the deaths of four children, Salmon Chase cherished his two surviving daughters – Kate and her younger sister Nettie, who both survived their father.

Kate Chase grew into a beautiful and smart young woman, who was the apple of her father’s eye. She is best known as a society hostess during the Civil War, and a strong supporter of her father’s political ambitions.

The effects of death, always so near, deepened Salmon Chase’s religious fervor. Days spent in Bible reading and prayer, and soul torture for possible neglect of duty in not impressing others with the need of salvation, left a deep mark on Chase.

Chase as a Young Lawyer
As a practicing attorney, 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 for a young lawyer of ability and strong moral views.

Chase became convinced that slavery was a sin and that African Americans deserved not only freedom but also civil rights. He took part in the antislavery movement and other reform activities. Chase’s legal talents were quickly recognized. He defended a number of escaped slaves in local as well as federal courts, including the Supreme Court, and he was soon being called the attorney for runaway slaves. In 1834, Chase defended abolitionist editor and activist James Birney, who had been arrested for helping a runaway slave to escape.

His most famous case was the defense of John Van Zandt, who had been arrested while carrying a number of Kentucky runaway slaves to freedom under a load of hay in 1842. Chase and William H. Seward, acting as unpaid lawyers, carried Vanzant’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where their eloquent appeals for minority rights on constitutional grounds attracted national attention.

Chase’s insistence that no claim to persons as property could be supported by any United States law 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.

Chase in Politics
Initially a Whig, Chase helped form the antislavery Liberty Party, and became one of its leaders, and of the Free-Soil Party in Ohio in 1848, which was dedicated to the non-expansion of slavery. A coalition of Free Soilers and Democrats in Ohio elected Chase to the United States Senate in early 1849.

During his single term, Chase vehemently condemned the Fugitive Slave Law, and used his position to protest measures such as the Compromise of 1850. His Appeal of the Independent Democrats was a classic expression of protest against a conspiracy to nationalize slavery.

Chase’s opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 provoked him to help organize the Anti-Nebraska Party in Ohio, which soon became known as the Republican Party.

In 1855, Chase successfully ran for governor of Ohio as a Republican. Slavery was the dominant issue of the campaign. As governor he advocated public education and prison reform. He also supported reform of the state militia and improved property rights for women. Chase was re-elected as governor in 1857, but his second term was much less productive as Democrats gained control of the state legislature.

Chase’s ultimate political goal was to become President of the United States, but he failed to gain the Republican nomination in 1856. The principal reason for these losses was his radical abolitionist views.

In the meantime, Republicans regained control of the Ohio legislature in 1859 and sent Chase back to the Senate. His chances for the Republican nomination for president in 1860 seemed promising. But at the Republican convention, the Ohio delegation was divided, and on the third ballot, transferred four votes to Abraham Lincoln, which gave him the necessary majority, placing Chase in a favorable position for a cabinet post if Lincoln was elected.

Chase as Secretary of the Treasury
Only two days after taking his seat in the Senate, Salmon Chase resigned to become Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury. Chase had an immediate challenge: the American Civil War began, and it was his job to find a way to finance the Union war effort. Vast sums of money had to be borrowed, bonds marketed, and the national currency kept as stable as possible.

With customs revenue from the Southern cotton trade cut off, Chase had to implement internal taxes. The Bureau of Internal Revenue, later the Internal Revenue Service, was created in 1862 to collect stamp taxes and internal duties. The next year, it administered the nation’s first income tax.

Interest rates soared, and soon a resort to paper currency was reluctantly accepted. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was established in 1862 to print the government’s first currency, known as greenbacks because of their color. Chase disapproved of them in principle – these were legal tender notes not backed by specie, and could be printed in unlimited quantities and were therefore inflationary.

During Chase’s years as secretary of the treasury, the United States began to print “In God We Trust” on all currency. Chase earned the nickname Old Mister Greenbacks, after placing his own face on the front of the one-dollar bill. His motive was to make sure that Americans knew who he was.

He was instrumental in establishing the National Banking System in 1863, which opened a market for bonds and stabilized currency. The greenbacks, within a new network of national banks, directly involved the government in banking for the first time.

The Emancipation Proclamation
In his diary, Secretary Chase recorded the cabinet meeting on September 22, 1862, where the draft Emancipation Proclamation was approved: “To Department about nine. State Department messenger came, with notice to Heads of Departments to meet at 12.—Received sundry callers.—Went to White House.”

After reading a second draft to the Cabinet, Lincoln issued his preliminary Proclamation, which announced that emancipation would become effective on January 1, 1863, in those states ‘in rebellion’ that had not, during the interim period, ceased hostilities. He issued and signed the supplementary or real Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It says, in part:

Whereas, on the September 22, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Chase was often critical of the president, whom he viewed as incompetent and confused. His main complaints were against keeping General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac and the refusal to use Negro troops. Chase’s radical antislavery views, as well as his political ambitions, put him at odds with the more moderate Lincoln.

Chase’s constant disagreement with administration policies gained him a following among the Radical Republicans in Congress. Chase was a bureaucratic meddler whose interests ranged well beyond the Treasury Department. He often involved himself in policy regarding the army and allied himself with the Radicals, while using Treasury agents to set up a political network around the country.

After the terrible Union loss at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, 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, in fact, 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 own resignation. Lincoln now held both Seward’s and Chase’s resignations and, having gained the upper hand, refused to accept either.

A Chase associate, Hugh McCulloch, later wrote that “personal relations between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Chase were never cordial. They were about as unlike in appearance, in education, manners, in taste, and temperament, as two eminent men could be.” But Lincoln did admire Chase, once saying, that “Chase is about one and a half times bigger than any other man that I ever knew.”

As the war dragged on, Chase became increasingly convinced of the impossibility of Lincoln’s re-election. The Emancipation Proclamation had been satisfactory as far as it went, he felt, but it had not gone far enough. A new leader with a new approach was needed Chase decided that it was his duty to seek the Republican nomination in 1864.

A group of Radical leaders issued a pamphlet declaring Chase as the man who best fit the party’s needs. The Chase boom, however, collapsed as Lincoln’s hold on the public became clear. Chase was unsuccessful in gaining the Republican presidential nomination in 1864, losing out to Lincoln as he had in 1860. This made Chase’s place as a Cabinet member embarrassing, and soon Chase submitted his resignation. In October 1864, Lincoln accepted it, much to the chagrin of the secretary.

Chase as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
In spite of their disagreements, Lincoln still respected Chase. When Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Taney died in October 1864, Lincoln chose Chase to replace him and become the sixth chief justice in the history of the court, a position he held until his death.

In one of his first acts as Chief Justice, Chase appointed John Rock as the first African-American attorney to argue cases before the Supreme Court. Soon thereafter, President Lincoln was assassinated, and Chase administered the presidential oath to Andrew Johnson.

Chase presided over the Court during the difficult period of Reconstruction. The important tasks were to restore the Southern judicial systems and to uphold the law against congressional invasion. In December 1868, Chase confirmed the pardon of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Chase was unable to forge a solid majority during his tenure as Chief Justice and often found himself in dissent on important cases.

In March 1868, Chase presided over the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in the U.S. Senate. The Chief Justice brought to the trial a much needed air of dignity and impartiality. As the first impeachment trial of a President under the Constitution, Chase realized that the procedure would set important precedents. He insisted that the Senate conduct itself as a court of law, not as a legislative body.

Meanwhile, the ambitious Chase still wanted to be president of the United States. Abandoning the Republican party, actively sought the presidential nomination of the Democratic party in 1868. He had the aid of his brilliant, beautiful and wealthy daughter, Kate Chase Sprague, who, as Washington’s most lavish hostess, sought to promote her father’s political career. In spite of the combined efforts of father and daughter, Chase never succeeded in capturing that office.

Chase became less involved in politics as his health began to fail. He suffered a stroke in 1870 that temporarily kept him from participating in the Supreme Court. In spite of poor health, he returned to the bench in 1871 and continued to preside as chief justice until his death. Toward the end of his life, he made an unsuccessful effort to secure the nomination of the Liberal Republican party for the Presidency in 1872, but they chose Horace Greeley.

Chase’s arduous duties as chief justice and fruitless exertions to gain the presidency led to rapid decline in health. Chase suffered another stroke at the home of his daughter Nettie in New York City.

Salmon Portland Chase died in New York City on May 7, 1873, at the age of sixty-five, with his two daughters at his side.

A funeral was held in the Episcopal Church of St. George in New York City. On May 11, the body was taken back to Washington, DC, for a formal state funeral, lying in state in the Old Senate Chambers on the same catafalque that had held the bier of President Lincoln. He was laid to rest at the Oak Hill Cemetery nearby.

Image: Salmon P. Chase Grave
Cincinnati, Ohio
A docent in period dress portrays Chase’s daughter,
Kate Chase Sprague, who is buried nearby.

In 1886, the State of Ohio requested that its favorite son be buried in Cincinnati. Salmon Chase and his daughter Kate, who died in poverty in 1899, rest together at the Spring Grove Cemetery outside Chase’s beloved Cincinnati.

In 1877, New York banker John Thompson named the Chase Manhattan Bank after Chase, because of his efforts in passing the National Bank Act of 1863.

Chase received one final honor in 1934, when the United States Treasury chose to place his portrait on the $10,000 bill.


5 Things You Didn't Know About Salmon Chase

Salmon P. Chase may not be history's most familiar name, but the former Senator who also served as Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made quite a mark on American politics. Here are five things you may not know about Chase:

1. He's Probably In Your Wallet

If you're lucky enough to have a $10,000 bill tucked away in your hip pocket, you've seen Chase's face. His portrait appears on the obverse of the giant bill. When the Treasury started issuing the bills in 1928, it chose to honor Chase for his crucial role in helping to popularize modern banknotes.

Of course, Chase's role in the introduction of these banknotes wasn't entirely altruistic. As Secretary of the Treasury, Chase was in charge of introducing and popularizing the first issue of greenback bank notes in 1861. Chase was politically ambitious, so he chose to festoon the $1 bill with an image of a great American hero—Salmon P. Chase. Whatever his motivations, though, Chase did manage to get Americans to make the switch to paper money.

Chase's name might appear in another place in your wallet. Although he didn't found the institution himself, Chase National Bank was named in his honor. Over the years the bank has morphed into JPMorganChase, so Chase's name might be printed on one of your credit cards.

2. He Had an Ear for Slogans

Ever wonder how "In God We Trust" ended up on our currency? Give Chase the credit. People naturally became a bit more conscious of religion during the Civil War, and by the end of 1861 they were inundating Secretary of the Treasury Chase to put some sort of acknowledgment of God on American currency.

Chase apparently felt adding a religious note to our cash was a good call, so he instructed the director of the Philadelphia Mint to come up with "a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition." The Mint's staff suggested "Our Country, Our God" or "God, Our Trust."

Chase liked these ideas, but he changed one of them to "In God We Trust." Congress approved the change in 1864, and "In God We Trust" has appeared intermittently on coins ever since.

3. He Had a Tragic Personal Life

A contemporary biographer of Chase described him as "habitually grave and reserved in demeanor he did not often laugh, and had but a small appreciation of humor." Chase had a good excuse for not being a barrel of laughs, though his personal life was marked by one flurry of tragedies after another.

Chase's first wife died just two years into their marriage, and the couple's daughter died before she turned five. Chase remarried in 1839, but with similarly grim results. His wife and two of his three daughters soon died. He took a third bride in 1846, but she died just six years later, as did one of their two daughters.

4. He Really, Really Wanted to Be President

Chase was never nominated to a presidential ticket, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Chase angled for a nomination for every election between 1856 and 1872, and he wasn't afraid to jump from party to party in his efforts to nab the top spot on a ticket.

In fact, Chase made a career of jumping from party to party. He was elected to Cincinnati's city council as a Whig in 1840, but he soon jumped ship for the Liberty Party. The Liberty Party eventually morphed into the Free Soil Party the slogan-minded Chase actually coined the rallying cry, "Free Soil, Free Labor, and Free Men."

While serving in the Senate from 1849 to 1855, Chase identified as a Democrat, but his anti-slavery stance led him to become one of the first Republicans. As a last-ditch effort to get a presidential nomination, Chase even helped form the Liberal Republican Party to oppose the reelection of Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, but the party nominated Horace Greeley instead.

5. He Didn't Love Being on the Supreme Court

Most politicians would jump at the chance to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Not Chase, though. Although the aspiring presidential candidate had served under Lincoln as Secretary of the Treasury, he still lusted after a spot in the White House for himself.

Thanks to his presidential ambitions, Chase would often threaten to resign from the Treasury post in order to make a run for the office. Lincoln declined to accept three of Chase's resignations, but the fourth try was the charm for Chase in 1864. Shortly after Chase's resignation, though, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney died. Lincoln nominated Chase for the opening, and on December 6, 1864, Chase became the sixth Chief Justice of the United States.

Chase wasn't a natural fit for the position, as evidenced by his aforementioned continued political campaigning. Although he made some progressive moves from the bench—he appointed John Rock as the first African-American to argue a case before the court—he didn't love the work. Chase held the position until his death in 1873, but he summed up his time on the bench thusly: "Working from morning till midnight and no result, except that John Smith owned this parcel or land or other property instead of Jacob Robinson I caring nothing and nobody caring much more, about the matter."


The Law of the Land: Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase

Photograph of Salmon P. Chase, ca. 1865-1870, via Ohio Memory. Chase’s argument in the Jones v. Van Zandt case, via the State Library of Ohio Rare Books Collection.

With a U.S. Supreme Court nomination in the news recently, this seems like a good time to look at the history of our nation’s highest court. Since the Supreme Court met for the first time in February 1790, ten justices have been either Ohio residents at the time of their appointment, or Ohio natives, including three chief justices: Morrison Waite, William Howard Taft, and Salmon P. Chase, the first Ohioan to become chief justice.

Chase was born in New Hampshire on January 13, 1808. After his mother died when he was young, he came to Ohio to live with his uncle, Episcopal bishop Philander Chase. He attended Cincinnati College and later Dartmouth, but moved back to Ohio in 1830 to practice law in Cincinnati.

Chase was a strong abolitionist, known for defending escaped slaves and those who were arrested for helping them. He argued against the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act before the U.S. Supreme Court in Jones v. Van Zandt (1847), in which a Kentucky slave owner sought compensation from an Ohio abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor for the cost of recovering escaped slaves. Although Chase argued that Van Zandt could not be found guilty of aiding a fugitive slave because slavery was illegal in Ohio, the court ruled against him and forced Van Zandt to pay damages.

Letter from the Hamilton County prosecuting attorney to Governor Chase regarding the Margaret Garner fugitive slave case (the inspiration for Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved). Via Ohio Memory.

Chase was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1849, where he continued to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act and also fought against the expansion of slavery permitted by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He then served two terms as Ohio governor from 1856-1860. (You can read Governor Chase’s “State of the State” addresses for 1857, 1858, 1859 and 1860 on Ohio Memory.) He was elected to the Senate again in 1859, but served only two days before resigning to become secretary of the treasury for Abraham Lincoln. In this role he oversaw the creation of a national banking system (which allowed the sale of government bonds to finance the Civil War) and also designed and issued the first U.S. paper currency. The politically ambitious Chase put his own image on the $1 bill so voters would be familiar with his name.

Chase desired high political office he unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1856, 1860 and 1864, and would later seek the Democratic nomination in 1868. Chase’s relationship with Lincoln was contentious, and he threatened to resign his cabinet position more than once until Lincoln finally surprised Chase by accepting. However, after former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney died, Lincoln nominated Chase to serve in his place on December 6, 1864. Chase was confirmed by the Senate the same day.

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. He also presided over the 1868 impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, and later that same year, confirmed the pardon of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Chase served as chief justice until his death in 1873 in New York City.

Thank you to Stephanie Michaels, Research and Catalog Services Librarian at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post! Check back in coming weeks to learn more about Ohio’s other chief justices.


Salmon P. Chase

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Salmon P. Chase, in full Salmon Portland Chase, (born Jan. 13, 1808, Cornish Township, N.H., U.S.—died May 7, 1873, New York City), lawyer and politician, antislavery leader before the U.S. Civil War, secretary of the Treasury (1861–64) in Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s wartime Cabinet, sixth chief justice of the United States (1864–73), and repeatedly a seeker of the presidency.

Chase received part of his education from his uncle Philander Chase, the first Episcopal bishop of Ohio and later of Illinois, and his legal training (1827–30) from William Wirt, U.S. attorney general. From 1830 he practiced law in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became widely known for his courtroom work on behalf of runaway slaves and white persons who had aided them. Originally a Whig, he changed his politics according to fluctuations in the antislavery movement. After leading the Liberty Party in Ohio (from 1841), he helped to found the Free-Soil Party (1848) and the Republican Party (1854). Between terms in the U.S. Senate (1849–55, 1860–61), he was the first Republican governor of Ohio (1855–59). He sought the Republican presidential nomination openly in 1856 and 1860, and surreptitiously in 1864 while serving in Lincoln’s Cabinet in 1868, during his chief justiceship, he sought the Democratic nomination as an opponent of the Radical Republicans’ program of reconstructing the defeated Southern states, and in 1872 he was once more an unsuccessful candidate.

At the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago, Chase permitted the delegates pledged to him to cast decisive votes for Lincoln on the third ballot. As a reward Lincoln appointed him secretary of the Treasury, in which position for the next three years he was responsible for financing the Union war efforts. He held the Treasury post until June 1864, and in December of that year he was appointed chief justice to succeed Roger Brooke Taney, who had died in October.


U.S. Department of the Treasury

The Treasury Historical Association donated to the Department a rare original relic - an 1862 photograph of Secretary Salmon Portland Chase. The image is important to Treasury in that it was used twenty years later by the photographer, Henry Ulke, to paint, posthumously, Chase’s official portrait. It is also the likeness that was used on the first one dollar bill printed in 1862 and the $10,000 bill in 1918.

In 1861, Salmon P. Chase resigned from the Senate to become President Abraham Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary. In his new position, Chase was faced with the formidable challenge of financing the Civil War. In order to do so, Chase implemented the Nation’s first income tax and developed a national currency, known as the “green backs” because of the color.Chase was the consummate bureaucrat and his official papers provide a record of his service in the Lincoln cabinet. In addition, Chase kept a diary to record his daily activities, offering a rare glimpse into the daily life of a key cabinet official.

On January 6, 1862, Chase wrote, “In fulfillment of engagement with the President of the American Bank Note Company, went to Ulke’s, who took a number of photographs.” Three days later, Chase made another visit to Henry Ulke’s studio at 1111 Pennsylvania Avenue, noting in his diary, “Called at Ulke’s.” The purpose of the visits was to obtain a photographic portrait of Secretary Chase to serve as the basis for the engraving on the newly introduced one dollar bill. Henry Ulke was a photographer and portrait artist whose studio served Washington patrons at a time when photographers’ studios were highly popular.

The notes were to be engraved and printed by the American Bank Note Company in New York, the predecessor firm to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Although the U.S. Government began to print paper money in 1862, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing actually began operations quite modestly in that year with only five clerks and a bureau chief, housed in the Treasury building’s basement. It was not until 1877 that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing became the exclusive printer of U.S. currency and securities, moving to the Treasury building’s attic.

How Secretary Chase came to be portrayed on the one dollar bill is described in a pamphlet of his speeches, “Going Home to Vote.” Chase stated: “I went to work and made “greenbacks” and a good many of them. I had some handsome pictures put on them and as I like to be among the people, and was kept too close to visit them in any other way, and as the engravers thought me rather good looking, I told them they might put me on the end of the one-dollar bills.”

Chase must have been favorably impressed with his dollar bill image because he had the same engraved image printed on his personal calling card. One surviving calling card bears Chase’s signature and the date, “Feby 11, 1862,” which suggests that the engraving for the banknote was produced within a month from when the image was taken at Ulke’s studio.

The same image of Chase, taken from the Ulke’s 1862 photograph, had one other iteration on national currency. The same portrait of Chase was put on the $10,000 bill which was printed between 1918 – 1946.

Treasury’s portrait collection was begun in 1879 by Secretary John Sherman after Chase’s death in 1873. As a local Washington, D.C. portrait artist, Henry Ulke received a number of Treasury portrait commissions. Still in possession of Chase’s 1862 photograph, he was the obvious choice for this Secretary’s official portrait which was painted in 1880. In executing the portrait, Ulke literally copied his photograph which has become Chase’s most famous likeness.


The photograph remained in possession of Henry Ulke’s family until it was sold at auction in October 2013 and was purchased by the Treasury Historical Association. It was donated to the Department in December, 2013, to serve as a record of the portrait’s source.


UNREMEMBERED

Salmon P. Chase

In the summer of 1861, after the Battle of Bull Run disproved the theory that the Civil War would end quickly, the U.S. Treasury Secretary at the time, Salmon Portland Chase, turned to the option of paper money to help pay Union soldiers.

This included the first government-issued dollar bill. A bill that looked much different than it does today.

For instance, the man on the front of the bill was Chase himself who did the honors of appointing his own likeness to the first “greenbacks (named for the green ink used on the back, with black ink in front).

Although serving the same party, Chase was still considered a savvy political nemesis of Abraham Lincoln, when in 1861, the newly elected 16th president tapped him as Treasury Secretary. The feuding didn’t end with the appointment. Seeking the high office himself, Chase’s frustration with the president would result in the secretary threatening to quit until Lincoln diffused the matter, as he often did, with a joke.

Chase resigned from the cabinet in June 1864 shortly before Lincoln was reelected to a second term. Later that year, Lincoln nominated Chase to the Supreme Court where he served as chief justice until his death in 1873 at the age of 65.

Eventually, Chase would be replaced by George Washington on the dollar bill.

But in 1928, more than 50 years after his death, Chase was honored again with his picture on the newly minted $10,000 bill.

The big dollar bills, like the $1,000 bill (Grover Cleveland), the $5,000 bill (James Madison), along with the $10,000 bill (with Chase) were used mainly for large transfers between banks. The largest paper denomination ever, printed in 1934, was the $100,000 bill featuring Woodrow Wilson.

Although it eventually went out of circulation, Chase’s $10,000 bill is still considered legal tender and banks would be glad to exchange it if collectors were crazy enough to pass on the market price that is now ten times more than its original face value.

Chase is also remembered to this day, by a large bank, now a merged institution, with his name still on the logo.


In 1808, in the year that Salmon P Chase was born, on February 11th, anthracite coal - the hardest form of coal - was first burned as fuel by Jesse Fell, in Pennsylvania. He burned the coal on an open air grate. This discovery led to the use of coal as the key fuel source of the industrial revolution in the United States.

In 1823, on February 20th, British explorer James Weddell's expedition to Antarctica traveled 532 miles south of the Antarctic Circle - the southernmost position any ship had reached before. It would be more than 80 years before anyone sailed farther. The region of the Southern Ocean that he explored was later named the Weddell Sea.

In 1839, on January 2nd, the first photo of the Moon was taken by Louis Daguerre, known as the "father of photography". The following June, he applied for and got a patent for his camera - to which France acquired the rights in exchange for a lifetime pension for Louis and his co-inventor's nephew. The camera was available to the public by September. It cost 400 francs (about $50 US then, almost $1270 today) and weighed 120 pounds.

In 1865, on December 24th, 8 months after the end of the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was formed in Pulaski, Tennessee by Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby. They wanted to fight Reconstruction after the Civil War and to intimidate what were called "carpetbaggers" and "scalawags" - northern and southern whites who supported reconstruction. They also wanted to repress the newly freed slaves.

In 1984, due to outrage about "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (it seemed too "dark" to many and it was rated PG), a new rating was devised - PG-13. The first film rated PG-13 was "Red Dawn".


Watch the video: SCOTUS Madness - Salmon P. Chase (May 2022).