Salmon P. Chase

Salmon Portland Chase (1808-73) was a U.S. senator, cabinet officer, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. After teaching school briefly in Washington, D.C., he settled in Cincinnati and began a legal career. There, he defended a number of fugitive slaves and acted as legal counsel for abolitionist James G. Birney. Initially  a Whig, Chase joined the Liberty party in 1840 and presided at the Buffalo Convention of the Free Soil party in 1848. A coalition of Free Soilers and Democrats in the Ohio legislature sent Chase to the U.S. Senate in 1849, where he remained until 1854, strongly opposing the Compromise of 1850 and favoring the restriction of slavery by federal law. Joining the Republican party in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Chase became Governor of Ohio in 1855 and won reelection in 1857. After resuming his U.S. Senate seat in 1861, he resigned to become Abraham Lincoln's secretary of the treasury. Closely aligned with radical Republicans in Congress, Chase clashed repeatedly with William H. Seward and other cabinet members and ultimately became the focus of opposition to Lincoln within the Republican party. After an abortive movement to nominate Chase for the presidency in 1864, he resigned from the cabinet in July, only to be appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court in October. Both before and after his appointment to the court, Chase was a strong spokesman for black suffrage and the radical program of Reconstruction. A perennial aspirant for the Republican nomination, Chase also sought the Democratic nomination in 1868 but attracted little support. Reinhard H. Luthin, "Salmon P. Chase's Political Career before the Civil War," MVHR, 29:517-40 (March 1943); Sewell, Ballots for Freedom, 90; James Brewer Stewart, Joshua R. Giddings and the Tactics of Radical (Cleveland, 1970), 116-18, 153-54; DAB, 4:27-34.

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