American History

#OTD 1864: Salmon P. Chase Sworn into Supreme Court & Championed Temperance & Defended Fugitive Slaves

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.06: 2022:

#AceHistoryDesk – On December 6, 1864, Abraham Lincoln nominated Salmon P. Chase for chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; he was sworn in on December 15. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Chase studied law under Attorney General William Wirt.

Portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, officer of the United States government]. Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries, photographer. [Between 1860 and 1865]. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

He championed Sunday schools and temperance in the 1830s, and by the 1840s was an active member of the abolitionist movement. Chase defended fugitive slaves in Ohio and played a crucial role in creating the Free Soil Party, which opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories. With Free Soil support, Chase was elected to the Senate early in 1849.

Chief Justice Taft Dedicated Salmon P. Chase Memorial. NY: Underwood & Underwood, June 3, 1923. Prints & Photographs Division

Chase founded the Ohio Republican party and next served as the state’s first Republican governor from 1855 to 1859. In office, he vigorously opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and defended the rights of African Americans.

At the 1860 Republican convention, Chase permitted delegates pledged to support him to cast decisive votes for Abraham Lincoln. As a reward, in 1861–just two days after beginning his second term as senator, Chase left the Senate to serve as Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury.

Chase continued to support African Americans. He drafted the first two clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Signed into law in 1868, the amendment extended citizenship rights to all people born or naturalized in the United States.

In a letter to the Colored People’s Educational Monument Association, Chase asserted:

Our national experience has demonstrated that public order reposes most securely on the broad basis of universal suffrage. It has proved, also, that universal suffrage is the surest broad basis of universal guarantee and most powerful stimulus of individual, social, and political progress. May it not prove, moreover, in that work of re-organization which now engages the thoughts of all patriotic men, that universal suffrage is the best reconciler of the most comprehensive lenity with the most perfect public security and the most speedy and certain revival of general prosperity?

Letter from Hon. Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the United States. Wakefield, R.I., August 16, 1865. [To Williams Syphax and J.F. Cook, Committee]. In Celebration by the Colored People’s Educational Monument Association in Memory of Abraham Lincoln on the Fourth of July, 1865…. Washington, D.C.: McGill & Witherow, printers 1865. p. 9 African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection. Rare Book and Special Collections Divisionnone

During his time as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court—where he served until his death–Chase presided over the Senate’s impeachment trial and acquittal of President Andrew Johnson. Chase suffered a stroke and died on May 7, 1873. He was honored with a formal state funeral. Originally buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C., he was later reinterred in Spring Grove Cemetery in Ohio, the state that he served.

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