The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 3

The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 3

The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 3

The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 3


Salmon P. Chase is usually remembered for his service as Treasury secretary during the Civil War. Earlier, he had attracted national attention as an antislavery attorney and politician and was twice elected U.S. senator from Ohio and served two terms as governor. For the final volume of this series, John Niven has chosen 215 significant letters that shed light on the last phase of Chase's life, the eight and one half years that he presided over the United States Supreme Court as chief justice.

During this period, Chase and the Court grappled with an array of issues that redefined the rights of individuals and legal relationships among citizens, the federal government, and the states. Correspondence selected for this volume is particularly rich with insights into the inner workings of the Court and the judicial process. Other themes include Chase's quest for the Democratic nomination to the presidency in the elections of 1868 and 1872, his role as presiding officer during the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, and the scandalous breakup of the marriage of his socialite daughter, Kate Chase Sprague, and her millionaire husband, U.S. Senator William Sprague of Rhode Island. The volume closes with Chase's death on May 7, 1873, at the New York City residence of his youngest daughter, Janet ("Nettie") Chase Hoyt.

Representative correspondents in this volume include such national leaders as Stephen Field, Horace Greeley, Andrew Johnson, and Charles Sumner, as well as relatives and personal friends such as Jay Cooke. As in previous volumes, the editors have supplemented their meticulous transcriptions of the manuscripts with detailed notes, a chronology, an index, and a narrativeintroduction. The National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and Claremont Graduate University provide support for the edition.


The correspondence in this volume covers the period in Chase's life from 1858 through March 1863. of the 249 items represented here, 162 are letters Chase wrote and 87 are those he received.

In 1858 Chase commenced his second term as governor of Ohio, having won a close race, and began to mount his campaign for the Republican party nomination in 1860. Nationally the Buchanan Administration was floundering in the aftermath of the Dred Scott decision and division in Democratic party ranks over the Lecompton Constitution, which seemed a flagrant rejection of the popular sovereignty principle for the government of the Kansas territory. Stephen A. Douglas, champion of popular sovereignty, had broken with the president, who was seeking to force through Congress the admission of Kansas into the Union under the proslavery Lecompton Constitution.

As his correspondence shows, Chase sought to capitalize on this issue that weakened his party's opponents, but not to the extent of accepting Douglas and his political views into the Republican coalition, as some of Chase's former Democratic colleagues were urging.

In the full flush of his recent gubernatorial victory, however slim, Chase began planning for the 1860 Republican nomination for president. a good many adverse factors stood in his way, but ever optimistic he either pushed them aside or ignored them. He was quite accurate in determining that slavery would be a major factor not only in the nomination but in the election. As he made clear to Theodore Parker, the influential Massachusetts minister and savant, and to Gerrit Smith, the rich New York landowner and abolitionist, he meant to ride that issue in his forthcoming candidacy. But Chase still bore the onus of blatant political trickery from former straight-line Whigs and American party adherents in the Ohio Republican party. and his calls for moderation to quell any mob action in the aftermath of the Oberlin-Wellington rescue were condemned locally and nationally. Even moderate antislavery men, such as influential newspaper editors Joseph Medill of the Chicago Tribune and Henry J. Raymond of the New York Times, found Chase's reluctance to face up to the federal government on the arrest . . .

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