The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 2

The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 2

The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 2

The Salmon P. Chase Papers - Vol. 2

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

C HASE'S CORRESPONDENCE in this volume fills in much of the gap in his journals, which he did not keep consistently over the years. Especially valuable to the biographer and the social historian are a series of letters he wrote while a student at Dartmouth in 1825 and 1826. This correspondence describes vividly Chase's character in its formative phase and casts light on college life in the then remote town of Hanover, New Hampshire, during the early decades of the 19th century.

Chase's letters and those he received after his graduation from college, his years in the national capital, and his establishment of a law practice in Cincinnati in 1830 are also of unusual interest, for they portray the life and times of an industrious young man seeking desperately to maintain what he regarded as his upper class status in Washington and in the frontier city of Cincinnati. By the late 1830s and early 1840s, his law practice prospering, his domestic life in a flux with the death of two wives and two children, and the care of a young daughter, he drifted into abolitionist circles through his defense of fugitive slaves.

By 1840-41, Chase began to devote much of his time to antislavery politics and in association with James G. Birney sought to infuse vigor and organization into Ohio's Liberty party. He acted as defense counsel in a number of fugitive slave cases where he challenged the current majority interpretation of the fugitive clause in the federal Constitution and the law of 1793 that derived from it. Though he lost most of these cases, he saw to it that they gained favorable publicity for the antislavery cause.

At an early stage in the Liberty party's development, Chase began to move away from the "one idea" abolitionist strategy of its Eastern leaders and broaden its appeal by addressing mainstream political issues. Chase was developing a strategy that would utilize the Liberty organization as a bargaining weapon with the major parties in an effort to purge their acceptance of slavery and its expansion, yet at the same time to accept other social and economic reform programs such . . .

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