Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

"Spur Up Your Pegasus": Family Letters of Salmon, Kate, and Nettie Chase, 1844-1873

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

"Spur Up Your Pegasus": Family Letters of Salmon, Kate, and Nettie Chase, 1844-1873

Article excerpt

"Spur Up Your Pegasus": Family Letters of Salmon, Kate, and Nettie Chase, 1844-1873. Edited by James P. McClure, Peg A. Lamphier, and Erika M. Kreger. (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, c. 2009. Pp. [xvi], 508. $70.00, ISBN 978-0-87338-988-4.)

Well known as an antislavery advocate, U.S. senator from Ohio, secretary of the treasury under President Abraham Lincoln, and Supreme Court chief justice, the thrice-widowed Salmon E Chase devoted much of his time to penning missives to his daughters. The unusual title of this collection of correspondence stems from Salmon Chase's reference to the mythological winged horse in a letter to his then-eighteen-year-old daughter Nettle. After encouraging her to "Spur up your Pegasus,,' Chase demanded that she "[1]et Pegasus use his wings, but do you use the reins" (p. viii). Though he often lamented his own hurried and episodic correspondence, his request to Nettie typified the demands he placed on both of his surviving daughters: pen lengthy and open assessments of all thoughts and relationships while observing the minute details of letter-writing etiquette. This volume features Chase as father rather than politician. But as his daughters came of age during the Civil War, they emerged as political actors, nicely intertwining the themes of family and politics in this rich collection of correspondence gathered from multiple archives.

Although Chase was noted for his public stances in favor of temperance and sabbatarianism, the early letters in this collection feature his personal piety, as he confronted the illness and death of those in his immediate family. Tinged with sadness, his letters brimmed with confidence in God's righteousness. Indeed, in one letter to his oldest daughter, Kate, on August 13, 1850, he spent the first three paragraphs berating her character flaws and only then casually passed along the news that Kate's infant half-sister had died. Similarly, in writing to his third wife, Belle, as she battled tuberculosis, Chase did a good deal more sermonizing than sympathizing, warning her to prepare for immediate and eternal judgment from God. …

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