Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Salmon P. Chase Papers. Volume 5: Correspondence, 1865-1873

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Salmon P. Chase Papers. Volume 5: Correspondence, 1865-1873

Article excerpt

The Salmon P. Chase Papers. Volume 5: Correspondence, 1865-1873. Edited by John Niven and others. (Kent, Ohio, and London: Kent State University Press, c. 1998. Pp. xxvi, 401. $45.00, ISBN 0-87338-567-5.)

This is the last volume of selected correspondence of Salmon P. Chase, drawn from the forty-three reel microfilm edition edited by the late John Niven and others (Frederick, Md., 1987) and covering the period during which Chase, formerly senator and governor of Ohio and secretary of state in the Lincoln administration, served as chief justice of the Supreme Court until his death in 1873. There are some signs of haste with a few factual and typographical errors uncharacteristically escaping the editorial process.

The surrounding explanatory material is minimal. Readers usually must turn to earlier volumes for biographical references. While the letters are well edited, contexts in which they were sent and received are often only sketchily explained, with only limited guidance to secondary sources. Therefore the letters are useful primarily as source materials for those undertaking research in the history of Reconstruction or of the Supreme Court during the Civil War era.

The correspondence consists of significant letters both sent and received. Most deal with politics and a number concern judicial matters, especially Chase's refusal to sit as circuit court judge in the South while martial law continued. (For part of each year, Supreme Court justices were supposed to join with district court judges to constitute circuit courts.) Although there is some information about Court administration and Chase's relations with other judges, there is disappointingly little discussion of legal and constitutional issues before the Court. A few link his positions on key Reconstruction and financial cases to his commitments to state rights and hard money. A number of letters, mostly in 1869 and after, relate to Chase's family, conveying the conventional, sincere piety that Chase hoped would sustain himself and his daughter Kate as her marriage to Senator William Sprague began to break apart. …

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