Frederick J. blue
Nothing in the early life of Salmon Portland Chase suggested a career of antislavery leadership and later prominence among Republicans championing the cause of racial equality. Nor was there anything to suggest an insatiable desire to be president or play a central role in the Civil War cabinet of Abraham Lincoln (q.v.), to be climaxed by continued importance during Reconstruction as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Born in rural New Hampshire on January 13, 1808, Chase experienced little in his first twenty-five years to indicate he would live a life other than one in the schoolroom or before the bar. His father farmed the rock-strewn New England soil and dabbled in local Federalist politics. With the elder Chase’s premature death in 1817, young Salmon was raised for a time by his authoritarian uncle, the aristocratic Episcopal bishop of Ohio, Philander Chase. On his return to New Hampshire, Chase enrolled at Dartmouth College while teaching school in a small nearby town. At eighteen and with a college degree in hand, he moved first to Washington, D.C. There he opened his Select Classical School for young boys, determined to earn enough money to pursue his chosen career as an attorney.
A protégé of Attorney General William Wirt, Chase found his already conservative views reinforced by his mentor, who became his model as both lawyer and politician. As Chase prepared to leave Washington to seek his fortune in Cincinnati in 1830, his elitism and pompous nature along with a degree of smugness, characteristics that later associates would find so disconcerting, were already revealing themselves. Nor did his early years in Cincinnati give any hint of the political conversion to come. As a young attorney, he held true to his Whig politics and espoused traditional causes even as he struggled to secure clients. He became active in the temperance crusade and in religious affairs, both within and outside his Episcopal Church. Numerous factors pointed toward a career as a traditional Whig attorney, including marriage in 1834 to the daughter of a prominent Cincinnati family, a developing legal practice that included