Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XVI
SALMON P. CHASE BECOMES CHIEF JUSTICE

THE death of Chief Justice Roger Taney on October 12th,1 1864, marks the closing of an era illuminated and explained by his opinion in the Dred Scott case.

As usual the aspirants for this high judicial post were many. Among those considered was William M. Evarts, whom we shall later meet.2 Other claimants were pushed forward, but for no one was there greater pressure than for Chase.3 Less than a year before he had contemptuously sneered at the President whose favor he was now importunately seeking. It seems that as Secretary of the Treasury he was concerned over governmental expenditures, for on the 24th of the previous January he wrote: "The spigot in Uncle Abe's barrel is made twice as big as the bung hole. He may have been a good flat-boatman, and rail-splitter, but he certainly never learned the science of coopering."4

How little jibes or sneers affected Lincoln in his official conduct appears from his conversation about Chase held in November with Judge Hoar and Richard Dana. Lincoln said: "He has not always behaved very well lately and people say to me--'Now is the time to crush him out.' Well I'm not in favor of crushing anybody out! If there is anything a man can do, and do it well, I say let him do it. Give him a chance."5

On December 6th Lincoln nominated Chase; the Senate immediately confirmed the nomination.6 That night the new Chief Justice wrote to Lincoln thanking him "for this mark of your confidence and especially for the manner in which the nomination was made. I will never forget either and trust you will never regret either."7 While he was closing this note with the effusive assurance that he prized Lincoln's "confidence and good will more than nomination to office,"8Gideon Welles sat making this rec-

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