prosy an attorney might be ..., the chief justice never displayed any impatience.... In presiding he always leaned forward over his desk, never resting himself as some of the justices frequently did, by lolling back in the great armchairs. He seldom asked questions of the attorneys, but when he did it was only to make more clear some statement. He made copious notes. He was ever prompt in opening the session of the court, and, as a rule, was equally prompt in closing at the hour appointed."
By temperament Chase never accommodated to his position on the Court. A few months after his arrival on the Court he wrote in his diary, "Working from morning till midnight and no result, except that John Smith owned this parcel of land or other property instead of Jack Robinson; I caring nothing, and nobody caring much more, about the matter." His feelings about his role changed little over the years. He wrote to a friend in 1868, "The office is dignified. I enjoy many things in the work, but I confess that my own mind is executive rather than judicial. I should prefer to conduct affairs in the way that seems to me wisest, rather than to decide on matters that are past." Although he forever had his eye on the political arena, his practicality and sense of the political realities of the time served him well in helping to avoid an open clash between the Court and Congress at a time when Congress' power was paramount. The Radical Republicans who did not hesitate to impeach President Johnson would not have had any second thoughts about remodeling a Supreme Court which tried to thwart their wishes. By sustaining the power of Congress, the Court preserved its own power for the future.
Chase's papers are divided between the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library of Congress. Some of Chase's personal writings have been published as Diaries and Correspondence ( New York, 1971). Two biographies of Chase appeared shortly after his death: Robert Warden, The Private Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase ( Cincinnati, 1874), and Jacob M. Schucker , Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase ( New York, 1874). Both contain much original source material but are hopelessly uncritical. Albert Bushnell Hart wrote a highly complimentary biography, Salmon P. Chase ( Boston, 1899). In more recent times David Donald edited the Civil War diaries of Chase, Inside Lincoln's Cabinet ( New York, 1954), while Frederick J. Blue has written a full-length biography, Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics ( Kent, Ohio, 1987). A biography of Chase's daughter Catherine, by Thomas and Marva Belden, So Fell the Angels ( Boston, 1956), contains valuable material about the chief justice.