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Salmon Chase

By John T. Marck

Salmon Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshire on January 13, 1808. Interested in law, Case followed a legal career in Ohio, and involved himself with Liberty and the Free Soil Party; organizations that advocated the abolition of slavery.

In 1855 he was elected governor of Ohio, and then on to oppose Abraham Lincoln for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination. Unsuccessful, as Lincoln received the nomination, he became Lincoln's secretary of the treasury, even though he had no formal education or background in finance.

His position as secretary of the treasury, which was marked by the bloodshed of the war, placed him close to Lincoln. This characterization bothered him as he was constantly infuriated with Lincoln, as well as Secretary of State William H. Seward, whom he did not trust. Lincoln on the other hand valued Chase in that he had political common sense that enabled him in getting financial acts passed. Additionally, Lincoln trusted Chase and often would defer to his military judgements over those of his secretaries of the army and navy. Chase also became well known, and shared in the social distinction that his daughter attained; the hostess Kate Chase Sprague. Through these connections, Chase was convinced to try another attempt at the presidency.

When Lincoln developed his goals for Reconstruction, Chase was opposed and resisted them. Consequently, in secret, he agreed to run again for the Republican nomination in 1864. However, when Kansas Senator Samuel Pomeroy circulated an anti-Lincoln letter, known as the "Pomeroy Circular," Chase was embarrassed at the attacks on Lincoln, so he tendered his resignation as secretary of the treasury. Lincoln refused to accept it but the damage to Lincoln had been done. Although Chase helped Lincoln in his 1864 campaign, their relationship never recovered. Once again, in the fall of 1864, Chase offered his resignation, and this time Lincoln accepted. Even though their friendship was damaged, Lincoln still valued Chase and appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in December 1864.

Samuel Portland Chase died in New York City on May 7, 1873.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.