The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> United States >> 1845-1861 >> Individual Biography, A-Z
Salmon P. Chase

U.S. Senator, Governor of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury, Chief Justice of the United States

Salmon Portland Chase

Salmon Portland Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, on January 13, 1808. He attended schools at Windsor, Vermont; Worthington, Ohio; and the Cincinnati (Ohio) College. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1826 he taught school, studied law in Washington, D. C., was admitted to the bar in 1829, and commenced practice in Cincinatti in 1830. As a lawyer in Cincinatti he dedicated a lot of his work to defending fugitive slaves.

Chase first entered politics when he was elected as a Whig to the Cincinnati City Council in 1840. He broke with the Whigs and became identified with the Liberty Party in 1841, and in 1848 he helped found the Free Soil Party. Chase was elected to the United States Senate as a Free Soil candidate and served from 1849 to 1855. While in the Senate he opposed the extension of slavery into the new territories. As a Free-Soil Democrat, he was elected Governor of Ohio in 1844; he was re-elected as a Republican in 1857.

As a Republican, Chase was returned to the U. S. Senate in 1860, but resigned two days after taking his seat in order to become Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln. While serving in this capacity Chase helped develop the national banking system and issued the first legal-tender paper currency not backed by gold, actions which helped maintain national credit and raise money to carry on the Civil War. He resigned from the Treasury in 1864 because he thought Lincoln's anti-slavery position was too moderate.

Although he disliked Chase personally, Lincoln admired his abilities and named him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1864. While serving in this capacity Chase presided over the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. He wrote a dissent in the Slaughterhouse Cases because he felt that the decision by the federal government would endanger the rights of black people in the South, and also took part in decisions that declared unconstitutional the issuing of greenbacks.

Chase served as Chief Justice until his death in New York City, New York, on May 7, 1873. He is interred at Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati.


From Revolution to Reconstruction

See Also

New Hampshire
Free Soil Party
Secretary of the Treasury
President Abraham Lincoln
Civil War
President Andrew Johnson
New York City

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> United States >> 1845-1861 >> Individual Biography, A-Z

This page was last updated on August 26, 2018.