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Solmon Portland Chase


THIS distinguished statesman, jurist and financier—whose somewhat peculiar baptismal names were conferred upon him in memory of a deceased uncle Salmon, a resident of the town of Portland, Maine—was born at Cornish, New Hampshire, on the 13th of January, 1808. He traces his descent from Aquila Chase, a native of Cornwall, England, who was born in 1618, and, while quite young, came to America and settled at Newburyport, Massachusetts. Dudley Chase, the grandfather of Secretary Chase, and fourth in descent from Aquila, procured a grant of land on the Connecticut river, north of Charleston, (or, as it was then called, Fort No. 4,) upon which he settled, naming the township Cornish, in honor of the original home of his English ancestry. His children became notable persons in that region ; one of them, Philander, being the Episcopal Bishop of Ohio, and the founder of Kenyon College; and another, D. P. Chase, became Chief Justice of Vermont. Another brother, Ithamar Chase, the father of the subject of this sketch, was a fine specimen of the old-fashioned New Englander, of imposing stature, great natural dignity, and an affability of manner which rendered him, in the best sense of the word, a gentleman, Sagacious, honest, energetic, and—Yankee-like—turning his hand to whatever business chance offered, he succeeded, as farmer, merchant, surveyor and manufacturer, in accumulating a handsome property. He secured, also, the confidence and good-will of his fellow-citizens, whom he long served in the capacity of a justice of the peace, and whom, for many years, he acceptably represented in the Executive Council of New Hampshire, The close of the "war of 1812" brought disaster to his fortunes, and necessitated, in 1815, his removal to Keene, New Hampshire, where, two years later, he suddenly died, leaving his family with little else than the heritage of an honorable name and a well-spent life. His wife, however, who was of Scotch descent, and possessed much of the energy and thrift characteristic of that race, had inherited from her parents a little property, which still remained intact after the wreck of her husband's fortunes. By a careful husbanding of her resources, therefore, she was enabled to keep her children in comparative comfort, and to give a mother's tender thought and direction to their earlier studies. Young Chase, at the schools of Keene, and afterwards at a boarding school, kept by one of his father's old friends, at Windsor, Vermont, had mastered the elementary parts of knowledge, had got through the Latin Grammar, read a little in Virgil's Bucolics, and had commenced Greek and Euclid, when, in the spring of 1820, his mother received from her brother-in-law, the Bishop of Ohio, an offer to take charge of and educate the lad. The proposition was joyfully accepted, and, before long, Salmon started on his long journey westward, in company with his elder brother Alexander, who had just graduated from college, and was going (in company with Henry R. Schooleraft, since distinguished as a traveller, ethnologist and writer) to join General Cass's expedition to the Upper Mississippi.

At Cleveland the young traveller parted from his brother and friend, and spent nearly a month with a friend of his uncle, while waiting for an opportunity to reach that relative, who resided at Worthington, in the interior of the State. While thus delayed, the boy was by no means idle, but employed himself much of the time in ferrying travellers across the Cuyahoga, upon the eastern bank of which stream the town stood, thereby adding somewhat to his slender funds, and gaining a lesson of industrious self-reliance which was of much use to him in the future. At length, however, an opportunity offered for Salmon's proposed journey. He was placed in charge of two theological students, en route for Worthington, on horseback, and with them —travelling "ride and tie," as was frequently done in the time of the early settlement of the West—he made the long trip through the woods, fording streams, and meeting with many adventures which were full of interest and novelty. Arriving at Worthington, he was received into the family of his uncle, the bishop, a most excellent man, but a rigid disciplinarian, where he fulfilled the menial office of "chore boy" during the intervals of study.

In mathematics and the languages he made excellent progress, despite the disadvantages under which he labored, of being so much and arduously occupied with farm duties. In composition he was proficient, and in Greek he so far excelled as to be the Greek orator of the bishop's school at its annual exhibition in the summer of 1821. One of his intimate schoolmates says: " Never have I known a purer or more virtuous-minded lad than he was. He had an extreme aversion to any thing dishonorable or vicious. He was industrious and attentive to business. Laboring on the farm of his uncle, he missed many recitations, and had but limited chances for study, yet, having a natural fondness for books, he was surpassed by no one of his age in the school. He had little regard for his personal appearance, or, indeed, for any thing external. His mind appeared to be directed to what was right, regardless of true opinions of others." In the fall of 1822, Bishop Chase removed to Cincinnati, having accepted the presidency of the college there; and here a somewhat easier life, in many respects, fell to Salmon's lot. He entered the freshman class of the college, and studying hard, attained the rank of sophomore, when his studies were interrupted by the removal, in August, 1823, of the bishop, who resigned the presidency, in order to visit England, with the purpose of obtaining the necessary funds for a Protestant Episcopal Seminary in the West, an effort which finally resulted in the establishment of Kenyon College. Salmon returned to his home in New Hampshire, travelling a large portion of the way on foot ; and, after a short period of schoolteaching, and a few months of close and rapid preparation at the academy in Royalton, Vermont, entered the junior class of Dartmouth College. During his collegiate course, an incident occurred strongly indicative of that innate love of right which has ever been so marked a feature of Mr. Chase's character. An intimate friend and classmate having been arbitrarily accused, and, despite his asseverations of his innocence, condemned to rustication, by the faculty, for a trivial offence committed by other parties, Salmon waited upon the president, protested against the decision of the faculty as unjust, and finding it irrevocable, declared his intention to leave the college with his friend—and did leave. The faculty sent a messenger after them, who overtook them on -the road, with a revocation of their sentence; but the inexorable young men did not return until they had spent a pleasant week of visiting among their friends and relatives; and their re-entry into Hanover was a triumph. As one of the foremost third of the senior class, young Chase was admitted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and at his graduation, in 1826, he ranked eighth, delivering an oration on '" Literary Curiosity. Going directly to Washington, D. C., he announced, in the columns of the " National Intelligence," of December 23d, 1826, his intention to open a select classical school in that city on the first Monday of the ensuing year; but for a time fortune seemed to look most discouragingly upon him. Patience and courage, however, had their perfect work; and, finally, he most unexpectedly received the offer of the male department of a well-established classical school, the proprietors of which had determined to give their whole time and attention to the female department. In this school (in a little, one-story frame building on G street,) he commenced teaching, receiving the patronage of many eminent men, among whom were Henry Clay, William Wirt, and Samuel L. Southard, who entrusted their sons to his care. While thus arduously engaged, he occupied all his leisure time in studying law under William Wirt, then Attorney-General of the United States; and upon attaining his majority, in 1829, closed his school, and was admitted to the bar of the District of Columbia in February, 1830. 

On the 4th, of March, 1830, he set out for Cincinnati, where he commenced the practice of his profession, with an energy and perseverance which could not fail to secure ultimate success. He formed a partnership with Edward King, Esq., son of the celebrated Rufus King, which, however, was of short duration; and in 1833, he formed another connection with Mr. Caswell, a lawyer of established reputation, and, while striving to obtain cases, he diligently busied himself with the compilation of the statutes of Ohio, accompanied with copious annotations and prefaced with a historical sketch of the State, the whole forming three large octavo volumes. This valuable compendium—the fruit of a careful use of time which young professional men too often fail to improve--soon superseded all other editions of the statutes, and is now the accepted authority in the courts. While the reading and investigations necessary to the compilation of this work, added largely to his stores of legal knowledge, the admirable manner in which it was prepared, gave its young author an immediate reputation among the profession, and secured him the notice and respect of the active business community by which he was surrounded. It was the stepping-stone to his fortune. Early in 1834, he was made the solicitor of the United States bank, in Cincinnati, to which was soon added a similar position connected with another of the city banks, and he was soon engaged in the full tide of a large and lucrative commercial practice.

In 1837 the partnership of Caswell and Chase was dissolved, and shortly after the latter formed a connection with Mr. Ellis. Mr. Chase now first came distinctly and prominently before the public, in connection with those higher interests with which his name is now so widely associated.

In July, 1836, when the office of the " Philanthropist" newspaper, published by James G. Birney, was attacked and despoiled by an anti-slavery mob, Birney's life, was saved by the courage of Salmon P. Chase, who, from that time, was foremost among those who breasted the tide of pro-slavery aggressions.

In 1837, as the counsel of a colored fugitive slave woman, claimed under the law of 1793, he made an elaborate argument denying the right of Congress to delegate to State magistrates, powers in such fugitive slave cases—a position since sustained by the Supreme Court of the United States, and maintained that the law of 1793 was void, because unwarranted by the Constitution.

In passing from the court room after making this brave, but ineffectual defence in this case, he overheard the remark of a prudent citizen, "There is a promising young man who has just ruined himself." Time has proved how erroneous this judgment was, yet it was then the popular verdict. During the same year, Mr. Chase defended Tames G. Birney, who was tried before the Supreme Court of Ohio, for harboring a negro slave—forcibly arguing that slavery was a local institution, dependent for its existence upon State legislation ; and that the slave, having been brought into Ohio, by her master, was de facto et de lure, free. This was followed, in 1838, by a severe review from his pen, in the newspapers, of a recent report made by the Judiciary committee of the State Senate, in which they had advocated the refusal of trial by jury, to slaves. He also acted as counsel for Mr. Birney, in his trial for haboring the slave Matilda; and, in 1842, defended one Van Zandt, in the United States Circuit Court, in a similar trial, in which the principle as stated by the opposing counsel, " Once a slave always a slave," was met by Mr. Chase with its nobler antithesis " Once free, ALWAYS FREE;" and he followed it with a warning and eloquent denunciation of the atrocious claims of slavery. In these cases, Mr. Chase added materially to his previous honorable reputation, and took rank, thenceforward, with the oldest and ablest practitioners of Ohio. 

Up to this time, he had taken but little part or interest in politics, nor had he settled clown into the trammels of any particular party—voting sometimes with the Democrats, but more generally with the Whigs, because the latter seemed most favorable to the anti-slavery doctrines to which he had given his conscientious adherence. He supported Harrison for the Presidency, in 1840; but, becoming convinced from the tone of his inaugural address and the subsequent course of the Tyler administration that the anti-slavery cause had little or nothing to hope for from the Whig party, and that the cause could only attain its legitimate aims, which he considered of paramount importance, through the instrumentality of a distinct party organization, he united with others, in 1841, in calling a State convention of the opponents of slavery and slavery-extension The convention met in December, organized "the Liberty party" of Ohio, nominated a candidate for governor, and issued an address (from Mr Chase's pen) defining its principles and purposes, which was one of the earliest expositions of the anti-slavery movement. In the "National Liberty convention," held at Buffalo, New York, in 1843, Mr. Chase was a prominent participant, and as a member of the committee on resolutions, so vigorously opposed a resolution which proposed "to regard and treat the third clause of the Constitution, whenever applied to the case of a fugitive slave, as utterly null and void, and consequently as forming no part of the Constitution of the United States, whenever we are called upon or sworn to support it,"—that it was not adopted by the committee, although it was afterwards moved and adopted in the convention. Years afterward, when Senator Butler, of South Carolina, charged Mr. Chase with having been the author and advocate of this resolution, and severely denounced the doctrine of mental reservation which it impliedly sanctioned, the latter replied, "I never proposed the resolution; I never would propose a vote for such a resolution. I hold no doctrine of mental reservation; every man, in my judgment, should speak just as he thinks, keeping nothing back, here or elsewhere." During the same year Mr. Chase was selected to prepare an address on behalf of the friends of Liberty, of Ireland and of Repeal, in Cincinnati, in reply to the letter from Daniel O'Connell, in behalf of the Loyal National Repeal Association of Ireland. This address—which reviewed the relations of the Federal Government to slavery at the period of its organization, set forth its original anti-slavery policy, and the subsequent growth of the political power of slavery, indicated the action of the Liberal party, and repelled the aspersions cast by a Repeal Association in Cincinnati, upon anti-slavery men—was a document worthy of Mr. Chase's talents. With Mr. Chase, also, originated the Southern and Western Liberty Convention, held at Cincinnati, in June, 1845, and designed, in the words of its founder, to embrace " all who, believing that whatever is worth preserving in Republicanism can be maintained only by uncompromising war against the usurpations of the slave power, are therefore, resolved to use all constitutional and honorable means to effect the extinction of slavery in their respective States, and its reduction to its constitutional limits in the United States." He also drew up the address of the Convention, embracing a history of the Whig and Democratic parties in their relations to the slavery question, and urging the political necessity of forming a party pledged to the overthrow of the institution.

Mr. Chase, who had now become a widely distinguished champion of anti-slavery, was associated with William H. Seward in the defence of John Van Zandt, who was arraigned 
before the United States Supreme Court, for aiding in the escape of certain slaves ; and subsequently he was retained for the defence in the case of Dieskell vs. Parish, before the United States Circuit Court, at Columbus, Ohio. In both of these cases he argued, in a most elaborate manner, that," under the ordinance of 1787, no fugitives from service could be reclaimed from Ohio, unless there had been an escape from one of the original States; that it was the clear understanding of the framers of the Constitution, and of the people who adopted it, that slavery was to be left exclusively to the disposal of the several States, without sanction or support from the National Government; and that the clause of the Constitution relative to persons held to service was one of compact between the States, and conferred no power of legislation on Congress, having been transferred from the ordinance of 1787, in which it conferred no power on the Confederation and was never understood to confer any." In 1847 Mr. Chase attended a second "National Liberty Convention;" where, in the hope that the agitation of the Wilmot Proviso would result in a more decided movement against slavery, he opposed the making of any national nominations at that time. He anticipated, also, the Whig and Democratic Conventions of 1848, by calling a Free-Territory Convention, which resulted in the Buffalo Convention, in August of that year, and the nomination of Mr. Van Buren for the presidency.

On the 22d of February, 1849, Mr. Chase was elected to the United States Senate, by the entire vote of the Democrats, and a large number of the free-soil members of the Ohio Legislature. Supporting the State policy and the nominees of the Democracy of the State, he still declared that he would desert it if it deserted the anti-slavery position which it then held. On the 26th and 27th of March, 1849, he delivered a cogent, eloquent and timely speech against the compromise resolutions; following it up during the session, with others on the specialities embraced within these resolution, and moved three amendments—one, against the introduction of slavery, in the Territories to which Mr. Clay's bill applied; another, to the Fugitive Slave Bill, to secure trial by jury to alleged slaves; and the third, to an amendment made by Senator Davis, relative to the reclamation of fugitives escaping from one State into another—all of which, however, were lost.

The nomination of Franklin Pierce for the presidency, and the approval of the compromise of 1850, by the Democratic Convention at Baltimore, in 1852, was the signal for Mr. Chase's withdrawal from the Ohio Democracy. He immediately took the initiative in the formation of an Independent Democratic party, which he continued to support, until the Nebraska-Kansas bill began to be agitated. To this bill he was a strenuous and prominent opponent, offering three important amendments, which were severally rejected, and closing his opposition by an earnest protest against it on its final passage. During his Senatorial career, economy in the National Finances; a Pacific Railroad by the shortest and best route; the Homestead Bill Cheap Postage, and the provision by the National Treasury for defraying the expense of procuring safe navigation of the Lakes as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, all found in Mr. Chase an able and earnest champion. In 1855, he was elected Governor of Ohio, by the opponents of the Pierce administration, and his inaugural address recommended single districts for legislative representation, annual, instead of biennial sessions of the Legislature, and an extended educational system. At the next National Republican Convention, he declined the nomination for the Presidency, which was urged upon him by the delegations from his own, as well as other States. In the course of the same year, a deficiency was discovered in the State treasury, only a few days before the semi-annual interest on the State debt became due—but Governor Chase's energetic action compelled the resignation of the State Treasurer, who had concealed the deficiency, secured a thorough investigation, and effected such a judicious arrangement as protected the credit of the State, and averted what would otherwise have been a serious pecuniary loss.

At the close of his first gubernatorial term, the Republicans insisted upon his accepting a re-nomination, which was carried by acclamation, and he was re-elected after a spirited canvass. In his annual message for 1858, he made an elaborate exposition of the financial condition of Ohio, recommending, also, semi-annual taxation, a greater stringency in provisions for the security of the State. treasury and proper appropriations for the establishment of benevolent institutions, especially for the Reform School—all of which suggestions met with the approval of the Legislature, and laws were passed in accordance therewith. In the beginning of 1860, he was again chosen to the United States Senate, from Ohio.

Upon the secession of South Carolina, in December, 1860, Mr. Chase urged upon General Scott, by letter, the necessity of taking active measures to secure the public property, assuring him that the country would fully endorse such action. But timid counsels prevailed. Again, in February, 1861, Mr. Chase represented Ohio at the Conference of the States, held at Washington, by invitation of Virginia, and there he stood boldly out as an uncompromising opponent of any purchase of peace by undue concessions to the South. Meanwhile, when threats were made that Mr. Lincoln should never be inaugurated, unless the South received the concessions it demanded from the North, Mr. Chase replied, " Inauguration first, adjustment afterwards," words which, caught up and used as a popular motto, had no small influence.

On the 4th of March, 1861, he took a seat in the Senate. Two days afterwards, however, he yielded to a very general and pressing demand, on the part of personal and political friends, (as well as some who, up to that time, had not been considered as either), and resigned his scat in the Senate to accept the Secretaryship of the Treasury, which had been tendered him by President Lincoln. Immediately after the organization of the Cabinet, and when the most important topic under discussion was, what should be the policy of the Government towards the seceded States, Mr. Chase's influence was strongly felt in the national councils. When hostilities commenced at Sumter, the Secretary urged upon General Scott the propriety of occupying Manassas, which, had it been done, would have compelled the evacuation of Harper's Ferry and the Shenandoah valley by the rebels, and would have materially altered the character of the opening campaign of the war. To Mr. Chase's suggestion, also, was due the call, promulgated in May, 1861, for 65,000 volunteers, to take the place of the 75,000 first called for; and to him the President committed, with the consent of the Secretary of War, the preparation of the necessary orders--since known as Nos. 15 and 16—the one for the enlistment of volunteers and the other for regular regiments. The object which Mr. Chase had in view was the establishment of a regular system—which had not hitherto existed—in conformity with which all new enlistments should be made, and in this important work he was assisted by Colonel Thomas, Major McDowell and Captain Franklin. During the trying period, in the early part of the war, when great efforts were made to precipitate Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee into rebellion, Mr. Lincoln committed to his Secretary of the Treasury the principal charge of whatever related to the conservation and protection of the interests of the Government in those States. He obtained for Rousseau, of Kentucky, his colonel's commission, and gave him his order for the raising of twenty companies. He also drew most of the orders under which Nelson acted, and furnished him with the means of defraying his expenses for the expedition into the interior of Kentucky, and the establishment of Camp Dick Robinson—movements which saved that State from secession. 

He was the honored confidant and adviser of General Cameron, while Secretary of War, especially in relation to western borderstate matters, slavery, and the employment of colored troops; and it was at his suggestion that General Butler was directed by the Secretary of War to refrain from surrendering alleged fugitives from service to alleged masters, and to employ them under such organization and in such occupations as circumstances might suggest or require. It was, however, in the discharge of his legitimate duties, as Secretary of the Treasury, that Mr. Chase achieved his greatest success. The treasury, at the time when he assumed its charge, was nearly bankrupt. He, therefore, immediately proceeded to negotiate a loan. On the 22d of March, 1861, he issued proposals for his first loan of $8,000,000 on six per cent bonds, redeemable at the end of twenty years. The bids were opened April 2d, and amounted to $27,182.000, at rates varying from eighty. five for one hundred to par. All bids below ninety-four were promptly rejected by the Secretary, who determined to let the country know at the outset that bonds of the United States were not to be sacrificed in the market, and that the national credit was not so impaired as to be at the mercy of brokers and capitalists. The disappointed bidders winced at this decision, but its effect upon the country at large was certainly healthy.

Continuing to effect loans under existing laws, he borrowed, on the 11th of April, $4,901,000, on two years treasury notes, at a small premium ; on 25th of May, $7,310,000, on twenty years bonds, at from eighty-five to ninety-eight, declining all bids below ninety five; and on two years treasury notes, $1,684,000 at par, all of which loans, considering the situation of the country, were remarkable successes. Congress, on its assembling in July, 1861, authorized a national loan, under which act, and the acts amending it, he took measures to secure the funds needed to carry on the war. The result of a full and frank conference with the representatives of the banks of Boston, Philadelphia and New York, at the latter city, was an agreement, on the part of the banks, to unite as associates in an advance to Government of $50,000,000; while he, on his part, agreed to appeal to the people for subscriptions to a national loan, on three years notes, bearing seven-thirty per cent. interest, and 'convertible into twenty years bonds bearing six per cent., the proceeds of which subscriptions should be paid over to the banks, in satisfaction of their advances, so far as they would go; the deficiency, if any, to be made good in seven-thirty notes. By this and a subsequent loan, made on nearly the same terms, the Government obtained $100,000,000 at a rate of interest only one and three-tenths of one per cent higher than the ordinary rate of six per cent, and that for three years only. The banks now declining to advance another $50,000,000 for the seven-thirty notes, through the efforts of the Secretary, a seven per cent. loan was negotiated on the 16th of November, but trouble resulted from the opposition of many of the banks to the further issue of United States notes as legal tender, in distinction to their own local issues, and the Secretary now applied the remedy to this state of affairs by uniting his whole influence to those who desired the United States notes made a legal tender, and by joining them, decided the success of that measure, which he had previously urged upon Congress.

It was, however, only by the most indomitable perseverance that he was enabled, after several defeats and long delay, to secure the passage of the National Banking Act, providing for a system of national banks, based upon government securities. This system, which embraces the best features of the New York Free Banking System, together with certain additions protective of the rights both of the bill-holder and depositor, has proved most successful, and, although at first vehemently opposed by some of the State and local banks, has now fairly triumphed over all opposition. In the negotiation of these loans, Mr. Chase secured the services of Mr. Jay Cooke, an eminent financier of Philadelphia, as general agent, who by his numerous agencies, and a wholesale and ingenious system of advertising, gave the widest possible publicity to the loan, and secured for it the full favor of the community throughout the United States. By January 1st, 1864, five hundred millions of the loan (5-20 bonds) was taken up, and the subscriptions were in excess, by nearly fourteen millions, of the amount authorized. The full measure of the Secretary's comprehensive plans was insured by the enactment, in 1864, of tax laws, in accordance with his repeated suggestions since 1861, by which the revenue to the government was largely increased, and by the aid of which future secretaries of the treasury will be enabled to "weather" any financial pressure. This great work accomplished, he resigned his secretaryship, June 30, 1864.

The great importance and beneficial results of Mr. Chase's financial measures, adopted as they were in the heat and pressure of the most stupendous war of modern times, and. initiated with a bankrupt treasury, and notice in advance from the great financial powers of Europe, that we "need not expect any assistance from them," render it desirable that they should be somewhat better understood than they have been, and we therefore gladly avail ourselves of the following explanations of them, recently put forth, it is understood, with his own sanction. The objects which he had in view, were:

"I. To establish satisfactory relations between the public credit and the productive industry of the country—in other words; to obtain supplies. The suspension of the banks put an end to the first and most obvious resort, loans of gold, and made new methods indispensable. Then the secretary resorted to legal tender notes, made them a currency, and borrowed them as cash. The patriotism of the people came in aid of the labors of the treasury and the legislation of Congress, and the first great object was made secure.

"II. To provide against disastrous results on a return of peace. This could only be done by providing a national currency. There were about 1,500 State banks in existence which wanted to make their own paper the currency of the country This the secretary resisted, and confined his loans to greenbacks; but he did not drive out their currency, nor indeed did he thinkit exactly honest to so deprive them of it, without giving any equivalent. He preferred to neutralize their opposition to a national currency and make them allies as far as possible, instead of enemies. In his endeavors to secure such results, he proposed the national banking system, and before he left the Department its success was assured.

"The national banks were certain to be useful in many ways, but the secretary's main object was the establishment of a national currency. This saved us from panic and revulsion at the end of the war, and is of inestimable value to men of labor and men of business—indeed, to every class.

"III. The third division of his labor was to provide a funding system. It was unavoidable during the rebellion that every means of credit should be used. He borrowed money every way he could at reasonable rates. The form that suited one lender did not suit another; and the army and navy needed every dollar that could be raised in any form. Hence temporary loans, certificates of deposit, certificates of indebtedness, 7.30 notes, compound interest notes, treasury notes payable after one and two years, etc.

"But it was necessary to have funding loans, into which all these temporary loans could be ultimately merged. To this end the secretary established the 5-20 loan and the 10-40 loan. His belief was that after the $514,000,000 of the 5-20 loan had been taken, the additional amounts needed could be obtained by the 10-40 loan and the temporary loans; but the secretary was ready to resort to the 5-20s in case of emergency. He did get $73,000,000 in the 10-40 loan, and his successors got about $120,000,000 more, at par.

"It is easy to see how Mr. Chase's funding system worked, by examining the last statement of the public debt. The condition is something like this: $1,200,000,000 5-20s; $200,000,000 10-40s; $200,000,000 81s payable now after fourteen years, which can then easily be put into 10-40s; other loans (all temporary), say $500,000,000, of which three fourths consist of  7.30s, convertible, and certain to be converted into 10-40s; and say $400,000,000 greenbacks, including fractional currency, making the debt of $2,500,000,000. So, it may be seen, the whole debt except '81s is already funded, or sure to be funded in 5-20 six per cents, or 10-40 five per cents."

It has been well said of Mr. Chase's conduct in this hazardous and laborious position, that "the nerve he displayed, the breadth of intellect he manifested, the ardor of his patriotism, and the wonders wrought by his financial wisdom and skill throughout the first three years of the rebellion, are so recent and so well remembered, and live so freshly in the hearts of his grateful countrymen, as to render unnecessary any thing more than this simple reference. His enduring fame is built on his measures; his best eulogy is written in his acts. He vindicated the wisdom of the President's choice; he both justified and rewarded the confidence of the people." It is not strange, therefore, that President Lincoln, with strengthened confidence in Mr. Chase's patriotism, ability, and sound judgment, tendered to him, in 1864, the highest judicial seat of the nation, which had become vacant by the death of its venerable incumbent, Roger S. Taney. The nomination of Mr. Chase as Chief Justice, by the Executive, on the 6th of December, 1864, was promptly confirmed by the Senate, and on the 13th of the same month he took his seat upon the bench, " having previously," as the records state, on the same day taken the oath of allegiance, in the room of the judges, and the oath of office, in open court, at his place upon the bench, in the presence of a large number of ladies and gentlemen, who had assembled to witness a ceremony which, in this nation, had taken place but once in sixty-three years preceding." Shortly after his assumption of the duties of this high position, the Chief Justice made an extended tour throughout the recently conquered rebel States—passing down the Atlantic coast and up the Mississippi river—with the purpose of gaining a personal knowledge of the actual condition of the people. During this trip, he embraced every opportunity of conversing unreservedly with all, both white and black, who chose to avail themselves of the knowledge of his presence, and the information thus obtained was placed at the public service in his correspondence with the President and others, while his suggestions of measures necessary and expedient to the proper accomplishment of peace and reconstruction, order and justice, were characterized by a comprehensiveness of view and a noble spirit of Christian patriotism eminently creditable to his head and heart.

Few public men of his years, in this country, possess minds better stored with varied treasures of knowledge, or bear the evidence of severer mental discipline than dr. Chase. To an intellect at once comprehensive, discriminating and retentive, he acids the graces of learning and the power of logic; and whatever subject he treats, is handled with keen insight, breadth of view, thoroughness of reflection, and strength of reasoning. His whole career as a statesman and jurist, and all his public efforts, in popular addresses, newspaper writings, occasional lectures, and contributions to periodical literature, show the same breadth of premise, exactness of statement, logical sequence, completeness of consideration, and power of conclusion, from which we are justified in hoping and expecting much in his present exalted position, where his rulings and decisions have always been characterized by their adherence to the great fundamental principles of equity on which all human law is professedly based. His is no narrow mind to run only in the rut of precedents, and be constantly hampered by the chicanery of rigid constructionists. He goes naturally to the foundation principles, and while he has no superior, either in legal learning and acumen, or in wide and generous culture, upon the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, he is less likely perhaps than any of them to base an opinion on previous decisions either there or in the English courts.

In the trial of Andrew Johnson under the impeachment of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice Chase was, by the Constitution, the presiding officer of the High Court of Impeachment. His course there was marked by dignity and ability. The position was a difficult and trying one, and his powers (it being the first instance of such presidency since the adoption of the Constitution) were not clearly defined; but he acquitted himself admirably in it.

In person Mr. Chase presents the most imposing appearance of any man in public life in this country. He is over six feet in height, portly and well proportioned, with handsome features, and a grand, massive head. Few men possess so much real dignity and grace of manner. But with it all, he is utterly incapable of the arts of the demagogue, or of any effort to win popularity, by "bending the supple hinges of the knee, that thrift may follow fawning." He entered upon his office of Secretary of the Treasury with a property of about one hundred thousand dollars; he left it three years later, after managing the immense finances of the nation in war time, materially poorer than when he assumed office. No man who knew him could doubt, for an instant, his unflinching integrity and honesty.

The name of Chief Justice Chase has often been used in connection with the Presidency, and while an aspiration for that exalted position is not unworthy of one who could not but be conscious "that he had done the State some service," it would have been more worthy of his great and brilliant past career had he remembered that his present office is one of equal honor and of less severe test of character than the Presidency.

We would be glad to present Chief Justice Chase's character to our readers as one without foible or blemish, so highly do we esteem the great work he accomplished for freedom for so many years; but we are afraid that he cannot be acquitted of the charge of coquetting for the Presidency. In 1868, 4t the Democratic National Convention, he, one of the founders of the Anti-Slavery and of the Republican parties, the firmest and most fearless advocate of the measures which made the Union party triumphant in the civil war, and which had been censured over and over again by the Democratic party as ruinous to the Government, was the avowed candidate of a large section of that party for the Presidency, and his daughter, Mrs. Senator Sprague, was through the whole session canvassing actively for his nomination. Defeated in that convention by Horatio Seymour, who secured the nomination but not an election, it was supposed by his old friends that he had given up all hope of reaching a nomination ; and in the interval of a long illness, which it was feared had impaired seriously his intellectual and physical powers, but from which he happily recovered, other men and other issues had become so prominent that he was not even suggested as a candidate. But the old ambition was not yet dead, and he was so unwise as to write the following letter to a friend to be used at the Cincinnati Liberal Reform Convention in May, 1872.

WASHINGTON. D. C., April 29, 1872.


My name, if we may judge from the newspapers, will not be much considered at Cincinnati, and I am quite content and none the less grateful to the friends who think it should be so, as you know I have not sought or desired the nomination. If it were judged the best means of uniting the greatest number of those opposed to the Administration on principle, it would doubtless be my duty to accept it. If any other name be preferred, I shall be entirely satisfied. What is essential with me is that what has been gained—freedom—be secured beyond peradventure; that the currency be placed on a sound basis; that a real reform be accomplished in taxation, internal and external, and in perfect reconciliation of sections and citizens. Your Parkersburg platform, as I remember it, embodies these views substantially, and I hope none contrary to it will be adopted.

Yours truly,

It was a painful commentary on this letter that at that convention he received on the first ballot two and a half votes, on the second, one, and on the subsequent ballots none. Yet despite this slight weakness, Chief Justice Chase is one of our statesmen of whom we have great cause to be proud. His views are broad and profound on all the great questions of statesmanship, and his manliness and strict integrity render him a man to be thoroughly trusted and honored. May he long continue to fill the high office he adorns by his learning and ability.


Source: Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872  

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