Salmon P. ChaseFebruary 22. 2013 7:59PM
Salmon P. Chase, the 6th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was born in Cornish on January 13, 1808. He was nominated by President Abraham Lincoln on December 6, 1864. He served as the Chief Justice until the time of his death on May 7, 1873.
Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, Chase was the 23rd Governor of Ohio, served as a U.S. Senator from Ohio twice, and was U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Lincoln. It was his time serving in Lincoln's cabinet that is perhaps most historic, since the country was fighting the Civil War at this time and changes were made to monetary policy as a result.
He attended Dartmouth College, receiving his B.A. and graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1826. He studied law under U.S. Attorney General William Wirt and became a lawyer in Cincinnati, OH after passing the bar in 1829. As a well-known advocate of the anti-slavery movement, Chase quickly became known as the "Attorney General of Fugitive Slaves," helping to counsel fugitive slaves seized in Ohio for rendition to slavery, Under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793.
He married his first wife, Katharine Jane Garmiss in 1834 but she passed away a year later. He married his second wife, Eliza Ann Smith, in 1839 but she also died after 5 years of marriage. His third and final wife, Sarah Bella Dunlap Ludlow, to whom he was married in 1846 also died after they had been married only 6 years. Only two of his six daughters lived into adulthood. He carried this sense of loss throughout his life and it deepened his belief in God and religion.
In 1849, he was elected to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate. During his term, Chase introduced the Pacific Railroad Act and he spoke out vehemently against and opposed the fugitive slave bill that became a part of the Compromise of 1850. He also opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This moved him to form the Anti-Nebraska party which became the new Republican Party.
He became the first Republican governor of Ohio (he was first elected in 1855 and re-elected in 1857). As governor, he was a public education, prison reform and women's rights advocate. He also advocated for the establishment for a geological survey, a bureau of statistics and a railroad commission.
Chase ran for President in 1860 but failed to secure the nomination of the party, even though he was one of the most prominent Republicans in the country at the time. Still, his views on protection were unorthodox from a Republican view, and he had previously considered himself an Independent Democrat. After losing the nomination, Chase joined President Lincoln's cabinet in 1861, becoming the 25th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. As Secretary during the turmoil of the Civil War, Chase established a national banking system, working out the details and requesting Congress to accept them. The system created a market for government bonds and provided for a uniform currency. He was also responsible (though he opposed it) for the issue of a legal tender paper currency, the first being called the greenback demand note, was widely considered the greatest financial bungle of the war.
His face appeared on various paper currency at the time, including the $1 bill. He did this in part to further his political career; his ultimate ambition was to become President of the United States, though he failed to earn the nomination four times.
He is responsible for the motto "In God We Trust" appearing on U.S. currency, largely resulting from the deep religious convictions of the American people during the horrors of the Civil War. On April 22, 1864, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1864. Chase had written to James Pollock, the Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, on November 20, 1861 requesting that a motto be prepared "without unnecessary delay." Three years later "In God We Trust" first appeared on a two-cent coin.
Chase retired from Lincoln's cabinet in June 1864 and on December 6, 1864 he was nominated and confirmed by the Senate on the same day to serve as Chief Supreme Court Justice. One of his first acts as Chief Justice was to appoint the first African-American attorney to argue cases before the Supreme Court, John Rock.
In 1877, New York banker John Thompson named the Chase Manhattan Bank, after him, for his part in passing the National Banks Act of 1863.
Related: Historical Marker