Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Salmon P. Chase

New Hampshire & Ohio

Engraving by H.B. Hall, Jr.


The Biographical Dictionary of Ohio of the Nineteeth Century
(Cincinnatti & Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Co., 1876)

William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 167-169 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

SALMON PORTLAND CHASE was born in the town of Cornish, New Hampshire, on the thirteenth day of January, in the year 1808. At the age of seven years, on the removal of his father to Keene, he was taken to that town and placed at school. At the age of twelve, his father having in the mean time died, he sought the home of his uncle, Philander Chase, then Bishop of Ohio, at Worthington, in this State, and under that excellent and active man pursued his studies for some time. Bishop Chase, having been elected to the Presidency of Cincinnati College, removed to that city for the purpose of entering upon the discharge of the responsible duties thus devolved upon him, taking his nephew with him. Salmon entered the college forthwith, and was soon raised to the Sophomore class. He continued at Cincinnati only about a year, when he returned to the home of his mother in New Hampshire, and in 1824 entered the Junior class of Dartmouth College, where he was graduated two years after.

These several changes were not the most favorable to Mr. Chase's education, but he improved his opportunities well, and graduated with honor. The world was now before him where to choose, and he was to be the artificer of his own fortunes. The winter succeeding, he went to Washington City, and, receiving good encouragement, opened a classical school for boys. This school was prosperous, and he continued it for about three years, pursuing, at the same time, a thorough study of the law, under the direction of' the distinguished William Wirt. Having been admitted to the bar of the District of Columbia, and closed his school in 1829, he removed to Cincinnati in the spring of 1830, and took up his permanent residence in that city-engaging in the practice of his profession.

Working in that probation through which many sleep, Mr. Chase soon made himself known as an earnest thinker, a good writer, and a forcible speaker. He was an accepted contributor to the pages of the North American Review, an occasional writer for the Western Monthly Magazine [Cincinnati, 1827-30], and a favorite member of the intellectual associations and social circles of the city. Among his contributions to the former periodical, which was at the time regarded as the model American work in its department, an elaborate article on "Brougham," and a dissertation on "Machinery," are remembered as having been received by the newspaper press and the literary public with great favor. At this time he prepared an edition of the Statutes of Ohio, with copious annotations and a preliminary sketch of the history of the State, in three large octavo volumes. The manner in which this work was performed gave him an immediate reputation among the members of the bar, and secured him almost at once a most desirable position in the active commercial community by which he was surrounded. A valuable practice soon sought him out; in 1834 he became solicitor of the Bank of the United States in Cincinnati, and not long after that assumed a like position in one of the city banks.

The first important case that brought him distinctly and prominently before the public, outside of commercial practice, occurred in the year 1837. This was a "fugitive slave case," in which Mr. Chase acted as counsel for a colored woman, claimed under the law of 1793. The same year, in an argument before the Supreme Court of Ohio, in defense of James G. Birney, prosecuted under a State law for harboring a negro slave, Mr. Chase so acquitted himself as to add materially to his already honorable reputation, and inspire general confidence in his learning, skill, readiness, and power as a jurist. His status at the bar was now an undoubted one. He took rank with the oldest and ablest practitioners. But the very zeal with which he entered into the cases referred to, and others of a kindred nature—the thoroughness of his preparation, and the ability of his argument—while they fixed his reputation as a lawyer, and rapidly increased the business committed to his charge, at the same time tended to draw him aside from the legitimate and most successful practice of his profession, and start him in a new and untried career.

The extension of the anti-slavery sentiment, and his prominent connection with a class of cases so nearly allied to it, together with the fact that this sentiment was fast receiving vitality in organized forms, gradually drew him into politics. Previous to the year, 1841, though ranking with the young Whigs of Cincinnati, and acting with them, he had never taken any thing like a prominent part in their movements. During this year, his anti-slavery sentiments having been strengthened by observation and reflection, and it appearing certain to him that legitimate aims which he regarded as of paramount importance could hope to be attained only through the instrumentality of party organization, he united in a call for the State Liberty Convention of Ohio, and subsequently for the National Liberty Convention of 1843, in the proceedings of' both of which he took a part whose prominence was surpassed by that of no other man.

Mr. Chase's political career was now fully commenced, and has been continued with activity and ability ever since. He was chosen a Senator of the United States from Ohio in the year 1849, and served his full term with much distinction. In 1855 he was elected Governor of Ohio, and in 1857 re-elected—administering affairs with great ability and prudence, and by his wisdom and devotion to the interests of the State, commanding respect at home and abroad. In the beginning of 1860 he was again elected to the Senate of the United States . . . .

Judging Mr. Chase's future by his past, that section of the Union to which he more particularly belongs, will have cause to congratulate itself upon his re-election to the Senate, should it be in the order of events that he is there to take the oath of office. Throughout the Senatorial service which he has already rendered, the most abundant evidence was afforded of his attachment to the great and free North-West, whose interests he watched over with the most jealous care. No narrow feelings of sectionalism, however, control his actions; and when his responsibilities as Senator are renewed, his vision, we are satisfied, will have a broad national scope.

While a student of law, and during the first years of his practice at the bar, history, biography, mechanics, politics and general literature, each received a due share of Mr. Chase's attention. And during the period embraced within the first three or four years after attaining to his majority, few men of his years in the country had better stored minds, or exhibited more striking marks of good mental discipline. Though his education had been several times interrupted, and was at best, more or less, piecemeal in its nature, yet, through a mind comprehensive, discriminating, and sufficiently retentive, he brought to whatever task he undertook the graces of learning and the force of logic, and when he left it, whether complete or incomplete, the evidences were abundant of keenness of insight, extent of view, thoroughness of reflection, and strength of reasoning. The same breadth of premise, exactness of statement, logical sequence, completeness of consideration, and power of conclusion, that have since, in a more remarkable degree, characterized his career as a jurist and a statesman, marked all his better efforts during the period under view. In public discourses, newspaper writings, occasional lectures, and contributions to periodical literature—in each of which departments he did a few things carefully, and not many things "hastily and with a bad pen"—these traits are observable.

During his student-life, Mr. Chase often wooed the muses successfully . . . . Later in life, as a recreation, and from early love, he has indulged in similar pastimes; and amid the turbulence of politics, he often now flies for peaceful enjoyment to the quiet of a library stored with the master songs of the world, ancient and modern. Among recent literary recreations, in which we have known him to engage, is the translation of various specimens of the Latin poets into an English form, which present with striking excellence the wit and beauty of the original.

Robert B. Warden, An Account of the Private Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase (Cincinnati: Wilstach, Bladwin & Co., 1874)

Salmon P. Chase
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

Salmon P. Chase

The Seventh Chief Justice
L.J. Bigelow, Bench and Bar: A Complete Digest
of the Wit, Humor, Asperities, and Amenities of the Law

(New York: Harper & Brothers, 1871)

Salmon P. Chase

Birthplace & Boyhood Home

Biographical Encyclopedia of Ohio of the 19th Century

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Chase: Teaching History Online

Salmon P. Chase
Chase Family Webpage

Chase on the Flood of '32

On the Road with Salmon Chase

Salmon P. Chase
Secretrary of Treasury

Henry W. Scott, Distinguished American Lawyers, With Their Struggles
and Triumphs in The Forum

(New York: Charles L. Webster & Company, 1891)

Legal Argument

The Electric Telegraph. Substance of the argument of S.P. Chase before the Supreme Court of the United States, for the appellants in the case of H. O'Reilly, and others vs. S.F.B. Morse, and others, on appeal from the Circuit Court for the district of Kentucky (New York: Baker, Godwin, 1853) [online text]

Journals, Correspondence & Papers

John Niven (ed.), The Salmon P. Chase Papers (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1993-1998)

Salmon P. Chase, Diary and Correspondence of Salmon P. Chase New York: Da Capo Press, 1971)

David Donald (ed.), Inside Lincoln's Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase (New York: Longmans, Green, 1954)


Salmon P. Chase, A Preliminary Sketch of the History of Ohio (Cincinnati: Corey, 1833)

Salmon Portland Chase & Charles Dexter Cleveland, Anti-Slavery Addresses of 1844 and 1845 (Philadelphia: J. A. Bancroft and Co., 1867) [online text] (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969)


Harold M. Hyman, The Reconstruction Justice of Salmon P. Chase: In Re Turner and Texas v. White (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997)

John Niven, Salmon P. Chase: A Biography (New York, Oxford University Press, 1995)

J. W. Schuckers, Life and Public Services of Salmon P. Chase (New York: D. Appleton, 1874)(New York: Da Capo Press, 1970)

Robert B. Warden, An Account of the Private Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase (Cincinnati: Wilstach, Baldwin & Co., 1874) [online text]

Albert Bushnell Hart, Salmon Portland Chase (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1899) [online text]

Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Salmon Portland Chase: Undergraduate and Pedagogue (F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1919) [online text]

Bibliography: Articles and Biographical Profiles

Gordon A. Christenson, A Tale of Two Lawyers in Antebellum Cincinnati: Timothy Walker's last Conversation with Salmon P. Chase, 71 U. Cin. L. Rev. 457-492 (2002)

Donn Piatt, Salmon P. Chase, 143 North American Review 599-615 (December, 1886) [Donn Piatt, like Chase, was a lawyer and an a poet]

N.S. Townshend, Salmon P. Chase, 1 Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 111 (September, 1887) [online text]

"Salmon Portland Chase," in Henry W. Scoll, Distinguished American Lawyers with Their Struggles and Triumphs in the Forum 133-142 (New York: Charles L. Webster, 1891) [online text]

Library of Congress


Salmon P. Chase Papers
University of Virginia
Charlottsville, Virginia

A History of the Republican Convention in Philadelphia