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Date modified22-Apr-14 18:25
05620 - Salmon P. Chase; Secretary of the Treasury 1861-1864 [LC-DIG-cwpb-05620]

05620 - Salmon P. Chase; Secretary of the Treasury 1861-1864 [LC-DIG-cwpb-05620]

Salmon Chase was born in New Hampshire just a little less than a year before Abraham Lincoln. At the age of nine, as his father lay dying, he stabbed young Salmon in the eye, blinding him. For the rest of his life he wore a glass eye in its place. His mother raised him and her nine other children with the help of relatives. Salmon was raised by his uncle, an Episcopal bishop.

After college he moved to Washington D.C. to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1829. The following year he moved to Ohio and began practicing law. He became well known for defending fugitive slaves in Cincinnati by claiming that once they left a slave state, they were slaves no longer.


On the political front, he joined the Whig Party, then the Liberty Party and later the Free Soil Party, who elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1848. In 1854 he became one of the founding leaders of the Republican Party with the express intent on ending slavery. The following year he was elected Governor of Ohio and served from 1856-1860.

Losing the Republican nomination in 1860 to Lincoln he ran successfully again for Senate. Three days after taking office however he resigned to become Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln. During his tenure he helped to establish the national banking system and the first issuance of paper currency. The banking system helped the U.S. sell bonds to help fund the war and paper currency reduced the demand for gold and silver which were in short supply.

Chase resigned in June 1864 but by December he was back in the spotlight when Lincoln nominated him to be the 6th Chief Justice of the United States. Remarkably he was nominated, confirmed and sworn in on December 6th, 1864. One of the most memorable cases during his tenure was the impeachment of President Johnson.


In 1868 he again switched parties, this time in an unsuccessful bid to become the Democratic nominee. During the next election in 1872 he again ran for president, this time under the short lived “Liberal Republican Party”. The entire time he remained Chief Justice and died of a stroke the following year. To honor his introduction of paper currency the treasury department had his image placed on the $10,000, which was used for bank transfers between 1928-1946. Today he is remembered as the namesake of Chase Manhattan bank which today is JP Morgan Chase.