Chief Justice Salmon Portland Chase

Chief Justice Salmon Portland Chase joined the U.S. Supreme Court on December 15, 1864, replacing Chief Justice Roger Taney. Chase was born on January 13, 1808 near the western edge of New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1826 and then studied law under Attorney General William Wirt. Chase eventually moved to Ohio and practiced law in Cincinnati, where he voiced strong abolitionist sentiments.

From 1849 to 1855, Chase served in the U.S. Senate as a member of the Free Soil Party. He then became Governor of Ohio as a Republican, which made him the first governor of any state from that recently formed party. Chase served as Governor until 1860, when he failed to obtain the Republican nomination in the presidential election. He then rejoined the U.S. Senate as a Republican. However, he resigned from his seat almost immediately to become the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Abraham Lincoln. Chase held this position for most of the Civil War. He contributed to placing the motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins.

On December 6, 1864, President Lincoln nominated Chase to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on the same day, and he took the judicial oath about a week later. He would spend about eight and a half years as Chief Justice. During this time, his presidential aspirations persisted, but he failed to secure nominations in 1868 and 1872.

In 1868, Chase presided over the Senate impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, who was the first President to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds margin required to remove Johnson, who served the remainder of his term.

Chase responded to the aftermath of the Civil War in the 1869 decision of Texas v. White, declaring that "the Constitution…looks to an indestructible union composed of indestructible states." Thus, the Confederate states never validly left the Union, and legislative acts in those states that sought to give effect to their ordinances of secession were legally void. In the same year, Chase upheld the power of Congress to regulate currency by restraining the circulation of notes issued by state banks.

Near the end of his life, Chase joined the Justices who dissented from the Slaughterhouse Cases, which severely limited the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He died on May 7, 1873 in New York City and was buried in Cincinnati. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite replaced him on the Supreme Court.

Selected Opinions by Chief Justice Chase:

U.S. v. Klein (1871)

Topic: Separation of Powers

By providing that an acceptance of a pardon without a disclaimer shall be conclusive evidence of the acts pardoned, but shall be null and void as evidence of rights conferred by it, Congress invaded the powers both of the judicial and of the executive departments of the government.

Veazie Bank v. Fenno (1869)

Topic: Powers of Congress

Since Congress has undertaken in the exercise of undisputed constitutional power to provide a currency for the whole country, it may constitutionally secure the benefit of it to the people by appropriate legislation. To that end, Congress may restrain by suitable enactments the circulation of any notes not issued under its own authority.

Ex parte McCardle (1869)

Topic: Role of Courts

While the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is conferred by the Constitution, rather than acts of Congress, it is conferred with such exceptions and under such regulations as Congress may make. Therefore, when Congress enacts that the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction over final decisions of the Circuit Courts in certain cases, the act operates as a negation or exception of such jurisdiction in other cases. Moreover, the repeal of the act negates jurisdiction over the cases that it covers.

Mississippi v. Johnson (1867)

Topic: Role of Courts

The legislative and executive departments cannot be restrained in their actions by the judicial department, although the acts of both when performed may be subject to its cognizance.