Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival
By Walter Stahr
Salmon P. Chase is best remembered as a rival of Lincoln’s for the Republican nomination in 1860—but there would not have been a national Republican Party, and Lincoln could not have won the presidency, were it not for the vital groundwork Chase laid over the previous two decades. Starting in the early 1840s, long before Lincoln was speaking out against slavery, Chase was forming and leading antislavery parties. He represented fugitive slaves so often in his law practice that he was known as the attorney general for runaway negroes, and he furthered his reputation as an outspoken federal senator and progressive governor of Ohio.
Tapped by Lincoln to become Secretary of the Treasury, Chase would soon prove vital to the Civil War effort, raising the billions of dollars that allowed the Union to win the war, while also pressing the president to emancipate the country’s slaves and recognize black rights. When Lincoln had the chance to appoint a chief justice in 1864, he chose his faithful rival, because he was sure Chase would make the right decisions on the difficult racial, political, and economic issues the Supreme Court would confront during Reconstruction.
Drawing on previously overlooked sources, Walter Stahr sheds new light on a complex and fascinating political figure, as well as on the pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath. Salmon P. Chase tells the forgotten story of a man at the center of the fight for racial justice in 19th century America.