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Chase, Salmon P. (1808–1873)

Born in New Hampshire, Chase grew up in Ohio, establishing a legal practice in Cincinnati in 1830. An early and ardent crusader against slavery, in 1840 Chase left the Democrats to join the Liberal party and later the Free Soil party, serving as chairman of the convention in Buffalo (1848) to which Whitman was a delegate. U.S. senator (1849–1855) and governor of Ohio (1856–1860), Chase was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination (1860). As Secretary of the Treasury (1861–1864) he ably performed the difficult task of financing the Civil War, and as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1864–1873), he presided over the impeachment trial of President Johnson (1868).

Having heard that Whitman's writings "have given him a bad repute" (qtd. in Allen 311), as Secretary of the Treasury Chase would not offer Whitman a position in the Treasury Department and even kept Emerson's letter of recommendation. In The Solitary Singer, Gay Wilson Allen suggests that Chase was being cautious because of his political ambitions, though noting that Chase was religious and conservative in social matters and may therefore have acted upon his beliefs. Efforts by Chase to achieve the presidency in 1868 and 1872 were greeted with scorn by Whitman, who called Chase "the meanest and biggest kind of a shyster" (Whitman 35).


Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.

Belden, Thomas G. and Marva R. So Fell the Angels. Boston: Little, Brown, 1956.

Blue, Frederick J. Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics. Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP, 1987.

Myerson, Joel, ed. Whitman in His Own Time. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1991.

Vexler, Robert I. The Vice-Presidents and Cabinet Members. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana, 1975.

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. Vol. 2. New York: New York UP, 1961.

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