Chase, Salmon P.


1865 ALS while Chief Justice commending 1st Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry for working in Washington in the summer!


Type: Letter
Description: (1808-1873) Ohio US Senator 1849-55, a founder of the Republican Party, one of the most prominent members of the new Republican Party before becoming Chief Justice. He devoted his energies to the destruction of what he considered “the Slave Power”, the conspiracy of Southern slave owners to seize control of the federal government and block the progress of liberty. For his defense of escaped slaves seized in Ohio under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, Chase was dubbed “the Attorney General for Fugitive Slaves”. He coined the Free Soil Party slogan, “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men”.

1st Republican Ohio Governor 1856-60 & 1861, 1860 Republican Party presidential hopeful. As Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury 1861-64, he suggested establishment of a national banking system, worked out important principles and many of the details, and induced Congress to approve them. This not only secured an immediate market for government bonds, but also provided a permanent uniform, stable national currency. Chase ensured that the Union could sell debt to pay for the war effort. The 1st federal currency, the “greenback” demand note, was printed in 1861–62, and is the basis for today’s paper currency. Chase designed the notes and to further his political career, his face appeared on a variety of paper currency, starting with the $1 bill. To honor Chase for introducing the modern system of banknotes, he was depicted on the 1928 -46 $10,000 bill. He was instrumental in placing the phrase “In God We Trust” on US coins.

As US Chief Justice 1864-73, he presided over the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.  Among his more significant decisions on the Court were: Texas v. White (1869 in which he asserted that the Constitution provided for a permanent union, composed of indestructible states, while allowing some possibility of divisibility “through revolution, or through consent of the States”; Veazie Bank v. Fenno (1869), upholding Civil War banking legislation that imposed a 10% tax on state banknotes; and Hepburn v. Griswold (1870) which declared certain parts of the Legal Tender Acts to be unconstitutional. When Hepburn was reversed in the Legal Tender Cases in 1871 & 1872, he wrote an able dissent.

Chase National Bank, predecessor of Chase Manhattan Bank (now JPMorgan Chase), was named in his honor, though he had no affiliation with it.

7 ¾ x 5 ALS “SP Chase” while Chief Justice (in his usually difficult handwriting), Portland (Maine), July 27 1865, to “my dear Professor [scientist-1st Smithsonian Institution Secretary Joseph] Henry”. Chase returns a signed requisition, is glad Henry is getting on well with the work, and perhaps joshingly says Henry “is entitled to great praise for your willingness to remain in Washington this summer & watch over the interests of the Smithsonian.” However, like Chase, might Henry not “take some journey?” In closing he suggests Henry “do with the bust what you please.” Interesting association!

Joseph Henry (1797-1878) American scientist, 1st Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1846-78, having been Secretary for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, a precursor of the Smithsonian. Highly regarded in his lifetime, while building electromagnets, he discovered the electromagneticphenomenon of self-inductance and also discovered mutual inductance independently of Faraday (Faraday first to make the discovery and publish his results). Henry developed the electromagnet into a practical device. He invented a precursor to the electric doorbell (a bell that could be rung at a distance via an electric wire, 1831) and electric relay (1835), the electromagnetic relay the basis of the practical electrical telegraph invented by S. F. B. Morse and Sir Charles Wheatstone, separately. In his honor the SI unit of inductance is named “the henry”.

He was appointed 1st Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846, serving to 1878. In late 1861-early 1862, Henry oversaw a series of lectures by prominent abolitionists at the Smithsonian. Speakers included white clergymen, politicians, and activists; Henry refused to allow Frederick Douglass to attend. On Henry’s recommendation Thaddeus Lowe formed the Army’s “Balloon Corps” and served 2 years with the Army of the Potomac as a Civil War “Aeronaut”. As a famous scientist and director of the Smithsonian, Henry was visited by other scientists and inventors who sought his advice, incl. Alexander Graham Bell. Henry said Bell had “the germ of a great invention” and advised him not to publish his ideas until he had perfected the invention.

John Philip Sousa wrote the “Transit of Venus March” for the unveiling of the Joseph Henry statue in front of the Smithsonian Castle in 1883, played by the Marine Band. A bronze statue of Henry stands on the rotunda of the Library of Congress.

Condition: Very good, very light staining at right corners

Product Search

Product categories

Quick Links