Thursday, March 1, 2012

Salmon P. Chase's Boyhood Escapade

Salmon P. Chase served as U.S. Senator from Ohio 1849-1855, he was the 23rd Governor of Ohio 1856-1860, re-elected as Ohio Senator in 1860, but was called by President Abraham Lincoln to be Secretary of the Treasury in the President’s cabinet 1861-1864. He was placed by Lincoln as the sixth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1864, an office Chase held until 1871.

Upon the death of his father when he was nine, Salmon Chase was raised by his mother and then his uncle, Philander Chase, an Episcopal bishop, and came to live with him in Worthington when the boy was twelve in 1820. When young Salmon was not in school, he did chores about the farm, drove cows to pasture, took grain to the mill.

He once received instructions from his uncle to kill and dress a young pig which was to be roasted for dinner. He knew how to kill and scald him, but he could not pull out the bristles easily. He got a cousin’s razor and neatly shaved the pig, but nearly ruined the razor. This tale was told around Worthington until it reached Henry Howe’s ears. Hardly George Washington’s cherry tree incident, but Howe reports the job was well done.

Salmon lived with his uncle about a year and a half. Mr. Elias Lewis was a bricklayer in Worthington and Salmon assisted him. He spoke with Howe about his pride in that a man who became governor and a chief justice carried mortar for him.

Chase went on to school in Cincinnati (where he later settled and was in a literary society with the Stowes) and Dartmouth College, then moved to Washington, DC to study law. He was politically ambitious, moving from the Liberty Party to the Free Soil Party (“Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” was their motto, coined by Chase) to the Republican Party. Chase opposed slave labor and was among the first to oppose the southern movement to control the Federal Government. As Ohio Governor he supported women’s rights, public education, and prison reform.

His other claim to fame is that his picture is featured on the $10,000 bill, which is now out of circulation, so don’t accept one if it is offered to you as change.

Christine Hayes

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