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Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival

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An NPR Best Book of 2022 From an acclaimed New York Times bestselling biographer, an “eloquently written, impeccably researched, and intensely moving” (The Wall Street Journal) reassessment of Abraham Lincoln’s indispensable Secretary of the Treasury: a leading proponent for black rights during his years in cabinet and later as Chief Justice of the United States. Salmon P. An NPR Best Book of 2022 From an acclaimed New York Times bestselling biographer, an “eloquently written, impeccably researched, and intensely moving” (The Wall Street Journal) reassessment of Abraham Lincoln’s indispensable Secretary of the Treasury: a leading proponent for black rights during his years in cabinet and later as Chief Justice of the United States. 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 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. 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 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 offers a “revelatory” (The Christian Science Monitor) new look at the pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath, and a “superb” (James McPherson), “magisterial” (Amanda Foreman) account of a complex forgotten man at the center of the fight for racial justice in 19th century America.


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An NPR Best Book of 2022 From an acclaimed New York Times bestselling biographer, an “eloquently written, impeccably researched, and intensely moving” (The Wall Street Journal) reassessment of Abraham Lincoln’s indispensable Secretary of the Treasury: a leading proponent for black rights during his years in cabinet and later as Chief Justice of the United States. Salmon P. An NPR Best Book of 2022 From an acclaimed New York Times bestselling biographer, an “eloquently written, impeccably researched, and intensely moving” (The Wall Street Journal) reassessment of Abraham Lincoln’s indispensable Secretary of the Treasury: a leading proponent for black rights during his years in cabinet and later as Chief Justice of the United States. 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 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. 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 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 offers a “revelatory” (The Christian Science Monitor) new look at the pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath, and a “superb” (James McPherson), “magisterial” (Amanda Foreman) account of a complex forgotten man at the center of the fight for racial justice in 19th century America.

30 review for Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    https://thebestbiographies.com/2022/0... Anyone who has read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s riveting biography of Abraham Lincoln is familiar with Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873). He was a passionate anti-slavery voice, a U.S. Senator, Governor of Ohio, helped establish the Republican Party, served as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court…and was the inspiration behind a large piece of what is now J.P. Morgan Chase. This author’s fondness – almost reverence – for Chase is https://thebestbiographies.com/2022/0... Anyone who has read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s riveting biography of Abraham Lincoln is familiar with Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873). He was a passionate anti-slavery voice, a U.S. Senator, Governor of Ohio, helped establish the Republican Party, served as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court…and was the inspiration behind a large piece of what is now J.P. Morgan Chase. This author’s fondness – almost reverence – for Chase is obvious from the book’s first pages and is occasionally distracting. But if Stahr works too hard in early chapters to position Chase as a more progressive thinker than his contemporaries (including Abraham Lincoln) at least the claim is convincingly-argued. Almost every aspect of Chase’s life is subject to thorough scrutiny, but there are important people and moments that are frustratingly elusive. Notable examples: Chase’s wives (there were three), the Republican convention that nominated Lincoln for president (a nomination Chase had sought), and Lincoln’s cabinet selection process which landed Chase at the head of the Treasury Department. A lack of historical evidence is responsible for Stahr’s brevity where Chase’s wives are concerned. But fans of Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” will be surprised to find that virtually none of the animated intensity she injected into her narrative found its way into Stahr’s version of the same events. And while Chase’s career was impressive, it can be assumed that his personality did not often result in his being the life of a party. So while Stahr’s insight and analysis is consistently impressive, the narrative is often dry and lacks the literary joie de vivre that makes the very best biographies so utterly engrossing. But this biography’s merits far outweigh its weaknesses. Stahr is consistently careful to provide context for new places, events and situations – important for readers unfamiliar with Chase or his era. He handles complex, and often arcane, topics adroitly. And he embeds dozens of photographs and images throughout the text – each placed in context-appropriate locations rather than being grouped together arbitrarily. Readers with an interest in the topic of slavery will find this a valuable and wonderfully expansive history of the anti-slavery movement – particularly as seen from Chase’s perspective. And Stahr pays close attention to his subject’s early career as a lawyer when he enthusiastically defended escaped slaves as well as people prosecuted for assisting them. Finally, while Chase’s decade on the Supreme Court can make for dry reading, these chapters are both insightful and incisive. Most readers will find the comparison of the Supreme Court of Chase’s time and of today to be fascinating. And a chapter discussing the impeachment of Andrew Johnson (again, largely from Chase’s judicial point-of-view) is memorably interesting. Overall, Walter Stahr’s biography of Salmon Chase proves itself a very good biography of an important 19th-century political figure. While Stahr isn’t able to fully overcome his subject’s reserved demeanor and dry style, readers with a modicum of persistence will find this an unusually sober, thoughtful and penetrating biography. And it might be exactly the biography Salmon Chase deserves. Overall rating: 4¼ stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    This biography fills a huge gap in chronicling Lincoln's cabinet during the war and after. If you haven't already read the author's other works on Stanton and Seward, consider doing so. This is just great biography, no matter how you slice it. The author chronicles Chase's rise from humble farm worker to Chief Justice on the Supreme Court. An excellent book!!! This biography fills a huge gap in chronicling Lincoln's cabinet during the war and after. If you haven't already read the author's other works on Stanton and Seward, consider doing so. This is just great biography, no matter how you slice it. The author chronicles Chase's rise from humble farm worker to Chief Justice on the Supreme Court. An excellent book!!!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    This book is a very good biography of Salmon P. Chase. It is well researched and written. The author delves into how Chase developed into a strong antislavery advocate early in his life and his subsequent attempts to end the practice through various political parties in which he participated and help develop. He served as Secretary of the Treasury during Lincoln’s terms in office and was also Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was not an overly complicated man, but his personal life was marr This book is a very good biography of Salmon P. Chase. It is well researched and written. The author delves into how Chase developed into a strong antislavery advocate early in his life and his subsequent attempts to end the practice through various political parties in which he participated and help develop. He served as Secretary of the Treasury during Lincoln’s terms in office and was also Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was not an overly complicated man, but his personal life was marred by tragedy a number of time. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in learning about one of the main characters in Lincoln’s Team of Rivals. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and my nonfiction book review blog.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A biography tracing the life of this public figure who was a contender along with Lincoln for the presidency and who played a vital role in his cabinet, and then as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was one of Lincoln’s rivals for the Republican nomination for president in 1860 and served in his cabinet, financing the Union war effort as the Secretary of the Treasury. But there was far more to the life of this public servant that makes him well worth the full length biography Walter Summary: A biography tracing the life of this public figure who was a contender along with Lincoln for the presidency and who played a vital role in his cabinet, and then as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was one of Lincoln’s rivals for the Republican nomination for president in 1860 and served in his cabinet, financing the Union war effort as the Secretary of the Treasury. But there was far more to the life of this public servant that makes him well worth the full length biography Walter Stahr has given us. Born a New Englander and Dartmouth educated, after reading for the bar exam, he moved to Cincinnati and was strongly identified with Ohio’s politics thereafter. From Cincinnati’s leading attorney, he served twice in the U.S. Senate from Ohio and four years as Ohio’s governor. From defending fugitive slaves to becoming one of the leading anti-slavery advocates of the day, Chase sought to curb the spread of slavery and was far out in front of Lincoln and almost every white of his day in his advocacy for the equality of Blacks, not only arguing for their freedom but for their rights to vote and fully participate in society. It was one of the factors that cost him the presidential nomination Setting aside his own ambitions, he campaigned vigorously for Lincoln in 1860, and then answered Lincoln’s call to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury. Not only did he find the resources through loans and taxes to finance the war effort, he reformed the country’s banking system and gave us a common currency rather than the myriad of banknotes issued by different banks. He employed women to work in the treasury. His advice to Lincoln went beyond the nation’s finances to counselling the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1864, he set aside presidential ambitions once again to accept Lincoln’s nomination to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice, a role that would be critical in post-war cases on the rights of Blacks, America’s financial system, and the relation of the states to the Union. He would preside over the first presidential impeachment in U.S. history, helping establish precedents followed in more recent impeachments after his efforts to save Johnson from himself failed. At least three things stood out to me in Stahr’s biography. One is that Chase is worthy to be considered America’s William Wilberforce. His anti-slavery advocacy was early and never wavered, though often disregarded or thwarted. Second, he was deeply acquainted with tragedy, burying three wives and several children and the unhappy marriage of his daughter Katherine. Third, was that he was a man of deep religious faith, that undergirded his efforts and sustained him in loss. All of this makes Chase one of the most noteworthy public servants of this period in American history, despite an odd first name that Chase counseled his daughter not to pass on. Stahr portrays Chase as a man of ambition and yet not an overweening ambition. He both recognized when the first place would go to others and also when the public good required setting aside his private ambitions. Although he had no role in its founding, Chase bank bears his name in recognition of the important role he played in the nation’s finances and banking system. He died comparatively young at age 65. But it was a life well and fully lived, as Stahr’s biography attests. He was a workhorse in the nation’s service, whether in criss-crossing the country during campaigns, working tirelessly during the war, or writing more opinions than his fellow justices and covering a large circuit when this was part of a justice’s duties. Above all, he was a champion of liberty, for fully realizing the ideals of the nation articulated by Jefferson in the Declaration, for Blacks and for women.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    This biography is meticulously researched and well balanced. After reading it I came away thinking that Chase has not been treated kindly by history and that he is a great man who was ahead of his time in his opposition to slavery and advocacy for the right to vote for Blacks and whose service as Secretary of Treasury during the Civil War not only was key to the Union's success but also set the foundation for rationale currency and banking law that continues to benefit the United States. That th This biography is meticulously researched and well balanced. After reading it I came away thinking that Chase has not been treated kindly by history and that he is a great man who was ahead of his time in his opposition to slavery and advocacy for the right to vote for Blacks and whose service as Secretary of Treasury during the Civil War not only was key to the Union's success but also set the foundation for rationale currency and banking law that continues to benefit the United States. That the author, Walter Stahr, discusses Chase's occasional flaws such as his personal ambition leading him astray during the 1868 Presidential election gives more credibility to the thesis of the book. Chase was outspoken against slavery and for voting rights and civil rights for Blacks in Ohio in the 1840s. As a lawyer he represented many escaped slaves and allies for free. As a political leader he led the way for Blacks getting the right to vote in Ohio. In 1845, Chase received a silver pitcher from the free Blacks of Cincinnati to thank him for his legal work. In accepting it he urged an amendment to the Ohio constitution to guarantee the right for Blacks to vote. That speech and his work was used against Chase for the rest of his life. As Senator, Chase argued against the Compromise of 1850. History has proved Chase right but the proponents such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster have been lionized while Chase and other opponents have been dismissed as "radicals" Chase did have ambition but that is hardly unique. And while I came away admiring the views and record of Chase much more than that of Lincoln, I still believe that Lincoln was the right choice for President, he was better able to unite the country during its greatest crisis. However, Lincoln was a better President because of the pressure by Chase and others for abolition and civil rights. Chase continued his advocacy during Reconstruction, he was one of the "Radicals" pushing for civil rights and protections though he had a nuanced view on military reconstruction. His actions during the 1868 Presidential election are disappointing, he tried to get the Democratic nomination after it was clear that the Republicans were going to nominate Grant and in almost a pout he sat out the general election. But even here he later conceded that Grant was much better on Reconstruction than he feared The biography also discusses Chase's record as Chief Justice after Lincoln appointed him to replace Taney. Many of his decisions are still cited. And while today we may cringe at his crossing the lines between the roles of Chief Justice and advocacy in the political arena, it was a different time when the lines were not so clear, and it is clear that his heart was in the right place

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Shaffer

    I finished Walter Stahr's. Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival. A cradle to grave biography on Salmon Chase who was essentially a lifetime abolitionist. He had an impressive career as a lawyer, early member of the Republican Party, one term U.S. Senator, 2 term Governor of Ohio, Secretary a of Treasury under Abraham Lincoln and was appointed by Lincoln to replace Chief Justice Roger Taney, (infamous author of the Dred Scott decision) and served in this role under Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and Ul I finished Walter Stahr's. Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival. A cradle to grave biography on Salmon Chase who was essentially a lifetime abolitionist. He had an impressive career as a lawyer, early member of the Republican Party, one term U.S. Senator, 2 term Governor of Ohio, Secretary a of Treasury under Abraham Lincoln and was appointed by Lincoln to replace Chief Justice Roger Taney, (infamous author of the Dred Scott decision) and served in this role under Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant until his death in office. The sitting judge for the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial. A rival of Abraham Lincoln for the presidency. Very much like Henry Clay, a great man whose ambition to be President often got ahead of him and hurt his credibility. Many of us know if Salmon Chase, but this book lays out his character, greatness, ambition and warts. It paints the picture of a Secretary of the Treasury who helped put the U.S. on solid financial footing, helped the foundation of the income tax and let the U.S. emerge economically strong out of the Civil War. A wonderful 5 star book that comes in at 673 pages if reading. A hearty endorsement.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John Cassidy

    I read the entire book except for the chapter notes at the end. It's outstanding. Meticulous research. Gave me some further insight into Lincoln and the civil war period. I think the national anti slavery movement cannot be adequately grasped in this 1840 to 1863 period without reading about Chase's life. I'm originally from Illinois so wanted to understand Lincoln's contemporaries. I already read an extensive biography of Lincoln before reading this book. I came to understand what a pivotal role I read the entire book except for the chapter notes at the end. It's outstanding. Meticulous research. Gave me some further insight into Lincoln and the civil war period. I think the national anti slavery movement cannot be adequately grasped in this 1840 to 1863 period without reading about Chase's life. I'm originally from Illinois so wanted to understand Lincoln's contemporaries. I already read an extensive biography of Lincoln before reading this book. I came to understand what a pivotal role Chase had establishing the national banking system and national currency we have today. In God we trust, on our paper currency came from Chase. This book is included for further reading in the excellent Wikipedia article about SP Chase. I liked the section near the end of the book, where Stahr took time to connect several of Chase's Supreme Court decisions to their citing in subsequent cases in the late 20th and 21st centuries. It showed his jurisprudence is relevant today.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John Bicknell

    "His life in the anti-slavery movement stands at the heart of the book, an attempt to rescue him from the popular oblivion that often befalls those who fail to become president. It’s a mission that deserves success because Stahr has an important story to tell about Chase’s central role in the on-the-ground political work of the anti-slavery movement and the building of three political parties." Full review: https://lawliberty.org/book-review/ch... "His life in the anti-slavery movement stands at the heart of the book, an attempt to rescue him from the popular oblivion that often befalls those who fail to become president. It’s a mission that deserves success because Stahr has an important story to tell about Chase’s central role in the on-the-ground political work of the anti-slavery movement and the building of three political parties." Full review: https://lawliberty.org/book-review/ch...

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Provost

    This readable and well written tome does an excellent job of letting the reader know everything they might want to know about this little known American statesman (maybe too much). It always takes me a long time to read such a densely detailed book, but in this instance I found it well worth that time. This is the second of Stahr's book that I have read (I also read his tome on Seward) and I think I will put a third biography of a member of Lincoln's cabinet (Stanton) on my to read list. This readable and well written tome does an excellent job of letting the reader know everything they might want to know about this little known American statesman (maybe too much). It always takes me a long time to read such a densely detailed book, but in this instance I found it well worth that time. This is the second of Stahr's book that I have read (I also read his tome on Seward) and I think I will put a third biography of a member of Lincoln's cabinet (Stanton) on my to read list.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ray Peck

    A really smart take on a forgotten man in American history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Lewis

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leah Sheppard

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marty

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scott Stevens

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dovie Eisner

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brownt

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Yockey

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robert Emmerson

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deane

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Hudak

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karl Hafer, Jr.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Satzow

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa May

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gordon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt Thomas

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