Salmon Portland Chase was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, on January 13, 1808.
Following his father’s death in 1817, Chase was sent to Ohio to live with his uncle Philander Chase, an Episcopalian bishop.
Chase attended Cincinnati College starting in 1822 and then Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1826.
When Chase was nine years old, his father died, and the youth was placed under the care of an uncle, who was the Protestant Episcopal bishop of Ohio.
Receiving secular and religious training in Ohio, he enrolled at Cincinnati College where his uncle was president. Chase moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1830 and began practicing law.
During this time he helped establish his legal reputation by writing a multi-volume history of Ohio laws and statutes.
In 1834 he married Catherine Garniss, the daughter of a local businessman.
The brief marriage ended with her death in 1835.
Chase married Eliza Smith in 1839, and the two would have three children before her death in 1845.
Chase first entered politics in 1840, when he served in the Cincinnati city council.
He later led the abolitionist Liberty Party and was instrumental in combining it with antislavery Democrats and Whigs to form the Free Soil Party, which opposed the expansion of slavery into the western U.S. territories.
Chase coined the party’s famous motto: “Free Soil, Free Labor and Free Men.”
At the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago, Chase permitted the delegates pledged to him to cast decisive votes for Lincoln on the third ballot.
As a reward Lincoln appointed him secretary of the Treasury, in which position for the next three years he was responsible for financing the Union war efforts.
The Ohio legislature decided to return him to the U. S. Senate in 1861, where he served but two days before resigning to become Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury.
During the Civil War, he faced the daunting task of financing the Union war effort and maintaining the nation’s solvency.
He created a national banking system, issued fiat money, and established an Internal Revenue Division.
Chase was a constant critic of Lincoln’s policies, inundating the President with unsolicited advice and proffering his resignation four times in fits of pique.
He held the Treasury post until June 1864, and in December of that year he was appointed chief justice to succeed Roger Brooke Taney, who had died in October.
As secretary of the treasury, Chase presided over the complex and difficult task of financing the war; he was instrumental in establishing the national banking system in 1863.
But his more radical antislavery views, as well as political ambition, put him at odds with the more moderate Lincoln.
Eventually, in 1864, Lincoln accepted Chase’s resignation because, as Lincoln said, they had reached a point of “mutual embarrassment” in their official relations.
Nevertheless, when Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney died in October of that year, Lincoln appointed Chase to the position.
It was he who administered the presidential oath to Andrew Johnson following Lincoln’s assassination.