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Salmon P. Chase

Lincoln's Vital Rival

Walter Stahr


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From an acclaimed, New York Times bestselling biographer, a timely reassessment of Abraham Lincoln’s indispensable Secretary of the Treasury: a leading proponent for black rights both before and 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 vital 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, and he furthered his reputation as an outspoken federal senator and progressive governor of Ohio.

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 emancipate the country’s slaves and 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 sheds new light on a complex and fascinating political figure, as well as on the pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath. Salmon P. Chase tells the forgotten story of a man at the center of the fight for racial justice in 19th century America.

Praise For Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival

“Long viewed as either a pretentious thorn in Lincoln’s side, or the beneficiary of Lincoln’s generosity in overlooking his flaws for the good of the nation, Salmon P. Chase has long deserved a full, fresh, fair reappraisal. With this sweeping, meticulously researched, and convincingly argued biography, Walter Stahr has produced just such a study. Stahr adds dimension and depth to Chase’s image and restores him to his rightful place as a genuine antislavery hero, however flawed by clumsy ambition. Anyone interested in the freedom politics of the mid-19th century should regard this fine book as an essential resource.”
 Harold Holzer, winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

“With meticulous research, Walter Stahr breathes new life into Salmon Chase, friend and rival of Lincoln, senator, governor, finance secretary and chief justice. Above all, this is a book about racial justice: about Chase’s long quest to end slavery and secure Black rights in America.”
  Brad Meltzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Conspiracy

Simon & Schuster, 9781501199233, 832pp.

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

About the Author

Walter Stahr is the New York Times bestselling author of Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary, and John Jay: Founding Father. A two-time winner of the Seward Award for Excellence in Civil War Biography, Stahr practiced law in Washington and Asia for more than two decades. He is an honors graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School.