Salmon P. Chase to Gerrit Smith, April 2, 1868

(page one - document)


    Washington, Apl. 2, 1868

My dear friend,

    Thanks for your generous words

addressed to Mr. Tilton. They do me

good. May God help me to justify your


    The subject of the Presidency has

become distasteful to me. Some will say,

"Sour grapes:" and there may be some ground

for the application of the proverb.2 But I

really think that I am not half so

ambitious of place as I am represented to be.

Certainly I never used any of the ordinary

means to get place. I worked for ideas

& principles & measures embodying them, &

with all citizens of like faith & aims; and

was always quite willing to take place or

be left out of place as the cause, in the

judgment of its friends required. And I am

certainly entirely content now to be left

out of consideration in connexion with the Presidency

    My desire at present is perform the duties

(page two - document)

of President of the Senate sitting as a Court of

Impeachment faithfully & impartially. My constant

prayer is for guidance & strength, for wisdom &

courage; and I trust I shall be kept from

making any serious mistakes.

     My position is peculiarly difficult. As the

Chief Justice my whole duties, except in the

single case of impeachment, connect me with

another body. Coming into the Senate to preside

I feel and am felt as a sort of foreign element.

The Senate like all other bodies has a good

deal of Esprit de Corps. I as Chief Justice look

for my powers & duties in the Constitution and very naturally

find myself disagreeing as to their nature & extent

from many senators. So far these differences have

been attended by no disagreeable results. The majority

has substantially sustained my views & I have

tried to avoid every claim which could be, as I thought

[fairly] called in question.

    Mr. Sumner's motion yesterday alarmed

me.3 The question at once forced itself upon me "What

will be my duty in case the Senate by denying to

me the casting vote which belongs to the President of

the Senate sitting as a Court of Impeachment refuses in effect

to recognize my right to preside. Happily I was not

compelled to decide this question.

(page three - document)

    I hope that your health is good, & that

you are enjoying your delightful home. How

I should like to drop in upon you.

    I suppose Col. & Mrs Miller are abroad. Your

son, I presume, is with you.4 I shall like to

have you write me more about yourself &

your family goings on.5

Source: Chase Papers, Library of Congress

1. The March 19 edition of Theodore Tilton's Independent had included an allusion to "great temptations" that might deter Chase from impartial justice in the impeachment proceedings. "As well may it be feared that Heaven will be transmuted into Hell as that Chase will lose his integrity," responded Smith the following week. Independent, March 19, 26, 1868.

2. In Aesop's fable, "The Fox and the Grapes," the fox pretends not to want grapes beyond his reach, claiming that they are "sour." Aesop's Fables (New York, 1941), 51.

3. Charles Sumner had introduced measures on March 31 and April 1 that would have disqualified the chief justice from voting on any question in the trial or to break a tie. The Senate defeated both proposals. Trial of Andrew Johnson, 1:185<en>88.

4. Elizabeth Smith Miller and Charles Dudley Miller were Smith's daughter and son-in-law. Gerrit Smith's son was Green Smith.

5. A letterpress copy in the Chase Papers at the Library of Congress shows the signature and receiver's name.

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