(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.