Washington, March 26, 1868.
My dear Mr. Halstead,1
Yesterday a friend sent me
a number of the Gazette in which
I found greatly to my surprise a sort
of ex cathedra article on my views &
position. I learn from Reid today that
he wrote a private letter to Smith the
other day giving him briefly what he
supposed to me my general notions as
he gathered them from my talk; and that
Smith expanded what he wrote into
the Gazette Article.2
I have no great objection to it
except that it attributes to me some assump-
tion that I have never felt or expressed
and that it undertakes to express my views
when I have given no warrant to any
one to speak for me; and certainly do
not desire to be brought in that way before
the public. I don't converse for the press.
How idle to say that "We are able
to state" that democrats have talked about the
nomination of the Chief Justice "without consulting
his views." As if I had any business with
what democrats please to talk about; or as if
it were of consequence to them whether they con-
ulted my views or not.
And then "one thing is certain & for this
we have the highest authority that if the Demo-
crats run Mr. Chase they must come to him
& stand upon his platform. He will not go
to them." I certainly never gave any authority
for saying this; nor ever said any thing of the
sort. It is not my way of talking about men
Again;--"It may further be stated that Mr. Chase
has given no encouragement whatever to the leaders
who have been using his name in this connection."
The form of expression carries the totally incorrect idea that it
is made upon my authority & even at my instance.
The fact is that no democratic leader has
even thought it worth his while to speak to me
on the subject; and I have had no occasion either
to encourage or discourage the use of my name.
Your good opinion & constant friendship has
great value for me, & I thought therefore that I
would let you know exactly how this thing
came about, and how unwarranted the Ex cathedra
tone of the Article is. I should have had no
objection to it, but for this tone. If it had
purported to be a mere speculation based on
a general knowledge of character it would
have been very well: for in most respects it is
But does Mr. Smith reflect what an
immense wall he puts between my views and
those which now prevail in the Republican Party
when he says that I have not changed my mind
as to those military features of the reconstruction laws?
Mine for the Minimum of military government--theirs
for the Maximum;--mine against the laws of war &
military commissions in peace,--theirs for both: mine
for restoration with universal suffrage & universal
amnesty, theirs only for universal suffrage & large
The truth is that I had, as you said, ceased
to think of the Presidency & was perfectly content
to have my name taken out of the list of supposed
candidates, & now it gives me no pleasure to see my
name brought forward again.3 I am no candidate or
aspirant for any political position or distinction. I
simply want to do my duty faithfully &
impartially. I do not hope to please any
party. I dont expect always to please myself.
Still I am obliged to act, in a [new] & difficult
place, and without experience. All I can say is
that I will not to please any body do anything
which I do not at the time of doing it
believe to be fit & right to be done.
One thing I don't like. Many seem to think
that the Chief Justice sitting upon the Trial of the
President has some great power. The truth is he
has very little. He has only that which the Vice President
would have, if the Chief Justice were impeached & tried. What
the extent of that power is is somewhat debated.
The Constitution seems to limit it to the ordinary
duties of a presiding officer extended perhaps to the
decision of questions of evidence. And this limitation
has the sanction of the practice in every case hitherto
tried. Thus limited he can only vote when there is a
tie & not at all on the final question: and every
decision he makes on order or evidence is subject to
be overruled by the Court. And I am inclined to the opinion
that this is the correct view. So I may see much
that I disapprove without any power to correct it
I leave much unsaid; but must take room to
congratulate you on the suppression of Myers.4
Cordially your friend
S P Chase
Source: New-York Historical Society
1. Halstead, a Republican, owned and edited the Cincinnati Commercial. DAB, 8:163.
2. Whitelaw Reid was apparently in Washington to report on impeachment proceedings for the Cincinnati Gazette, in which Richard Smith owned an interest. The article discussed "talk" among "leading" Democrats about Chase as the presidential nominee of their party. "To use Mr. Chase as the candidate of that party would require a radical change in his principles or in the principles of the men who now represent the Democratic part of this country." claimed the piece. Ibid., 15:483; Appletons', 5:584; Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Mar. 23, 1868.
3. The Cincinnati Commercial supported Chase as the Democratic presidential nominee, leaving "The question to be decided whether the Democracy have the sagacity to accept the situation and the leader, adapt themselves to the times, and recognize in Chase the coming man." Cincinnati Commercial, Mar. 23, 1868.
4. On January 22, Halstead's paper had accused Cincinnati
attorney M. W. Myers of bribing the city council to secure Covington, Kentucky,
a contract for municipal water. Soon after publication, Myers filed a libel
suit, which had recently resulted in a hung jury. Cincinnati Commercial,
Mar. 21, 22, 1868.