Salmon P. Chase to Murat Halstead, March 26, 1868
[page one-document]


    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.

[page two-document]

    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

or parties.

    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

[page three-document]

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

about right.

    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

[page four-document]

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.

© August 1998
All rights are reserved. No part of this site (images, lesson plans, faculty information...) may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission.
Email requests to: