Famous Marylanders - Samuel Chase, Supreme Court Justice

Introduction

Samuel ChaseOn April 17, 1741, Samuel Chase was born in Somerset County, Maryland.  After living briefly in Baltimore, he moved to Annapolis to study law where he had started a family as well.  When tension with Great Britain was at its worst, Chase became a delegate for Maryland for the Continental Congress in 1774.  With the Revolutionary War’s onset, Chase was sent on a mission to Canada to incite revolution and gain an ally, but this was to no avail.  Since Canada did not join the revolution, the colonies had to form a declaration of independence from Great Britain.  Maryland had taken a Southern sympathy for Great Britain and Chase was not to sign such a declaration.  After much convincing, Chase was given orders to participate in the convention.  The Declaration of Independence was signed and a new nation was founded.

After the Revolutionary War, Chase settled back in Maryland and his political career continued.  On a mission to England, he partook in reclaiming land owned by the Bank of England in 1783.  Shortly thereafter, in 1786, he was appointed to be the chief justice of Baltimore’s District Criminal Court.  After serving on the bench of the Maryland General Court as chief justice, President George Washington appointed Chase to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

The John Fries Trial proved to be the height of his career.  In 1799, John Fries incited a rebellion in Pennsylvania over the federal government enacting a tax that he and 400 others thought was unfair.  The state militia subdued the mob and arrested the leaders.  Fries was charged with treason; Samuel Chase, presiding over the case, delivered a guilty verdict.  Despite receiving the death penalty, he was ultimately pardoned by President Adams. 

Since he was a Federalist, political tension occurred between the Republicans in power in Congress.  Therefore, the House and Senate moved to impeach him under eight articles, claiming that he did not uphold the law without bias in 1804.  This proved the benefits to the checks and balances system in American politics.  In the end, he was acquitted of all charges on March 1, 1805 and finished his life-term.  He died on June 19, 1811.  Samuel Chase, to this day, remains the only justice ever to be impeached.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12.

Era 3-- Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)

Standard 2: The impact of the American Revolution on politics, economy, and society

Standard 2A: The student understands revolutionary government-making at national and state levels.
7-12: Assess the accomplishments and failures of the Continental Congress.
Standard 3: The institutions and practices of government created during the Revolution and how they were revised between 1787 and 1815 to create the foundation of the American political system based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Standard 3: The institutions and practices of government created during the Revolution and how they were revised between 1787 and 1815 to create the foundation of the American political system based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Standard 3A: The student understands the issues involved in the creation and ratification of the United States Constitution and the new government it established. 
9-12: Analyze the fundamental ideas behind the distribution of powers and the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution.

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Chase-Lloyd House, 22 Maryland Avenue & King George Street, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, MD
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: after 1933
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE: Built in America
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  2. DESCRIPTION: The Chase Residence in Baltimore, MD
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  n/a
    SOURCE:  New York Public Library Online
    REPOSITORY: New York Public Library

  3. DESCRIPTION: Engraving of a Painting of Chase
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  n/a
    SOURCE:  New York Public Library Online
    REPOSITORY: New York Public Library

  4. DESCRIPTION: Chase and the council of safety- assessing the financial and military status of his province during the Revolutionary War
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1775  
    SOURCE:   Maryland State Archives Online

  5. DESCRIPTION: Chase ordered not to vote for declaring independence and to seek peaceful measures to have peace
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1776
    SOURCE:   Maryland State Archives Online

  6. DESCRIPTION: A tally of votes for each article Chase was impeached under
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 1, 1805
    SOURCE: The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  7. DESCRIPTION: Correspondence/Letter of Paca in Council Annapolis to Samuel Chase about the Bank of England controversy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   1783
    SOURCE:   Maryland State Archives Online

  8. DESCRIPTION: Chase sent to the Continental Congress to represent Maryland
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  December 1774
    SOURCE:  Maryland State Archives Online

  9. DESCRIPTION: The charges of impeachment brought against Chase
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 5, 1805
    SOURCE: Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 3 in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  10. DESCRIPTION: The House decides to impeach Chase
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   December 5, 1804
    SOURCE: Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 3 in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  11. DESCRIPTION: The Trial of Samuel Chase
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   1804-1805
    SOURCE:  Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 5 in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  12. DESCRIPTION: The Two Trials of John Fries for Treason
    DATE PUBLISHED/CREATED:
    1800
    SOURCE:
    Constitution Society

Additional Media Resources

Primary Documents in America: Declaration of Independence. From the Library of Congress

Detailed Biography of Chase

Additional Instructional Resources

Writing It All Down: The Art of Constitution Making for the State & the Nation, 1776-1833

Secondary Resources

Bair, Robert R. and Robin D. Coblentz. The Trials of Mr. Justice Samuel Chase, 27 MD. L. REV. 365 (1967).

Kelley, W. Vaughn Ellsworth. Twelve for the People: Procedural Safeguards Motion and Excerpts from the Trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. Arizona Caucus Club, 1975.

Rehnquist, William H. Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson. New York: Morrow, c1992

Haw, James. Stormy Patriot: The Life of Samuel Chase. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1980

Presser, Stephen B. The Original Misunderstanding: The English, the Americans, and the Dialectic of Federalist Jurisprudence. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1991

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Benjamin Elgamil.

 

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