CHASE, SAMUEL, Signer (Maryland). Autograph letter signed ("Saml Chase") to "His Excellency" Governor [John Eager] Howard and "The Honorable the Council" of Maryland, Baltimore Town, 30 September 1791. 1/2 page, 4to, integral address leaf with panel in Chase's hand, small seal hole, recipient's docket, seal hole repaired.
A SIGNER, ON HIS WAY TO THE SUPREME COURT, BECOMES CHIEF JUDGE
A fine formal letter in which this important lawyer, accepts, with reservations, the highest judicial post in his state. "I have with great Reluctance persuaded Myself to accept the Appointment of Chief Judge of the General Court. My Continuance in the Office must depend on future Events. On Monday next I shall come to Annapolis, and Qualify...."
Chase (1741-l811) had become prominent as an attorney in Maryland even before the Revolution, when he served in the Colonial legislature (from 1764). An uncomprising supporter of independence, he joined the Sons of Liberty and publicly affirmed his participation in anti-British acts. A delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774-78, he signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1788 Chase was appointed chief judge of the criminal court. He was, in the year of this letter, a member of the state convention on the Constitution; while he opposed its ratification, he was instrumental in drafting clauses protecting the freedom of the press and guarantees of trial by jury. The appointment accepted in the present letter was an important step on his road to his appointment, by Washington in 1796, justice of the Supreme Court, where he served from February 1795 until his death. His tenure was distinguished, but controversial; in 1804 he was impeached but not convicted. "Chase's performance on the Supreme bench was the most notable of any previous to [John] Marshall," and he was noted for "the colorful quality of his judicial utterance and the positiveness of their expression," which gave "his opinions predominant importance in this period" (-DAB).