This morning’s Washington Post accused Abraham Lincoln of packing the Supreme Court. The Post said: “Lincoln definitely supported . . . court-packing. In 1863, he and Republicans in Congress passed a law to create a 10th Supreme Court seat for largely partisan reasons. All told, Lincoln appointed five justices in just four years and five…

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Last night, in the vice presidential debate, Senator Kamala Harris cited Abraham Lincoln as an example of the wisdom of waiting to make a Supreme Court nomination. She pointed out that when Chief Justice Roger Taney died, on October 12, 1864, Lincoln did not immediately nominate Taney’s successor. Lincoln waited, until after the presidential election…

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Masami and I have just returned from a wonderful week-long vacation in the San Juan Islands. The purpose of this blog post is to argue that people should take vacations, even during the pandemic, perhaps especially during the pandemic. First, however, I need to explain about a Backroads vacation, why we love Backroads so much.…

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As you will see, if you are here, I have a new web site. My friends at AuthorBytes urged me to update, so that the site works better for those viewing it through their phones. So I would be especially curious to hear from readers/viewers who are looking at the site in that way: does…

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I am reading this morning an excellent essay, by Edward White, about the “judicial culture” of the Supreme Court in the years in which Chase was Chief Justice. In a photo caption, White quotes Chase commenting on one of his colleagues on the Supreme Court, Samuel Freeman Miller, calling him the “dominant personality” of the…

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In May 1865, Chief Justice Salmon Chase visited the southern states to see for himself their condition. The civil war was almost over, it was clear that the southern states would rejoin the United States, but the terms on which they would join were not clear. In particular, it was not clear whether the federal…

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Memorial Day originated after the Civil War, as communities gathered at this time of year to honor those who had died in the War. In late May 1869, Chief Justice Salmon Chase received a letter from South Carolina, inviting him to speak at a cemetery there. He responded as follows: “Your note inviting me to…

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I was watching Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch last night, talking about their great new book, The Lincoln Conspiracy, on which I provided some research help. Brad lamented our tendency to worship people like Lincoln, saying that this prevents us from seeing Lincoln as a person, one who made some mistakes as well as did…

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Many of my Civil War friends gather every November in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the Lincoln Forum. It is a wonderful event: a mix of book talks, panel discussions and performances. It is a chance to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. I have been consistently impressed by the level of historical…

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A month before Lincoln gave his great speech at Gettysburg, in November 1863, Chase gave a good speech, although much longer, at Indianapolis. Chase had traveled from Washington to Cincinnati, Ohio, to vote in the state election there, in favor of the Union ticket. On the day after the Ohio election, Chase went by train…

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