Today is the birthday of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. A few thoughts on the day. Often, in my books, I “chip away” at bits of the Lincoln legend. For example, in early December 1861, Lincoln was surprised when the report of Simon Cameron, his secretary of war, argued for using the former slaves as…

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that Secretary Chase was responsible for placing General Irvin McDowell in command of the Union forces in northern Virginia in 1861. Even Wikipedia accepts this. The Wikipedia page for McDowell states that he “was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army on May 14, 1861, and was given…

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A brief progress report on my biography of Salmon Chase. I have now completed thirteen chapters, about 113,000 words. I just finished 1859, so I have only a few years left, until his death in 1873. But the next few years, the Civil War, were busy ones, so those chapters will be longer than the…

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It is hard to remember, but the Republican Party, back in the days of Lincoln and Chase, was IN FAVOR of immigration. Not every Republican; there were anti-immigrants, former Know Nothings, who wanted to limit immigration, or deny voting rights to those who had recently become citizens. But not my man Chase; he often talked…

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I am just back from a few days of research at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. My main purpose in going was to look at newspapers from Illinois from October 1854 and October 1858. In both of those months, Chase campaigned for Republicans in Illinois. 1854 was the anti-Nebraska election, when the…

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I am speaking next Tuesday to the LA Civil War Roundtable about William Henry Seward. As I wrote the speech, I revisited the question of “Seward’s Folly.” In the book, which I published seven years ago, I said that although there were some critics of the Alaska purchase in 1867, none of them used the…

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As I write the Chase biography, I continue research, and interesting details emerge. I am working today on the chapter about 1856. I knew that Chase had dinner with Francis Blair and others in Washington on December 29, 1855, and I knew that Chase gave his inaugural address as governor in Columbus on January 14,…

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Many claim that, when he became secretary of the treasury, Chase did not know much about banks and banking. This is not true. From 1832 through 1843, Chase served as the solicitor in Cincinnati for the Second Bank of the United States. At the outset of this period, the Bank was the largest financial institution…

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In a prior post I quoted from the Liberty Man’s Creed, first published by Chase in 1844. In this post I want to put up the whole document, because I find it so interesting, and because it has not been mentioned in prior biographies. Here it is, from the Cincinnati Weekly Herald and Philanthropist of…

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Anyone who has read any of my books knows that I believe in quoting the subject. If you want to know about William Henry Seward, the best sources are Seward’s letters and speeches and memoirs. One must also find material about Seward, of course, to provide third-party perspective. But in my view a biography should allow…

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