George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Chase, 3 September 1789

From Samuel Chase

Baltimore 3d Septr 1789.

My Dear Sir

I beg You to be assured, that no Person more sincerely rejoiced in your unanimous Election as President of the united States, than Myself; and that my personal Respect for, and attachment to, your private and public Character have been uniformly manifested, ever since I had the Honour to be known to You. I have always esteemed it honorable to execute a public Office in a free Government; but heretofore my profession furnished ample Support for Myself, and a numerous Family. If, Sir, You should think Me capable, and proper to discharge the Duty of one of the five associate Judges, and should be pleased to put Me in Nomination to the Senate, I shall be highly gratified; and will exert Myself to execute so honorable and important a Station with Integrity, fidelity, and Diligence: and I flatter Myself, that You will never have Occasion to regret the Confidence reposed in Me. I have communicated my wishes to no person, because from your good Opinion, and Confidence alone do I wish for the Appointment—If my Desires do not meet your approbation I beg they may remain within your own Breast, for I do not wish to afford my political Enemies (for I never had any private ones) an Opportunity to mortify and insult Me. In a public, or private Station You may depend on my attachment, and affection to Yourself, and that my Endeavours shall not be wanting to render your Administration as easy and happy as possible; and that I will support the present Government, agreeably to my late solemn Engagement.

I pray my most respectful Compliments to Mrs Washington, and I am, Dear Sir, with the Greatest Respect & Esteem, Your affectionate and obedient Servant

Saml Chase

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection—Declaration of Independence.

After his stormy political and judicial career in the 1770s and 1780s Samuel Chase (1741–1811) was at this time a judge in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery of Baltimore. One of the most vigorous and outspoken critics of the Constitution during the struggle for ratification in Maryland, Chase was gradually moving toward the Federalist associations that would mark his later career, although Maryland Federalists were still slow to accept his conversion. Chase was also in pursuit of an appointment as attorney general if he should not be named to the court (Matthew Ridley to John Jay, 7 Sept. 1789, MdHi: Samuel Chase Letters). He was unsuccessful in both quests. In July 1794, after the collectorship at Baltimore was left vacant by the death of Otho H. Williams, Chase wrote GW that he had “for some time, wished to be employed by the National government” (DLC:GW). He failed to get the customs post, but his name came up again when GW was in the process of naming a new attorney general in October 1795. Chase was, GW wrote Alexander Hamilton on 29 Oct., “a man of abilities; and it is supposed by some, that he wd accept the appointment of Attorney General. Though opposed to the adoption of the Constitution, it is said he has been a steady friend to the general government since it has been in operation. But he is violently opposed in his own State by a party, and is besides, or to speak more correctly has been, accused of some impurity in his conduct.” By 1795, however, Chase had engendered enough support, especially from such Maryland Federalists as James McHenry, to persuade GW to appoint him to the vacancy on the court left by the retirement of John Blair. Chase’s tenure on the court proved to be as controversial as his earlier career, culminating in an unsuccessful attempt in 1805 to remove him from the court.

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