Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival

St. Martin’s. Nov. 2021. 848p. ISBN 9781501199233. $35. BIOG
Biographer Stahr (John Jay: Founding Father; Stanton: Lincoln's War Secretary) provides a detailed, in-depth accounting of the life of Salmon P. Chase (1808-73), a tireless and tenacious abolitionist and civil rights advocate, an astute and aggressive U.S. treasury secretary during the Civil War, and a thoughtful Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the Reconstruction era. Drawing heavily from Chase's diary, Stahr gives a relentless but readable day-by-day account of everything Chase did, said, or wrote. He makes the case that Chase exercised much influence via his pleadings in antislavery cases as a lawyer, his wide correspondence, his constant public presence with speeches and open letters, and the driving ambition that kept him in conversations about a presidential nomination in 1860, 1864, and 1868. While Stahr doesn't offer new insight on Chase's place in history, he does show how Chase brought order to U.S. finances with such reforms as establishing a single national currency and laying the foundation for a system of national banks.
VERDICT Strongly recommended for university and large public libraries, for readers learning the dynamics of abolitionist politics and the inner workings of government and the courts during the Civil War era.
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