Chief Justice Roger B. Taney Dies

October 12, 1864

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger B. Taney passes away. The demise of the cadaverous chief justice had long been anticipated — greatly anticipated by Republicans who resented his role in the Dred Scott decision and opposition to the Administration’s curbs on civil liberties. It had been common knowledge that Taney’s death was imminent. Chase was a natural choice for the spot if the President were inclined to appoint him. He was familiar with many of the issues on which the Court would have to rule — from monetary to habeas corpus. Chase spent much of September and October building the case for his appointment by campaigning for the President’s reelection in Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. .

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes President Lincoln from Missouri: “General Rosecrans this morning asked me to obtain for him, a copy of his official report of the battle of Rich Mountain, together with the supplementary reports of the Regimental commanders, and also your permission that he may make the same public.

“His object in this is to controvert McClellan’s Report of that battle, in which he thinks McClellan has done him (Rosecrans) injustice.

“Without having heard the General say directly, that he was for you, all his language to me leaves no other inference, and I am sure that the foregoing request is made with a view to make a publication that shall assist your election.

“As some of our friends here suspect him of sometimes talking a little on the other side, I think it most advisable to furnish him as promptly as possible, the means and occasion of defining his position in such a way that it may no longer be misunderstood, as he has of his own accord requested it. He says that at the time he made the report it was forwarded to Washington so promptly that he had no opportunity of keeping a copy.

“I do not see that any harm can result from giving him one, and at the same time it will gratify him and assist the common cause.”

Ironically, Chase’s assumption of office was delayed by confirmation problems encountered by the nomination of James Speed as Attorney General.

The President did not lack for ambitious potential chief jusitices, including Montgomery Blair, Edwin M. Stanton, William M. Evarts, and Salmon P. Chase. The President had previously appointed Noah H. Swayne, Samuel F. Miller, David Davis, and Stephen J. Field to the Court.

Political concerns continue. President Lincoln writes General Ulysses S. Grant: “Sec. of War not being in, I answer yours about election. Pennsylvania very close, and still in doubt on home vote. Ohio largely for us, with all the members of congress but two or three. Indiana largely for us. Governor, it is said by 15,000, and 8. of the eleven members of congress. Send us what you may know of your army vote.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Returns of the elections from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana come in to-day. They look very well, particularly the two latter. Pennsylvania does not quite come up to my expectations. The city of Philadelphia has done very well, but in too many of the counties there are Democratic gains, — not such, perhaps, as to overcome the Union majorities, but will much reduce them.”

Published in: on October 12, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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