President Lincoln Attends Funeral of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney

October 15, 1864

The funeral of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney is held early in the day. Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary regarding the funeral of Chief Justice Taney: “The Prest. Sec.y Seward and the P.M. Genl. Gov Den[n]ison, attended the body, from the dwelling to the cars.” Bates adds: “Mass was sung in the Jesuits’ church at Fred[eric]k. And I saw his body placed in the grave (beside his mother, as he had ordered) in the old church yard there.”

Historian Allan Nevins wrote: “We have some evidence (although secondhand) confirming the supposition that the President had thought of naming Chase as Chief Justice some time before Taney’s death. According to Orville H. Browning, Secretary of the Treasury Fessenden told him on the morning after Taney died that he knew the post would be Chase’s. Fessenden tells us that after Chase resigned, Lincoln refused to reinstate him in the Cabinet despite Fessenden’s plea that he do so. Lincoln spoke of his respect for Chase, adding that if the Chief Justiceship was now vacant, he would appoint him to that place. When, a few days later, Browning called on Mrs. Stanton, she asked him to see the President about naming the Secretary of War as chief Justice. Browning wrote in his diary that he feared the appointment of Chase, and was anxious to prevent it.”

Chase himself recorded in his diary at the end of June that the President had spoken of intending to appoint him Chief Justice if a vacancy occurred. Chase had learned this from Congressman Samuel Hooper of Massachusetts, who received the intelligence from Lincoln in the midst of the Cabinet crisis.

Support for various candidacies quickly mobilizes. From Concord, New Hampshire, William E. Chandler recommends former Postmaster General Montgomery Blair. California heavyweights Theodore Low and Stephen Field write President Lincoln: “The appointment of Hon S P Chase as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court vice Taney deceased would in our opinion be eminently Judicious & highly satisfactory to the loyal people of the Pacific Coast.” From the Chicago Tribune, Joseph Medill writes: “The result of last Tuesday’s election was too much for old Dred Scott Taney.1 He saw that it was useless to stay any longer, so he made his exit.

Now, for his successor I am convinced that 99 of every 100 of your political friends and supporters desire you to make Mr. Chase Chief-Justice. You never did a more popular act in your life than to appoint him to the vacancy.

Vice President Hannibal Hamlin writes President Lincoln to suggest Treasury Secretary William P. Fessenden for Taney’s post: “I notice by the papers the name of Secy Fessenden1 in connection with the apt. of Chief Justice of the S C of the U. S.2

I wish I could see you and if it would be of any avail I would go to W to see you– I presume Mr F would be much gratified with the apt and is most eminently qualefied for the place, and let me assure you, if you can consistently give him the place it will confer a lasting obligation upon me–

I go to N. Y. and Pa to engage in the Prest canvass

Defeated for renomination as vice president, Hamlin’s recommendation may not have been altruistic. Fessenden’s nomination would take him out of contention for the senatorial post from Maine that Hamlin wanted to occupy.


Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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