Chase, Samuel


Chase, Samuel
born April 17, 1741, Princess Anne, Md.
died June 19, 1811, Washington, D.C.

U.S. jurist.

He was a member of the Maryland assembly (1764–84). An ardent patriot, he helped lead the Sons of Liberty in violent resistance against the Stamp Act. He served on the state Committee of Correspondence (1774), was elected to the Continental Congress, and signed the Declaration of Independence. When Alexander Hamilton exposed his attempt to corner the flour market (1778), Chase retired from Congress, only to return in 1784. He served as chief judge of the Maryland General Court from 1791 to 1796, when Pres. George Washington appointed him to the Supreme Court of the United States. Chase upheld the primacy of U.S. treaties over state statutes in Ware v. Hylton. In Calder v. Bull (1798) he contributed to the definition of due process. At the instigation of Pres. Thomas Jefferson, Chase was impeached for partisan conduct in 1804. His acquittal established the principle that federal judges can be removed only for indictable criminal acts, thus strengthening the independence of the judiciary. Chase served until 1811.

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▪ United States jurist
born April 17, 1741, Princess Anne, Md. [U.S.]
died June 19, 1811, Washington, D.C.
 associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, whose acquittal in an impeachment trial (1805) inspired by President Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson, Thomas) for political reasons strengthened the independence of the judiciary.

      A member of the Maryland assembly (1764–84) and the Continental Congress (1774–78, 1784–85), and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Chase served as chief judge of the Maryland General Court from 1791 to 1796, when President George Washington appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Ware v. Hylton (1796), an important early test of nationalism, he upheld the primacy of U.S. treaties over state statutes. In Calder v. Bull (1798), he asserted that legislative power over liberty and property is limited by “certain vital principles in our free Republican governments”; later courts read these principles into the “due process of law” clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

      During the struggle between the Federalist and Jeffersonian Republican parties, Chase, a Federalist, conducted his circuit court in a partisan manner. The House of Representatives, encouraged by Jefferson, charged Chase with improper actions in treason and sedition trials and with a political address to a grand jury. In March 1805 the Senate, acting as trial court, found him not guilty. His acquittal, by establishing the principle that federal judges could be removed only for indictable criminal acts, clarified the constitutional provision (Article III, section 1) that judges shall hold office during good behaviour. Some scholars believe that if Chase had been found guilty, the Jefferson administration would have proceeded against other Federalist justices, particularly Chief Justice John Marshall, a leading opponent of Jefferson.

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Universalium. 2010.

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