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soon arrive when every man shall sit under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
“The sweets of a free commerce with every part of the earth will soon reimburse you for all the losses you have sustained. The full tide of wealth will flow in upon your shores, free from the arbitrary impositions of those whose interest and whose declared policy it was to check your growth. Your interests will be fostered and nourished by governments that derive their power from your grant, and will be obliged, by the influence of cogent necessity, to exert it in your favour.
“It is to obtain these things that we call for your strenuous, unremitted exertions. Yet do not believe that you have been or can be saved merely by your own strength. No! it is by the assistance of heaven; and this you must assiduously cultivate by acts which heaven approves. Thus shall the power and the happiness of these sovereign, free and independent states, founded on the virtue of their citizens, increase, extend and endure, until the Almighty shall blot out all the empires of the earth.”
This brilliant display of talent closed the congressional labours of this devoted friend of liberty. He retired with all the honours of a statesman, a sage, a patriot and an honest man. He had stood firmly at his post a faithful public servant, a bold advocate for freedom and the rights of man, an acute and discerning counsellor in every emergency, a fearless champion in times of danger, an ornament to his country and a terror to his enemies. As a working man he had no superior, as a debater he had but few equals. Without the mellifluous elocution of a Cicero, or any pleonastic parade, he spoke forcibly, reasoned closely, demonstrated clearly and deduced conclusively: He sought to inform the judgment, enlighten the understanding and to convince by sound argument. After the close of the revolution, Mr. Chase was sent to England to prosecute a claim in favour of Maryland for bank stock, and obtained for the state six hundred and fifty thousand dollars. His journal during his absence shows that he was a close observer of men and things in the minutest particulars. His high attainments as a lawyer, a scholar and a statesman-his frank and gentlemanly deportment and his thorough and persevering business habits, made a very favourable impression upon the British barristers and members of parliament. He remained in Europe nearly a year, and on his return resumed the practice of law.
In 1786, he removed to Baltimore, in consequence of which his worthy friend, Colonel Howard, at whose solicitation he changed his residence, conveyed to him in fee a square of ten lots of ground situated near the plot designed for the public buildings, on the condition that he located upon it. This square is bounded by Eutaw, Lexington, Fayette and Paca streets, and the mansion house built by Mr. Chase is still owned by his descendants.
In 1788, he was appointed chief justice of the new criminal court organized for the then town and county of Baltimore, and the same year was a member of the Maryland convention that ratified the federal constitution. In 1791, he was appointed chief justice of the general court of his native state; and in 1796, he was appointed, by President Washington, an associate judge of the supreme court of the United States, which dignified station he filled with great ability to the time of his demise. He was esteemed one of the ablest judges upon the bench, and when serving in the courts below, seldom had one of his decisions reversed. His expositions of law and his charges to juries were learned, luminous, logical and profound. His manner was forcible, impressive and commanding. With all this lustre around him, and with his great and acknowledged services in the cause of the revolution still green and fresh, Judge Chase was placed in the crucible of severe and unrelenting persecution, prompted alone by political animosity, created by the lofty independence of thought and expression before alluded to, and which prepared him to act a bold, conspicuous and useful part, when the fury of British wrath was poured out upon his country.
In January, 1804, John Randolph obtained the passage of a resolution in the house of representatives of the United States, instituting an inquiry into the official conduct of Judge Chase, and as a salvo the name of Judge Peters was added. No man was ever more vigorous and persevering in the accomplishment of an object than Mr. Randolph, and no one was more capable of consummating his designs. The committee reported on the sixth of the ensuing March, acquitting Judge Peters from all blame, and recommending the impeachment of Judge Chase. On the 26th of the same month six articles of impeachment were reported, predicated upon the following grounds: In 1800, he presided with Judge Peters at Philadelphia, when and where John Fries, who had been tried before Judges Peters and Iredel at the previous session for treason against the government of Pennsylvania, was put upon his trial a second time, in consequence of some informality at his first. Having been fully informed of the points of law at issue and the proceedings of the first trial, Judge Chase previously prepared an elaborate exposition of his opinions upon the law of treason, and with his constitutional frankness, and with the approbation of Judge Peters, submitted a copy to the counsel for the defendant and to the district attorney, reserving a copy for the jury after the trial was over. Messrs. Lewis and Dallas, counsel for the prisoner, considered this professionally and professedly a pre-judgment of the case, suffered Fries to be tried without any aid, undoubtedly intending and successfully succeeding in creating an excitement of sympathy that procured his pardon immediately after conviction. Fries subsequently called upon Judge Chase and thanked him for the impartial manner he had treated him when on his trial. The whole matter was then considered, as it undoubtedly was, a ruse de guerre of ingenious counsel, and no one attributed any bad motives to the bench. The approval of Judge Peters at the time is a conclusive evidence that the course of Judge Chase was not only pure in design, but that it was not in violation of the strictest rules of judiciary proceedings. He had given an opinion upon the law, not upon the facts of the case. This he was bound to explain to the grand jurors before they proceeded to find any bills, and to the traverse jury that tried each prisoner. This constituted the first charge in the impeachment. Shortly after, a man named Callendar was tried before Judge Chase in Richmond, Virginia, under the sedition law, for publishing a libel upon the president. During the trial the judge refused the admission of testimony offered on the part of the prisoner, as he believed illegally, and thereby greatly offended those who were opposed to the law in question. He believed the law salutary, as he did that which suppressed the tories and Quakers in 1776; and believed the venality of the press required a check; many others thought differently. The law, right or wrong, he was compelled by his oath of office to execute so long as it remained in force. That his legal decisions were correct, must be presumed, or a writ of error would have been taken under the existing excitement. This formed the foundation of the second charge.
From Virginia he proceeded to New Castle, Delaware, where he held a court aided by Judge Bedford. In his charge to the grand jurors, presuming that cases under the unpopular sedition law might come before them, he gave his views frankly upon it, and that they might better understand what constituted a breach of its provisions, alluded to the publications of a bigh toned party paper printed in the district, as containing the kind of libels intended to be suppressed by it. This gave great offence to those who were opposed to it. But the judge only discharged a duty which he had sworn to perform. The personal allusion may be considered by some uncourteous, but his object was plain and simple demonstration for which he was always remarkable. No ingenuity has or ever can fairly construe it into a pre-judgment of the case. The publications were before him, they came clearly within the meaning and intention of the law. He charged them upon no individual specifically, but that some one had published them was beyond dispute, and that they were in violation of the law in question, was to his mind equally plain. This constituted the ground of the third article of the impeachment.
In 1803, Judge Chase, in delivering his charge to the grand jury of Baltimore, having become a decided federalist and believing the course pursued by the democrats was wrong, made sundry remarks upon the politics of the day. This was, in my opinion, a surplusage of duty, but not a subject of impeachment, and may be traced to the warm temperament of his mind, the great political excitement of that period, and to the innovations, as he believed them, upon the constitution and laws by political influence, without discovering a shadow of impurity in his motives. Freedom of speech is a constitutional privilege, and he was only using the same liberty claimed by his opponents, and which was then given by the repeal of the sedition law. That it was a proper time and place to read a political lecture I do not pretend, but it does not therefore follow that his designs were corrupt or his conduct criminal. The ermine of a judge is not rendered more comely by being powdered with the farina of politics, but his right to think and speak upon this subject, none will question. He animadverted in his charge upon the alterations of the constitution of his native state, particularly upon that of the extension of the right of suffrage, to which he had strong objections. In this particular his opinions were in unison with many of the most devoted patriots of the revolution, who deemed the elective franchise unsafe if controlled by uninformed men, who, not distinctly understanding, would not properly appreciate their rights. The reasons for this opinion were stronger then than now, and an anxiety to preserve the government pure and undefiled, unquestionably pervaded the bosom of Judge Chase.
In another part of this charge to the grand jury he spoke strongly against the changes that had been made in the judiciary system of the United States, attributed them to party politics, and deemed them personal in their objects and not conducive to the public good in their operation. The last two points were proper subjects of comment, inasmuch as they related to his official duties. That a man like him should remark severely upon what he believed to be impolitic or wrong, was a matter of course. He was never accustomed to halfway business. In all this nothing appears to lead any candid mind to suppose
he was not honest in his intentions and pure in his motives. Upon these premises the six articles of impeachment were based, and at the next session, out of the same material, two more were manufactured the natural increase of a year.
On the 2nd of January, 1805, Judge Chase was arraigned before the Senate of the United States, a majority of the members being politically opposed to him, but among them were men who loved justice more than party. The gigantic powers of Mr. Randolph were brought to bear against the accused with all their force. The trial continued, except a short recess, until the first of March, a part of which time the Judge was confined by illness. He was defended by Messrs. Martin, Hopkinson, Harper and Key, ably and faithfully. Of five of the charges he was acquitted by a majority of the Senate, and a constitutional number could not be obtained to convict him on the others, and of course he stood approved, acquitted and triumphant over his enemies at the highest tribunal of his country. He had never doubted the favourable result and was at no time depressed by the prosecution. From that period to the time of his last illness his peace was undisturbed, and he continued to be an ornament to the judiciary, an honour to his country, and the faithful friend of human rights and equal justice. On the 19th of June, 1811, surrounded by his family and friends and in the full enjoyment of the smiles of his Redeemer, he bade a last farewell to sublunary things and died peaceful and happy.
In the character of this great and good man we find no corruption to condemn, and many strong and brilliant traits to admire. As a revolutionary patriot he stood on a lofty eminence; as a statesman he rendered many and important services; as a lawyer he enjoyed a high reputation; as a judge, his talents and legal acquirements were of the most exalted character. All the charges against his judicial career, and the result of their investigation, have been faithfully laid before the reader, who is left to examine impartially, and I hope, to judge correctly. I find no evidence of guile in his heart; he expressed his opinions freely, he felt them strongly, and was evidently sincere in his conclusions.
Against his private character malice and slander never directed an arrow. He was in all respects above suspicion. He was a kind hus. band, an affectionate father, a warm friend, and an open, honourable, but scarifying enemy. From the constitution of his nature and the vehemence of his feelings, he was calculated to gain strong friends and create violent enemies. His independence and decision were admired, but often roused animosity in others. His political opponents he handled with severity, which accounts for the mighty effort made to prostrate him.
He was a man of a noble and benevolent disposition—a friend to the poor and needy. A particular instance of his generosity was exhibited in 1783. Listening to the discussions of a debating club in Baltimore, he was forcibly struck with the talent exhibited by a youth, to him an utter stranger. On inquiry, he found that he was poor, and in the employment of an apothecary. He called upon him, advised him to study law; offered him a home at his house, the use of his library, and the aid of his instruction. His proposition was accepted; the youth arrived at manhood, rose to eminence, and became an ornament to America. This was the celebrated William Pinkney, who was minister to Russia, London, Naples, and attorney-general of the United States. He often recurred to his benefactor with feelings of the profoundest gratitude in after life.
Judge Chase was also a friend to education and religion. He was a member of St. Paul parish, and was active in promoting the best interests of practical piety, social order and purity of morals. His force, vigour, and decision of character and stern integrity, were admirably calculated for the period in which he lived; and if he sometimes offended by soaring above the non-committal system of technical politics, it must be attributed to the strong combination of conflicting circumstances that uniformly attend the period of a revolution, the formation of a new government, and the asperity of high-toned parties, operating as they did upon the sensitive feelings of an ardent, patriotic and independent mind.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This ancient apothegm can never be controverted by the ingenuity of sophistry; it is based upon reason, justice, and sound philosophy. Its solution is brief. To be wise is to be good—to be good is to be happy. To avoid all vice and practise only virtue, is the great desideratum of earthly bliss. Virtue carries with it its own reward. Vanity and vain glory may be richly laden with blossoms, but they bear no fruit. We must look to the great Author of all good for substantial enjoyment; we must fear to offend the majesty of his laws to be truly wise. The greatest men who have ever figured upon the stage of action, fully recognised