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Samuel Chase

Samuel Chase
Associate Justice

Associate Justice

Samuel Chase was born in Somerset County, Maryland, on April 17, 1741. He died on June 19, 1811, at the age of seventy.

Samuel Chase was tutored privately and studied for the law under the apprenticeship in an Annapolis, Maryland law office.

Law Practice:
He read law in the office of an Annapolis attorney and was admitted to the bar in 1761. He practiced law at the Mayor's Court in Annapolis and appeared before other courts throughout the County.

Government Service:
Chase was an ardent nationalist and was a member of the colonial "Sons of Liberty." In 1764, Chase was elected to the Maryland General Assembly and served there for twenty years. He served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and signed the Declaration of Independence. Though he signed the Declaration of Independence, he was opposed to the revised Constitution that emerged from the 1787 Philadelphia convention. Chase won few friends by his abrasive and overbearing manner.

Judicial Offices:
Following the Revolutionary War, he served as a Judge of the Baltimore Criminal Court from 1788 to 1796 and as Chief Judge of the General Court of Maryland from 1791 to 1796. President George Washington nominated Chase to the Supreme Court of the United States on January 26, 1796, and the Senate confirmed the appointment the following day. He was commissioned on January 27, 1796 and he was sworn in on February 4, 1796. He was a zealous Federalist and his appointment to the High Court by George Washington to replace John Blair did not temper his views one bit. While serving on the Court, he actively campaigned for the Alien and Sedition Acts and sought the indictment of Republican editors who opposed the Federalists. He left office on the day of his death, on June 19, 1811.

Chase was the only justice in history impeached by the House of Representatives. Chase is best known for an intemperate act that moved the House of Representatives to vote a bill of impeachment against him in 1804. Chase had given an impassioned speech to a grand jury against democratic "mobocracy." The outspoken Federalist was accused of bias and other judicial misconduct by the House but was acquitted by the Senate. The vote in the Senate was insufficient to impeach him, however. He kept his seat on the Court but disappeared from public attention thereafter. He served for fifteen years as an Associate Justice.

More Biographical Information:

  • Chase, Samuel From Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • Judges of the United States Courts From the Federal Judicial Center.
  • Samuel Chase From the Oyez Project (Northwestern University).
  • Samuel Chase From "The Duel," a program from the PBS "American Experience" series. Covers the trial of Samuel Chase before the United States Senate, which was presided by Vice President Aaron Burr.

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