Salmon P. Chase (1861 - 1864)

Salmon P. Chase (1808 - 1873) resigned from the Senate in 1861 to become President Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury as the Civil War began. The war created the need to raise money, and with Customs revenue from the Southern cotton trade cut off, Chase had to implement internal taxes. The Bureau of Internal Revenue, later the Internal Revenue Service, was created in 1862 to collect stamp taxes and internal duties.

Portrait of Salmon P. Chase.

Sec. Salmon P. Chase
Henry Ulke
Oil on canvas
65 1/4 x 55 1/4 x 4 7/8"

The next year it administered the Nation's first income tax. In order to further finance the war, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was established in 1862 to print the Government's first currency, known as greenback because of its color. These were legal tender notes not backed by specie. Chase disapproved in principle of the legal tender notes; with no requirement for specie backing they could be printed in unlimited quantities and were therefore inflationary. He recognized their necessity in a time of emergency, but later, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he would declare the notes unconstitutional. The National Banking System was created in 1863 to establish a uniform currency. The greenbacks, within a new network of national banks, directly involved the Government in banking for the first time. Chase resigned in 1864, having put the Nation's finances in a more favorable condition. Lincoln appointed him Chief Justice later that year, and he presided over the Court during the difficult period of Reconstruction.

About the Artist

Henry Ulke (1821 - 1910) was born and trained in Germany and worked as an illustrator and designer in New York before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1860. Switching from illustration to fine art, he established himself as one of the Nation's leading portrait painters. He painted many eminent social and political figures during more than half a century in Washington and is represented in collections at the White House, the Defense Department, and the U.S Capitol among others. He was living at Petersen House, across from Ford's Theater, when Lincoln was brought there after being shot. Ulke's posthumous portrait of Salmon P. Chase, painted in 1880, was probably based on a photograph.