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Page 4

Samuel Chase

1743-1811

   On being arraigned before the court, they refused to give bail. Upon this the judge informed them that they must go to jail. Accordingly, he directed the sheriff to take one of the prisoners to jail. This the sheriff informed the judge he could not do, as he apprehended resistance. "Summon the posse comitatus then," exclaimed the judge. "Sir," said the sheriff; "no one will serve." "Summon me then," said Judge Chase, in a tone of lofty indignation, "I will be the posse comitatus, and I will take him to jail."

   A member of the bar now begged leave to interpose, and requested the judge to waive the commitment. "No, God for-bid," replied tile judge, "I will do my duty, whatever be the consequences to myself or my family." He now directed the parties to meet him tile next day, and to give him the required security. He was told that the next day would be the Sabbath. "No better day," said Judge Chase, "can be named, on which to execute the laws of the country. I will meet you here, and from this seat of justice I will go to tile house of God."

   The parties in question, however, neglected to give the required security, on the Sabbath, on account of which neglect, the judge dispatched an express to the governor and council, calling upon them for assistance in the execution of the laws. On Monday the required security was given; but when the grand jury met, instead of finding a bill against the accused, they delivered a presentment against Judge Chase himself; in which they reflected with severity upon his censure of the sheriff; and charged him with having violated the bill of rights, by holding at the same time two incompatible offices, viz. the office of chief justice of the criminal court, and that of the general court of the state. To this presentment Judge Chase replied with becoming moderation, and yet with firmness. In conclusion, he informed the jury that they had touched upon topics beyond their province; he advised them to confine themselves to the line of their duty, assuring them that what-ever opinions they might form, or whatever resentments they might indulge, he should ever respect them as the grand in-quest of the state of Maryland.

   In the year 1796, he was appointed by Washington an associate judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, a station which he continued to occupy for fifteen years, and in which he generally appeared with great dignity and ability. It was the ill fortune of Judge Chase, however, to have his latter days on the bench embittered by an impeachment by the house of representatives, on which he was tried before the Senate of the United States, where he narrowly escaped condemnation. This impeachment was made in 1804, and was recommended by a committee of inquiry, raised, it is said, on the motion of John Randolph, of Virginia, to which he was incited through political animosity. The articles of impeachment originally reported were six in number, to which two others were afterwards added. On these articles Judge Chase was put upon his trial, which began on the second of January, and was finally ended on the fifth of March, 1805.

   The articles of impeachment were founded on certain con-duct of the judge, on different occasions, at Philadelphia, Richmond, and other places, in which he was said to have transcended his judicial powers. The minute history of this affair, our limits forbid us to detail. It is sufficient to say, that much exertion was made by his political opponents to pro-duce a conviction, but without effect. On five of the charges a majority of the senate acquitted him. On the others, a majority was against him: but as a vote of two thirds is necessary to conviction, he was acquitted of the whole.

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