Chase, Samuel (1741-1811), lawyer, politician, and justice, was born on 17 April 1741, at his mother's home near Princess Anne, Somerset County, Maryland, the only child of the Rev. Thomas Chase (c.1703-1779), minister, and his wife Matilda Walker (?-by 1744). Chase had four half-brothers and two half-sisters by his father's second marriage to Ann Birch (?-1772). Chase received a classical education from his father and studied law in Annapolis under attorney John Hall.

Chase entered the legal profession in the early 1760s, one of a group of young lawyers who would be associated professionally, socially, and politically in the following decades. He qualified as an attorney in various county courts and in the provincial and chancery courts. He early formed a close friendship with fellow lawyer William Paca and the two embarked upon an active political role as leaders of the opposition to the 1765 Stamp Act, as founders of the county chapter of the Sons of Liberty, and as defenders of the legislature against proprietary initiatives in the early 1770s.

Anne Arundel voters chose Chase as their representative to the House of Delegates beginning in 1766 and he continued to serve in the provincial and state legislature into the 1790s. Chase was selected as a delegate to the first Continental Congress in 1774 and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence on 2 Aug 1776. In Maryland, Chase was a leader of the fight to make paper currency legal tender for payment of debts and for passage of legislation confiscating British-owned property within the state.

Chase first married in May 1762, choosing as his wife Ann Baldwin (?-1776), daughter of Thomas Baldwin (?-1762) and his wife Agnes Sanders (1717-?), a marriage that "enhanced neither his social standing nor his material prosperity" (Haw, 12). Samuel and Ann Chase had three sons and four daughters, of whom four lived to adulthood. Chase now began to speculate in undeveloped land, acquiring the rights to, but not fully paying for, over five thousand acres. As his family grew, in the late 1760s Chase began construction of an elegant town house, as a suitable residence for a successful lawyer and political leader. Mounting costs, however, forced first the sale of much of Chase's landholdings, and then of the half-finished house itself.

Still seeking means of supplementing his legal income, severely attentuated by wartime disruptions of the courts and by political demands on his time, Chase participated in a number of entrepreneurial ventures. In the late 1770s he was one of group operating a saltworks on the nearby West River. From May 1778 until c. Dec 1780 he was a partner in John Dorsey and Co. The firm's large purchases of wheat and flour in Aug and Sept 1778, as Congress was acting to relieve a shortage of those supplies in New England, led to charges that Chase had used knowledge obtained as a congressman for personal benefit. Chase argued that the shortage was common knowledge, but his reputation was tarnished nonetheless and in Nov he lost his seat in Congress. In 1782 he and three partners purchased the confiscated Nottingham Ironworks Company, Chase having been a leading advocate of the confiscatory legislation. Other operations included substantial investment in the Potomac Company, a largely unsuccessful effort to improve the river's navigation; a Baltimore wharf, with a lumberyard that primarily produced barrel staves; and the "mud and pile driving machine" listed in his inventory. Chase also led a protracted, but unsuccessful, fight for authorization of paper money during the depression of the mid-1780s -- legislation of which he would have been a major beneficiary.

In 1783, Chase was sent to England to negotiate the return of Maryland's stock in the Bank of England, and there met and married in 1784 his second wife, Hannah Kitty Giles (?-1848), daughter of Samuel Giles, a physician in Kentbury, Berkshire, with whom he had two daughters. Chase expected to benefit from the commission he would receive when the stock was recovered, but delays forced his return to Maryland before the case was settled; he did not receive his commission for another decade.

Chase's long and active career culminated in his appointment as associate justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1796. Controversy continued to follow Chase, who was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1804 on charges of improper judicial behavior. Defended by three of Maryland's ablest lawyers, Chase was acquitted by the Senate on 1 March 1805. "Chase's impeachment is thought by some historians to have been the opening move in a Republican attempt to purge the Supreme Court of Federalists" (Papenfuse, 1:215).

Samuel Chase was a colorful and contentious individual, whose career was marked by controversy from his 1762 expulsion from the Forensic Club, an Annapolis social and debating society, for "extremely irregular and indecent" behavior (Papenfuse, 1:214) to his impeachment. Partly attributable to personalty and partly to political differences, Chase's troubles also stemmed from the fact that his pretensions to membership in the colony's elite were not supported by his birth, his marriages, or his income, circumstances that served as impetus to his pursuit of questionable business opportunities, land speculation, and multiple officeholding. Chase is thus remembered as much for his difficulties as for his exceptional legal and political talents.

Samuel Chase died on 19 June 1811 in Washington, DC and was buried at Old St. Paul's Church cemetery in Baltimore City, the parish that had once been his father's. Chase left an estate of $15,000 exclusive of land, which comprised about 2,500 acres and a number of Baltimore City lots. Chase's financial difficulties continued to the end, however, as debts exceeded the value of his personal property.

945 words Biography Project, Maryland State Archives.

New DNB Sources sheet

Subject's name: Chase, Samuel


1* E. C. Papenfuse, A. F. Day, D. W. Jordan, and G. A. Stiverson, eds., A biographical dictionary of the Maryland legislature, 1635-1789, Baltimore, Maryland (1979)

2* J. Haw, F. F. Beirne, R. R. Beirne, and R. S. Jett, Stormy patriot: the life of Samuel Chase, Baltimore, Maryland (1980)

3* R. Hoffman, A spirit of dissension: economics, politics, and the revolution in Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland (1973)



Samuel Chase Law Notes, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland

Chase Papers, MS.1235, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland

Chase, Samuel, Letters, MS.1234, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland

Chase, Samuel, Check Book, MS.275, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland

Samuel Chase Papers, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Samuel Chase Miscellaneous Manuscripts, New York Historical Society, New York, New York


Chase Family Bible Records, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland

Chase Home Book, MS.969, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland Chase, Jeremiah T. and Richard, Papers, MS.278, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland






* C. W. Peale, portrait (oils), ca. 1773, Baltimore, Maryland

C. W. Peale, portrait (oils), 1819?, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

J. W. Jarvis, portrait (oils), 1811, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

J. B. Bordley, portrait (oils), 1836, State House, Annapolis, Maryland


Value of estate or

possessions at death Personal property valued at $14,866.01 current money (including 15 slaves) and approximately 2,500 acres in Maryland, including lots in Baltimore City. Chase's debts exceeded the value of his estate.

Source of data Biographical Dictionary, 1:216

New DNB Information sheet


Main Name Chase Samuel

Variants of main names none

Alternative names none

Name as known none



Source of data: Biographical Dictionary: 1:215


Birth 17 April 1741 Somerset County, Maryland

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:214

Baptism unknown


Main name Chase Thomas

Alternative names none

Titles none

Birth date c.1703 Death date 1779

Occupation rector of Somerset Parish, Somerset County, Maryland; St. Paul's Parish, Baltimore County, Maryland


Maiden name Walker Matilda

Alternative names none

Titles none

Birth date ? Death date by 1744

Occupation none

Source of Parents' data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:214


?-? at home

?-? studied law in Annapolis with John Hall

Source of data and comments: Biographical Dictionary, 1:215


1741-1811 Christian: Church of England, Episcopal Church

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:214


Main name Baldwin Ann

Alternative name Baldwin Nancy (nickname)

Titles none

Birth date ? Death date 1776

Occupation none

Relationship married x

Date started 2 May 1762 Ended 1776 by death

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:214; Haw et al., 12.


Main name Giles Hannah Kitty

Alternative name none

Titles none

Birth date ? Death date 1848

Occupation none

Relationship married x

Date started 1784 Ended 1811 by death

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:214


Date Address

1741-44 Somerset County, Maryland

1744-59 Baltimore, Maryland

1759-1783 Annapolis, Maryland

1783-1784 London, England

1784-1786 Annapolis, Maryland

1786-1811 Baltimore, Maryland

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:214; Haw et al., 4,8


By descent England

By association Maryland


Death 19 June 1811 Washington, DC

Cause of death "ossification of the heart"

Burial St. Paul's Church cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:216; Haw, 248.

Missing data

None not noted above.


Birth, death, burial x

Parents x

Spouse/partners x


Double spacing x

Quotations x

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