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For much of Reconstruction, Salmon P. Chase, shown here in his Supreme Court robes, served as chief justice of the United States (1864–73). He had long championed African American rights as Ohio senator (1849–55; 1860–61) and governor (1855–59) and as a member of President Abraham Lincoln’swartime cabinet (1860–64).

Chase usually sided with Radical Republicans who sought racial justice. In Texas v. White (1869), speaking for the Court, he ruled that secession was unconstitutional and agreed with Congress that the terms of Reconstruction were a political rather than judicial concern. In 1870, he persuaded Ohio legislators to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted suffrage to Black men. In 1873, three weeks before he died, Chase dissented in the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873). The majority decision found in favor of states’ rights, granting opponents of Black voting rights various possibilities for disenfranchisement.

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