Samuel Chase

April 17, 1741–June 19, 1811

Samuel Chase is a Founding Father who was a delegate from Maryland to the First Continental Congress and signed the Articles of Association, which set up the Continental Association. He was also elected to the Second Continental Congress, signed the Olive Branch Petition, and signed the Declaration of Independence. Chase is also the only Supreme Court Justice impeached by the House of Representatives.

Samuel Chase, Founding Father, Illustration

Founding Father Samuel Chase was a member of the Sons of Liberty and served in the First and Second Continental Congress. Later, he became an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Biography of Samuel Chase

Samuel Chase was a Founding Father and a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He was a lawyer and politician from Maryland who rose to prominence during the American Revolution, despite a rough personality and often harsh way of dealing with people, especially political opponents. Chase was born on April 17, 1741, in Somerset County, Maryland. When he was 18, he went to Baltimore to study law in the office of Holland and Hall. In 1761, he was admitted to the bar and opened his own practice in Annapolis. When the Stamp Act Crisis took place, Chase supported the Patriot cause and founded the local Sons of Liberty group with William Paca, his close friend, and political ally. In 1774, he was elected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, where he signed the Articles of Association. The following year, he returned to the Second Continental Congress and signed the Olive Branch Petition, supported the Lee Resolution, and signed the Declaration of Independence. After the war, he was involved in state politics. In 1796, he was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President George Washington. He was a vocal opponent of President Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, who considered him obnoxious, and offensive. They accused him of basing some of his judicial opinions on bias instead of the law. As a result, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Chase on March 12, 1804. Although the Senate cleared him of the charges on March 1, 1805, he remains the only Supreme Court Justice who has ever been impeached. Chase continued to serve on the Supreme Court until his death on June 19, 1811.

George Washington, Portrait, Stuart

President George Washington appointed Chase to the Supreme Court in 1796. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Important Facts About Samuel Chase

Samuel Chase was born on April 17, 1741, in Somerset County, Maryland. His parents were Reverend Thomas Chase and Matilda Walter. Samuel was their only child. On June  18, 1811, he suffered a heart attack and died in Baltimore. He was buried in the Old St. Paul’s Cemetery in Baltimore.

Chase was married twice. The first marriage was to Ann Baldwin of Annapolis, and they had seven children together. Anne died in 1776 according to some sources, and in 1779 to others. In 1784, he traveled to Britain where he met and married Hannah Kilty Giles, and they had two children together.

Chase opposed the Stamp Act and helped found the Arundale Country Sons of Liberty with William Paca, who would also become a Founding Father. On August 26, 1765, Chase led a mob that burned the stamp collector, Zachariah Hood, in effigy. About a week later, on September 2, Chase and the mob tore down the building that Hood was going to use to store the stamped paper. Hood fled to New York and Governor Horatio Sharp had the stamped paper stored on a British warship for safekeeping. When the Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, Chase continued to run his business — without stamped paper — in direct violation of the Stamp Act. Afterward, Chase and Paca organized the Sons of Liberty in Annapolis while Chase’s father, Thomas, organized the Sons of Liberty in Baltimore.

Chase was a member of the Maryland Committee of Correspondence, which was organized in 1773.

Chase and Paca played an important role in Maryland’s resistance to the Coercive Acts. On May 25, 1774, Chase led a public meeting that called for a boycott of trade with British merchants. On May 25, the boycott was approved, and the Annapolis Convention also approved a general congress of the 13 Colonies to discuss the Coercive Acts with the other colonies.

Chase was a member of the Annapolis Convention — Maryland’s Provincial Congress — from 1774 to 1776. The members of the Annapolis Convention elected him to represent Maryland at the First and Second Continental Congress. Chase was also elected to serve in the Confederation Congress in 1784 and 1785.

Chase was a member of the Canada Commission that traveled to Montreal in 1776. On February 15, 1776, Congress decided to send a committee of commissioners to Canada, in hopes of gathering support for the American Cause. The members of the commission were Chase, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton. During the visit, Chase and the others came to the conclusion that the Province of Quebec would not join the 13 Colonies as the 14th Colony in opposition to British policies.

Chase traveled through Maryland giving speeches in support of independence. Chase and the other commissioners traveled from Canada to Philadelphia and arrived there on June 11, 1776. Soon after, Chase was told that the Annapolis Convention had voted against independence. Chase and Carroll rode from Philadelphia to Annapolis. Along the way, they gave speeches supporting independence, which swayed the convention to change its position. On June 28, the convention voted to support independence. Chase rode to Philadelphia to deliver the news to the Maryland delegates.

Chase may not have been in Philadelphia when Congress voted for independence. Although many sources say he was there, he may have had to return to Annapolis to be with his wife, Anne, who was sick.

Chase changed from Anti-Federalist to Federalist. Chase was selected to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787 but declined to participate. When he reviewed the Constitution, he was concerned about the taxation powers it gave to the Federal Government and the lack of a Bill of Rights. He was firmly on the side of the Anti-Federalists and was chosen to attend the 1788 Maryland Ratifying Convention. Although he wanted changes to be made, Maryland became the seventh state to ratify the Constitution on April 28, 1788. Over time, Chase changed his opinion on the Constitution and sided with the Federalists on political issues.

Samuel Chase Significance

Samuel Chase is important to the history of the United States because he is a Founding Father. He helped shape the foundation of the United States by signing the Articles of Association and Declaration of Independence. He also played an important role in the development of the state of Maryland. During his time on the United States Supreme Court, he became the first — and only — justice to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Samuel Chase
  • Date April 17, 1741–June 19, 1811
  • Author
  • Keywords Samuel Chase, American Revolution, Sons of Liberty, Stamp Act Crisis First Continental Congress, Continental Association, Second Continental Congress, Olive Branch Petition, Declaration of Independence, United States Supreme Court, Associate Justice
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 22, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 5, 2024