History In Ink®  Historical Autographs







Samuel Chase

Chase acknowledges naturalization of a citizen

Samuel Chase, 1741–1811.  Signer of the Declaration of Independence; Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 1796–1811.  Rare partially printed Document Signed, Samuel Chase, four pages (including integral leaf), 6½" x 8", Baltimore, Maryland, August 17, 1793. 

Chase, as Chief Judge of Maryland, acknowledges the naturalization of a citizen.  The document notes that the applicant "did repeat and subscribe a Declaration of his Belief in the Christian Religion and the oath required by the Act of the Assembly of this State, entitled, ĎAn Act for Naturalization.'"  The document seems to contradict the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was adopted in 1791, although initially the Bill of Rights applied to only the federal government, not the states. 

Chase, a member of the Maryland legislature for some 20 years, represented Maryland in the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence.  He served in the Congress until 1778.  In 1791, he became Chief Judge of the Maryland General Court, the position that he held when he signed this document.  In 1796, President George Washington appointed Chase to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he served until his death.

Chase remains the only Supreme Court Justice to be impeached.  A Federalist, Chase endured the wrath of the Jefferson Republicans, who feared the lifetime tenure of Federalist judges who claimed the exclusive right of judicial review of legislation.  In late 1804, the House of Representatives voted eight articles of impeachment against Chase based not upon his service on the Supreme Court but upon his allegedly politically partisan actions as a circuit judge—the trial judge positions that early Supreme Court Justices were required to fill.  Chase was acquitted in the Senate by large margins on several of the counts, and even some Senators who personally opposed Chaseʼs political philosophy voted to acquit him because they doubted that the quality of his judicial actions were grounds for removal from office.  Chaseʼs acquittal established an unofficial historical precedent that helped to secure the lifetime tenure of Supreme Court Justices.

Chase has engrossed part of this document, so it has six words in his hand along with his bold 3" signature.  The inside of the document contains a handwritten certification by a notary that Chase has signed the document as Chief Judge and bears the notary's ornate embossed seal.  The document has intersecting horizontal and vertical folds, one of which touches the "S" in Chase's signature and his paraph beneath.  The document has a ¼" edge split on the horizontal fold on the first page and a small hole in the vertical fold in the upper blank margin, affecting nothing.  Overall the piece is in fine condition.  

Chaseʼs autograph material is rare, and those who collect Signers or Supreme Court Justices should be careful not to let his items pass.




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