Allen and Chase – Classmates and Adversaries

Ebenezer Allen and Salmon Chase were classmates and graduates of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. They renewed their friendship in January 1853 in Washington, DC.  Chase was a Senator from Ohio (1849−1855) and later a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was an ardent abolitionist and known as the “fugitive slave lawyer” because he defended so many escaped slaves in court. On the afternoon of January 9, 1853, in Washington, Allen gave Chase an in-depth description of life and politics in Texas. The former Dartmouth classmates talked about the role of slavery in the Texas economy. Although they had different views on the subject, they respected each other’s position.

Anson Jones – The Last
President of the Republic of Texas

In September 1844, Texans elected Dr. Anson Jones president. He made no campaign speeches and refused to state his position on annexation. Jones remained silent even after James K. Polk’s election as president of the United States on a platform of “reannexation of Texas,” and President John Tyler’s proposal of annexation by joint resolution.

After Dr. Jones’s election, he consulted with friends and other Texas politicians to select officers for his cabinet. He chose Ashbel Smith as Secretary of State. For the position of Attorney General, Jones selected a lawyer from Red River County – Ebenezer Allen. Jones’ cabinet served from about December 1844 until February 1846.

After Jones organized his cabinet, France and England demanded Texas send a representative to their courts “with full powers to conclude any arrangement that might be necessary for the safety of the country.” The governments asked Jones to send Secretary of State Ashbel Smith, who was “known and highly appreciated.” Ebenezer Allen was selected to fill this position in addition to his duties as Attorney General. Allen was regarded as “a man of excellent sense, high character, and of the best disposition in this matter.” In addition to his position as attorney general, Allen was “charged with the duties of secretary of state ad interim.”

While Jones was non-committal about annexation, Secretary Allen was strongly in favor of independence. Two months before his appointment he wrote to William Kennedy, the British consul at Galveston, about his position:

You are well aware of the fact that I have from the beginning been decidedly opposed to the Annexation of Texas to the United States. It is my first object to defeat, if possible, the consummation of this most obnoxious measure, so decidedly hostile, as I conceive it to be, and fraught with such evil consequences to the ultimate prosperity and high destiny of this Country. If I am successful in the accomplishment of this great result, I shall consider it the proudest period of my life.

The State of Texas is No More
Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase

Salmon Portland Chase was a Senator from Ohio (1849−1855) and later a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was an ardent abolitionist and known as the “fugitive slave lawyer” because he defended so many escaped slaves in court. On the afternoon of January 9, 1853, in Washington, Allen gave Chase an in-depth description of life and politics in Texas. The former Dartmouth classmates talked about the role of slavery in the Texas economy. Although they had different views on the subject, they respected each other’s position.

After the Civil War, Chase was appointed a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 1869 case Texas v. White, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution did not permit states to unilaterally secede from the United States and that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were “absolutely null.” – United States Supreme Court Ruling

“The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to “be perpetual.” And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained “to form a more perfect Union.” It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?” – Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase.

It is interesting how Ebenezer Allen worked to annex Texas to the United States although he was decidedly against it and Salmon Chase issued a Supreme Court decision to keep Texas from leaving.

About Allen Mesch

Allen is an author, educator, and historian. He has written six books: The Analyst; Teacher of Civil War Generals; Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith; Charles A. Marvin - "One Year. Six Months, and Eleven Days", Preparing for Disunion, and Ebenezer Allen - Statesman, Entrepreneur, and Spy. He taught classes on the American Civil War at Collin College. He has visited more than 130 Civil War sites and given presentations at Civil War Roundtables.
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