Samuel Chase, an American jurist, and one of the signers of the declaration of independence, born in Somerset co., Maryland, April 17, 1741, died June 19, 1811. His father, an Episcopal clergyman of English birth, directed his early education, and sent him to study law at Annapolis, where he was admitted to the bar at 20 years of age. He was soon noted as a skilful and eloquent advocate and a learned lawyer. He strenuously opposed the royal governor and his adherents in the colonial legislature, was among the most vehement in resisting the stamp act, and soon became the leader of the friends of liberty in his state. The Maryland convention sent him as one of five delegates to the continental congress of 1774, and he continued a member of successive congresses until the end of 1778. In 1776 he went with Charles and John Carroll on a mission to Canada, which he was the more ready to undertake, because the Maryland convention was inclined to half-way measures and refused to instruct its delegates to vote for the declaration of independence.
On his return he canvassed the state, brought public opinion to bear on the convention, and having thus caused the passage of the desired resolution, returned to Philadelphia in season to vote for independence, He was appointed on most of the important committees in congress, where his industry was unwearied. The last two or three years of the war he spent at home in the practice of law. In 1783 he went to England as commissioner of Maryland, to recover funds invested previously to the war in the bank of England. He remained there nearly a year, and succeeded in putting the claim so tar in the way of adjustment that subsequently $650,000 was paid over to that state. In 1786 he removed to Baltimore, and in 1788 was appointed chief justice of a newly established criminal court there, and in 1701 chief justice of the general court of Maryland. Between these dates he was a member of the Maryland convention for considering the federal constitution, which he did not think sufficiently democratic. His course on the occasion of a riot in 1794 characterizes the man. He had caused the arrest of two popular men as ringleaders.
They refused to give bail, and the sheriff was apprehensive of a rescue should he take them to prison. "Call out the posse comitatus, then," said the judge. "Sir," was the reply, "no one will serve." "Summon me, then; I will be the posse comitatus, I will take them to jail." Such was the state of the public mind that the grand jury, instead of presenting the rioters, presented the judge for holding a place in two courts at the same time. He simply told them that they had meddled with topics beyond their province. In 1706 Washington appointed him an associate justice of the supreme court. In 1804 the house of representatives, at the instance of John Randolph, impeached him for misdemeanor in the conduct of several political trials, particularly those of Fries and Callender, convicted of seditious libels five years before. The senate discharged him, March 5, 1805, a majority being in his favor on five of the eight charges, and a majority against him on the residue. After his discharge, he resumed his seat on the bench, which he retained until his death.