Chase


    Chase is the story of a couple, a young lawyer, George Chase, newly arrived in a Maine coast town, and a ship captain’s daughter, Harriet Norwood, who meet and fall in love. Their romance proves stormy at first, his ambitions dominating their relationship.

    They marry and settle in the border city of Calais, Maine in 1836, a boomtown for lumber and shipbuilding. Weathering economic depression, losing infants to illnesses, the couple rises to power and wealth, involved with the issues of the day – workers’ exploitation, Native Americans, women’s equality, public education, religion, temperance, and slavery. Their love grows and matures, overcoming conflict between George’s skepticism and Harriet’s faith.

    As a state senator in 1852, Chase secures Maine for Franklin Pierce’s presidential election, rewarded by an appointment as consul in Hawaii. Harriet’s pregnancy prevents her accompanying her husband, who must travel immediately to the new post. While visiting Washington D.C. to receive his orientation, Chase witnesses slavery for the first time, and is persuaded to assist a young woman to escape bondage by secreting her on his ship, bound for Hawaii.

    The young woman, a descendant of slave mistresses and masters, educated beside her master’s children, might pass into white society. Chase is physically attracted, but chooses to become her fatherly mentor, tutoring in diction and custom, preparing her for a new life in Hawaii. They arrive to discover a multicultural society in the Islands, rare in the 19th Century.

    As United States Consul at Lahaina on the island of Maui, Chase’s job is to serve the whaling fleet.  He persuades expatriate Americas that the young woman is an orphaned niece with French ancestry. She falls in love and marries a Hawaiian official. Chase’s official role is to support the whalers, reporting traffic to the State Department, while correcting injustices. The fleet’s motto is “There is no God west of the Horn, ” and sailors clash with Hawaiians and their missionary friends. Chase grows to admire the work of the missionaries, assisting to inoculate the island people against a smallpox epidemic. He attends church but only as a social function.


    Meanwhile, having borne the baby, Harriet sails for Hawaii, arriving near the point of death. The fugitive slave girl nurses her back to health, and they become friends. Chase amasses a fortune by providing warehousing of whale oil transshipped to the United States.

    A crisis arises on the whaling fleet where flogging laws, prohibiting corporal punishment, are applied only to the white sailors. Thousands of African-Americans, Portuguese, and Hawaiian sailors, who serve on the fleet, continue to be abused. Disgusted and determined to halt the beatings, using powers as consul, Chase arrests an American captain and confiscates his ship for causing the death of a young sailor.

     The issue is larger than fair treatment for minority sailors. The issue is extending rights of citizenship beyond whites, a constitutional case. Chase wins the battle to protect the minorities from harm, but loses the “war” over citizenship, a dispute to be solved only in the coming Civil War.

    Represented by his cousin, Salmon P. Chase, Ohio Senator, George Chase defends his decision before the Supreme Court.