Georgetown Center for the Constitution Awards $50,000 Cooley Book Prize to Walter Stahr, Biographer of Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase

July 4, 2023

WASHINGTON – The Georgetown Center for the Constitution awards its sixth annual Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 to Walter Stahr for his book, “Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln’s Vital Rival” (Simon & Schuster, 2022).

Walter Stahr is a lawyer and the author, to date, of four biographies of figures from American history. His most recent focuses on Salmon Portland Chase, a nineteenth-century politician who became chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Chase was also the namesake for the Center’s annual Salmon P. Chase Distinguished Lecture & Faculty Colloquium, which this year will be dedicated to Chase himself.

The Cooley Book Prize will be presented at the Center’s annual gala at the National Archives, which will also feature a judicial lecture by the Honorable Stephanos Bibas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In the lead-up to the gala, during the Chase Distinguished Lecture & Faculty Colloquium on September 28-29, Stahr will present a lecture on his book and an invitation-only roundtable of legal historians will discuss the 150th anniversary of The Slaughterhouse Cases and Bradwell v. Illinois, both from which Chase famously dissented.

The Center’s faculty director, Patrick Hotung Professor of Constitutional Law Randy Barnett, explained its Cooley Book Prize decision:

“Reviving the memory of neglected figures who played an important role in our constitutional history is at the core of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution’s mission. To this end, we named our very first high-profile event the Salmon P. Chase Distinguished Lecture and Faculty Colloquium. Awarding both the Cooley Prize and the Chase Lectureship to the same person is unprecedented. It is fitting that, on the tenth anniversary of the Chase lecture series, we honor Walter Stahr for his masterful book. Thanks to him, at long last, Salmon Chase has the biography he deserves.”

The creation of the Cooley Prize is part of the Center’s mission to revive the memory of neglected figures in our constitutional history. Thomas McIntyre Cooley was a longstanding chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where he also served as its dean. Cooley was a renowned legal scholar who authored several highly influential books, including “A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations Which Rest Upon the Legislative Power of the States of the American Union.” He also served as the first chair of the Interstate Commerce Commission. The Georgetown Center for the Constitution honors Cooley’s scholarly contributions to our constitutional heritage with the Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize and his legacy as a jurist with the Thomas M. Cooley Judicial Lecture.

Past Cooley Prize winners are: Stanford Law Professor Michael W. McConnell for “The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power Under the Constitution” (Princeton University Press, 2020); Princeton University Professor Sean Wilentz for “No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding” (Harvard University Press, 2018); Princeton Professor Keith Whittington for “Repugnant Laws: Judicial Review of Acts of Congress from the Founding to the Present” (University Press of Kansas, 2019); Harvard Law Professor Richard H. Fallon, Jr. for “Law and Legitimacy in the Supreme Court” (Harvard University Press, 2018), and Professors Gary Lawson of Boston University School of Law and Guy Seidman of IDC Herzliya-Radzyner School of Law for “A Great Power of Attorney: Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution” (Kansas University Press, 2017).