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Roger B. Taney

Roger B. Taney

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Roger Brooke Taney was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

, holding that office from 1836 until his death in 1864. He was the first Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 to hold that office or sit on the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

. He was also the eleventh United States Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

. He is most remembered for delivering the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford, , also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S...

 (1857), that ruled, among other things, that African Americans, having been considered inferior at the time the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 was drafted, were not part of the original community of citizens and could not be considered citizens of the United States.

Taney was a Jacksonian
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 Democrat
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 when he became Chief Justice. Described by his and President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

's critics as "[a] supple, cringing tool of Jacksonian power," Taney was a believer in states' rights
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

 but also the Union; a slaveholder who regretted the institution and manumitted
Manumission
Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves. In the United States before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished most slavery, this often happened upon the death of the owner, under conditions in his will.-Motivations:The...

 his slaves. From Prince Frederick, Maryland, he had practiced law and politics simultaneously and succeeded in both. After abandoning Federalism as a losing cause, he rose to the top of the state's Jacksonian machine. As U.S. Attorney General
Attorney General
In most common law jurisdictions, the attorney general, or attorney-general, is the main legal advisor to the government, and in some jurisdictions he or she may also have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions.The term is used to refer to any person...

 (1831–1833) and then Secretary of the Treasury (1833–1834), Taney became one of Andrew Jackson's closest advisers.
". . . He brought to the Chief Justiceship a high intelligence and legal acumen, kindness and humility, patriotism, and a determination to be a great Chief Justice that enabled him to mold the modest raw material of the Court into an effective and prestigious institution."


Taney died during the final months of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 on the same day that his home state of Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 abolished slavery.

Early life and career


Taney was born March 17, 1777. He was the third child and the second son of seven (four sons and three daughters) born to a slaveholding family of tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 planters
Planters
Planters is an American snack food company, a division of Kraft Foods, best known for its processed nuts and for the Mr. Peanut icon that symbolizes them. Mr. Peanut was created by grade schooler Antonio Gentile for a 1916 contest to design the company's brand icon...

 in Calvert County, Maryland
Calvert County, Maryland
Calvert County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland. It occupies the Calvert Peninsula which is bordered on the east by the Chesapeake Bay and on the west by the Patuxent River. Calvert County is part of the Southern Maryland region. Calvert County's residents are among the highest...

. He received a rudimentary education from a series of private tutors. After instructing him for a year, his last tutor David English recommended that Taney was ready for college. At the age of 15 he entered Dickinson College
Dickinson College
Dickinson College is a private, residential liberal arts college in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Originally established as a Grammar School in 1773, Dickinson was chartered September 9, 1783, five days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, making it the first college to be founded in the newly...

, graduating with honors in 1795. As a younger son with no prospect of inheriting the family plantation, Taney chose the profession of law. He read law and in 1799 was admitted to the bar. He quickly distinguished himself as one of Maryland's most promising young lawyers.

Career


In 1799, the same year he began practicing as an attorney, Taney was elected to the Maryland state legislature, where he served one term as a Federalist. Returning to private practice, he served as a director of the State Bank Branch in Frederick, Maryland from 1810 to 1815.

He was elected a state Senator
Maryland State Senate
The Maryland Senate, sometimes referred to as the Maryland State Senate, is the upper house of the General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland...

 in 1816, serving until 1821 - this time as a Democrat, since the Federalist party had dissolved. He was also a director of the Frederick County Bank from 1818 to 1823, when he returned to private practice. When the 1824 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1824
In the United States presidential election of 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected President on February 9, 1825, after the election was decided by the House of Representatives. The previous years had seen a one-party government in the United States, as the Federalist Party had dissolved, leaving...

 divided the Democratic Party between supporters and opponents of Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

, Taney became a staunch Jacksonian Democrat. He was elected Attorney General of Maryland
Attorney General of Maryland
The Attorney General of Maryland is the chief legal officer of the State of Maryland in the United States and is elected by the people every four years with no term limits...

 in 1827, but resigned in 1831, first to serve as acting United States Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

, and then to accept President Jackson's nomination as Attorney General of the United States.

Jackson Administration


Among Taney's opinions as attorney general, two revealed his stand on slavery: one supported South Carolina's law prohibiting free Blacks from entering the state, and one argued that Blacks could not be citizens. In 1833, as secretary of the Treasury, Taney ordered an end to the deposit of Federal money in the Second Bank of the United States
Second Bank of the United States
The Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816, five years after the First Bank of the United States lost its own charter. The Second Bank of the United States was initially headquartered in Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, the same as the First Bank, and had branches throughout the...

, an act which killed the institution.

Treasury nomination


Taney was the first nominee to the United States Executive Cabinet
United States Cabinet
The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, which are generally the heads of the federal executive departments...

 to be rejected by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 when his recess appointment
Recess appointment
A recess appointment is the appointment, by the President of the United States, of a senior federal official while the U.S. Senate is in recess. The U.S. Constitution requires that the most senior federal officers must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming office, but while the Senate is in...

 as Secretary of the Treasury failed in a vote of 28-18. Rather than return to the position of Attorney General, however, Taney returned to Maryland and resumed private practice.

Supreme Court nominations


In January 1835 Jackson, in defiance of the Senate's rejection of Taney as Treasury Secretary, nominated Taney as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to replace the retiring Gabriel Duvall
Gabriel Duvall
Gabriel Duvall was an American politician and jurist.-Career:Born in Prince George's County, Maryland, Duvall read law to enter the Bar in 1778. He married Florence Adams Washburne , the daughter of General Henry Gilman Washburne and Florence Adams Washburne, on 1778...

. The Senate was scheduled to vote on Taney's confirmation on the closing day of the session that month, but the anti-Jackson Whigs who dominated the Senate blocked the vote and introduced a motion to abolish the open seat on the Court. The latter was unsuccessful, but the Whigs succeeded in preventing Taney's confirmation to the Court. (The seat was then left open for over a year until Philip Pendleton Barbour
Philip Pendleton Barbour
Philip Pendleton Barbour was a U.S. Congressman from Virginia and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was also the brother of Virginia governor and U.S. Secretary of War James Barbour as well as the first cousin of John S. Barbour and first cousin, once removed of John S...

 was confirmed to it in 1836.)

Two factors intervened to help Taney onto the Court, however: after the 1834 elections, Jacksonian Democrats controlled the Senate and, during the 1835 recess, Chief Justice John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

 died following a stage coach accident. On December 28, 1835, Jackson sent the nomination of Taney as Chief Justice to the Senate, which had convened that month; after a long and bitter battle with considerable opposition from Whig leaders Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

, Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

, and Jackson's former Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

, Taney was confirmed on March 15, 1836 and received his commission the same day.

The Taney Court, 1836–1864


Unlike Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

, who had supported a broad role for the federal government in the area of economic regulation, Taney and the other justices appointed by Jackson more often favored the power of the states. In a series of Commerce Clause
Commerce Clause
The Commerce Clause is an enumerated power listed in the United States Constitution . The clause states that the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Courts and commentators have tended to...

 cases exemplified by Mayor of the City of New York v. Miln (1837), wherein the challenged New York statute required masters of incoming ships to report information on all passengers they brought into the country, i.e. age, health, last legal residence, etc. The question before the Taney court was whether or not the state statute undercut Congress's authority to regulate commerce; or was it a police measure, as New York claimed, fully within the authority of the state. Taney and his colleagues sought to devise a more nuanced means of accommodating competing federal and state claims of regulatory power. The Court ruled in favor of New York.

The Taney Court also presided over the case of slaves who had taken over the Spanish schooner Amistad
La Amistad
La Amistad was a ship notable as the scene of a revolt by African captives being transported from Havana to Puerto Principe, Cuba. It was a 19th-century two-masted schooner built in Spain and owned by a Spaniard living in Cuba...

. Fellow Justice Joseph Story
Joseph Story
Joseph Story was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811 to 1845. He is most remembered today for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee and The Amistad, along with his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first...

 wrote the Court's decision and opinion. Taney sided with Story's opinion but left no written record of his own in regard to the Amistad case
Amistad (1841)
The Amistad, also known as United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, 40 U.S. 518 , was a United States Supreme Court case resulting from the rebellion of slaves on board the Spanish schooner Amistad in 1839...

.

In Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge
Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge
Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge, 36 U.S. 420 , was a case regarding the Charles River Bridge and the Warren Bridge of Boston, Massachusetts, heard by the United States Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney...

, the operators of the Charles River Bridge in Boston sued the operators of a new competing bridge, claiming that the state had granted them a monopoly to collect tolls. Taney argued that, although the Massachusetts legislature had granted the Charles River Bridge a charter to build a bridge, the object of the government was to promote general happiness, which took precedence over the rights of monopolies. Taney also held that the Massachusetts legislature never explicitly granted the Charles River Bridge a monopoly and that all monopolies must be explicitly granted to exist, following one of Marshall's precedents. In addition to this Taney declared that one session of a state legislature is not bound by previous decisions of the legislature.

In Prigg v. Pennsylvania
Prigg v. Pennsylvania
Prigg v. Pennsylvania, , was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court held that the Federal Fugitive Slave Act precluded a Pennsylvania state law that gave procedural protections to suspected escaped slaves, and overturned the conviction of Edward Prigg as a result.-Federal Law:In June...

 (1842), the Taney Court agreed to hear a case regarding slavery, slaves, slave owners, and States' Rights. It held that the Constitutional prohibition against state laws that would emancipate any "person held to service or labor in [another] state" barred Pennsylvania from punishing a Maryland man who had seized a former slave and her child, and had taken them back to Maryland without seeking an order from the Pennsylvania courts permitting the abduction. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Joseph Story
Joseph Story
Joseph Story was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811 to 1845. He is most remembered today for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee and The Amistad, along with his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first...

 held not only that states were barred from interfering with enforcement of federal fugitive slave laws, but that they also were barred from assisting in enforcing those laws.

Taney was instrumental in the case of John Merryman
John Merryman
John Merryman was the petitioner in one of the best known habeas corpus cases of the American Civil War, a militia officer during the Civil War, and a Maryland politician.-Early life:...

, a citizen of the state of Maryland who, in the early years of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, was accused of burning bridges and destroying telegraph poles. He was seized in his home at 2:00 am by military authorities and taken to Fort McHenry. His was the first arrest under President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

's suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

Dred Scott decision


In 1857 the Court heard Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford, , also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S...

; its decision is considered to have indirectly been a cause of the Civil War. Despite the willingness of five members of the Court to dismiss the lawsuit by Dred Scott, on grounds situated in Missouri law's governing who could sue and be sued, Taney wrote what became regarded as the opinion for the Court. His decision presented his version of the origins of the United States and the Constitution as the basis for his holding that Congress had no authority to restrict the spread of slavery into federal territories, and that such previous attempts to restrict slavery's spread as the 1820 Missouri Compromise
Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30'...

 were unconstitutional.

One of the two dissenters, Justice Benjamin Curtis
Benjamin Robbins Curtis
Benjamin Robbins Curtis was an American attorney and United States Supreme Court Justice.Curtis was the first and only Whig justice of the Supreme Court. He was also the first Supreme Court justice to have a formal legal degree and is the only justice to have resigned from the court over a matter...

, was so upset by the decision that he resigned from the court.

The Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford, , also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S...

 decision was widely condemned at the time by opponents of slavery as an illegitimate use of judicial power. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 and the Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 accused the Taney Court of carrying out the orders of the "slave power
Slave power
The Slave Power was a term used in the Northern United States to characterize the political power of the slaveholding class of the South....

" and of conspiring with President James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

 to undo the Kansas-Nebraska Act
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through Popular Sovereignty if they would allow slavery within...

. Current scholarship supports that second charge, as it appears that Buchanan put significant political pressure behind the scenes on Justice Robert Grier
Robert Cooper Grier
Robert Cooper Grier , was an American jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States.-Early life, education, and career:...

 to obtain at least one vote from a justice from outside the South to support the Court's sweeping decision.

Taney's intemperate language only added to the fury of those who opposed the decision. As he explained the Court's ruling, he noted that African Americans, free or slave, had not been considered part of the original community of people covered by the Constitution, but people of "an inferior order". Because they were originally excluded, he contended that neither the Court nor Congress could now extend rights of citizens to them.

The full text of Taney's statement from the Dred Scott ruling:
Author Tom Burnam, in Dictionary of Misinformation (1975), commented (pp. 257–58) that "it seems unfair to quote the remark above out of a context which includes the phrase 'that unfortunate race,' etc."

Taney's own attitudes toward slavery were more complex. He emancipated his own slaves and gave pensions to those who were too old to work. In 1819, he defended a Methodist minister who had been indicted for inciting slave insurrections by denouncing slavery in a camp meeting. In his opening argument in that case, Taney condemned slavery as "a blot on our national character."

Taney's attitudes toward slavery appeared to harden in support. By the time he wrote his opinion in Dred Scott, he labeled the opposition to slavery as "northern aggression," a popular phrase among Southerners. He hoped that a Supreme Court decision declaring federal restrictions on slavery in the territories unconstitutional would put the issue beyond the realm of political debate. His decision galvanized Northern opposition to slavery while splitting the Democratic Party on sectional lines.

Many abolitionists — and some supporters of slavery — believed that Taney was prepared to rule that the states had no power to bar slaveholders from bringing their property into free states, and that laws of free states providing for the emancipation of slaves brought into their territory were unconstitutional. A case, Lemmon v. New York
Lemmon v. New York
Lemmon v. New York , a decision by the Superior Court of the City of New York, granted freedom to slaves who were brought into New York by their Virginia slave owners, while in transit to Texas.-Background:...

, that presented that issue was slowly making its way to the Supreme Court in the years after the Dred Scott decision. The outbreak of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 denied Taney the chance to rule on the issue, as the Commonwealth of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 seceded and no longer recognized the Court's authority.

Lincoln Presidency


Taney personally administered the oath of office to Lincoln, his most prominent critic, on March 4, 1861. He continued to trouble Lincoln during the three years he remained Chief Justice after the beginning of the war. After Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus
Habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

 in parts of Maryland, Taney ruled as Circuit Judge in Ex parte Merryman
Ex parte Merryman
Ex parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144 , is a well-known U.S. federal court case which arose out of the American Civil War. It was a test of the authority of the President to suspend "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus"...

 (1861) that only Congress had the power to take this action. Some scholars argue that Lincoln made an aborted attempt to arrest Taney
Taney Arrest Warrant
The Taney Arrest Warrant is a conjectural controversy in Abraham Lincoln scholarship. The argument is that in late May or early June 1861 President Lincoln secretly ordered an arrest warrant for Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, but abandoned the proposal...

 in response to his habeas corpus decision, though the evidence is sparse. Lincoln ignored the court's order and continued to have arrests made without the privilege of the writ. Merryman was eventually released without charges. Some Radical Republicans in Congress considered initiating impeachment charges against Taney.

Final years


Taney, whose health had never been good, spent his final years in worsening health, near poverty, and despised by both North and South. Since the Merryman ruling, he was all but ignored by Lincoln and his cabinet. Taney lost his Maryland estates to the Civil War and suffered from his poverty:

"All my life I have felt the obligation to pay my debts . . . and my inability to do so at this time is mortifying." He explained that his rent had been raised from $4,000 to $8,000 but that he had been prevented from moving to cheaper quarters due to the failing health of his daughter Ellen, who lived with him. The miserable financial situation was maddening to him. . . . A few months later Taney wrote ". . . about peaceful, bygone days . . . walks in the fresh country air. But my walking days are over."

On October 13, 1864 the clerk of the Supreme Court announced that "the great and good Chief Justice is no more." He had died at the age of eighty-seven the previous evening, having served for more than twenty-eight years as the fifth Chief Justice of the United States.

President Lincoln made no public statement. Of his cabinet, Lincoln and three members —Secretary of State William H. Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

, Attorney General Edward Bates
Edward Bates
Edward Bates was a U.S. lawyer and statesman. He served as United States Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln from 1861 to 1864...

, and Postmaster General William Dennison— attended Taney's memorial service in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 Only Bates joined the cortège to Frederick, Maryland for Taney's funeral and burial. Taney, whose wife had pre-deceased him by nearly twenty years, was survived by two daughters: the sickly Ellen, and a second, widowed daughter with a small child; he left a small life insurance policy and a bundle of worthless Virginia bonds.

Taney was punished by abolitionists in the Senate after his death. In early 1865, the House of Representatives passed a bill to appropriate funds for a bust of Taney to be displayed in the Supreme Court. "Now an emancipated country should make a bust to the author of the Dred Scott decision?" exclaimed the indignant Senator Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner was an American politician and senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction,...

. "If a man has done evil in his life, he must not be complimented in marble." Sumner proposed that a vacant spot, not a bust of Taney, be left in the courtroom "to speak in warning to all who would betray liberty!"

Death and legacy



  • Taney was buried at St. John the Evangelist Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland.

  • His home, Taney Place
    Taney Place
    Taney Place is a historic home located at Adelina, Calvert County, Maryland, United States. It is a simple, two-story, hip-roofed, Georgian-style country house, dating from about 1750...

    , located at Adelina, Calvert County, Maryland
    Calvert County, Maryland
    Calvert County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland. It occupies the Calvert Peninsula which is bordered on the east by the Chesapeake Bay and on the west by the Patuxent River. Calvert County is part of the Southern Maryland region. Calvert County's residents are among the highest...

     was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
    National Register of Historic Places
    The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

     in 1972.


Another Taney home is located in Frederick, MD where Taney lived and practiced law with partner Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, who wrote the lyrics to the United States' national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner".-Life:...

, the author of "The Star Spangled Banner". The [Roger Brooke Taney House] "including the house, detached kitchen, root cellar, smokehouse and slaves quarters, interprets the life of Taney and his wife Anne Key (sister of Francis Scott Key), as well as various aspects of life in early nineteenth century Frederick County
Frederick County, Maryland
Frederick County is a county located in the western part of the U.S. state of Maryland, bordering the southern border of Pennsylvania and the northeastern border of Virginia. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 233,385....

."

Taney remained a controversial figure. In 1865, Congress rejected the proposal to commission a bust of Taney to be displayed with those of the four Chief Justices who preceded him. As Senator Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner was an American politician and senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction,...

 of Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 said:
I speak what cannot be denied when I declare that the opinion of the Chief Justice in the case of Dred Scott was more thoroughly abominable than anything of the kind in the history of courts. Judicial baseness reached its lowest point on that occasion. You have not forgotten that terrible decision where a most unrighteous judgment was sustained by a falsification of history. Of course, the Constitution of the United States and every principle of Liberty was falsified, but historical truth was falsified also. . . .


Sumner had long exhibited a bitter dislike of the late Chief Justice. Upon hearing the news of Taney's passing the previous year, he wrote President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 in celebration declaring that "Providence has given us a victory" in Taney's death.

Notwithstanding, after Taney's successor, Chief Justice Salmon Chase, died, in 1873 Congress approved funds for busts of both Taney and Chase to be displayed in the Capitol alongside the other chief justices.

Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis
Benjamin Robbins Curtis
Benjamin Robbins Curtis was an American attorney and United States Supreme Court Justice.Curtis was the first and only Whig justice of the Supreme Court. He was also the first Supreme Court justice to have a formal legal degree and is the only justice to have resigned from the court over a matter...

, author of one of the dissents on Dred Scott, held his former colleague in high esteem despite their differences in that case. Writing in his own memoirs, Curtis described Taney:
He was indeed a great magistrate, and a man of singular purity of life and character. That there should have been one mistake in a judicial career so long, so exalted, and so useful is only proof of the imperfection of our nature. The reputation of Chief Justice Taney can afford to have anything known that he ever did and still leave a great fund of honor and praise to illustrate his name. If he had never done anything else that was high, heroic, and important, his noble vindication of the writ of habeas corpus, and of the dignity and authority of his office, against a rash minister of state, who, in the pride of a fancied executive power, came near to the commission of a great crime, will command the admiration and gratitude of every lover of constitutional liberty, so long as our institutions shall endure.


Modern legal scholars have tended to concur with Justice Curtis that, despite the Dred Scott decision, Taney was both an outstanding jurist and a competent judicial administrator. His mixed legacy was noted by Justice Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia
Antonin Gregory Scalia is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia is the Senior Associate Justice...

 in his dissenting opinion
Dissenting opinion
A dissenting opinion is an opinion in a legal case written by one or more judges expressing disagreement with the majority opinion of the court which gives rise to its judgment....

 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey
Planned Parenthood v. Casey
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in which the constitutionality of several Pennsylvania state regulations regarding abortion were challenged...

:


There comes vividly to mind a portrait by Emanuel Leutze that hangs in the Harvard Law School: Roger Brooke Taney, painted in 1859, the 82d year of his life, the 24th of his Chief Justiceship, the second after his opinion in Dred Scott. He is all in black, sitting in a shadowed red armchair, left hand resting upon a pad of paper in his lap, right hand hanging limply, almost lifelessly, beside the inner arm of the chair. He sits facing the viewer, and staring straight out. There seems to be on his face, and in his deep set eyes, an expression of profound sadness and disillusionment. Perhaps he always looked that way, even when dwelling upon the happiest of thoughts. But those of us who know how the lustre of his great Chief Justiceship came to be eclipsed by Dred Scott cannot help believing that he had that case--its already apparent consequences for the Court, and its soon to be played out consequences for the Nation--burning on his mind.

  • Taney County, Missouri
    Taney County, Missouri
    Taney County is a county located in Southwest Missouri in the United States. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the county's population was 39,703. In the 2010 census the counties population was 51,675 Its county seat is Forsyth....

    , is named in his honor, though it is usually pronounced ˈteɪni, not ˈtɔːni.
  • A statue of Justice Taney is displayed on the grounds of the Maryland State House
    Maryland State House
    The Maryland State House is located in Annapolis and is the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use, dating to 1772. It houses the Maryland General Assembly and offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The capitol has the distinction of being topped by the largest wooden dome in...

    .
  • A street in Baltimore City was named for him.


Chief Justice Taney was the first of the thirteen Catholic justices out of 112 total who have served on the Supreme Court.
  • The Treasury-class US Coast Guard Cutter Taney was named for him. The ship is now part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum
    Baltimore Maritime Museum
    Historic Ships in Baltimore, created as a result of the merger of the USS Constellation Museum and the Baltimore Maritime Museum, is a maritime museum located in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Maryland in the United States....

    .
  • Liberty ship
    Liberty ship
    Liberty ships were cargo ships built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by...

     Roger B. Taney also bore his name. After being commissioned on February 9, 1942, on July 2, 1943 she was torpedoed in the South Atlantic. Three crew members died. Many of the crew were involved in an epic 22 day 2,600 mile journey, including surviving a hurricane, and successfully landing in the Bahamas.
  • Roger B. Taney Middle School in Temple Hills, Maryland bore his name. When the population of the county changed to majority black, the school was renamed after Justice Thurgood Marshall.

See also






External links




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