Should Congress Take Down Its Statue of Racist Chief Justice Roger Taney?
Congress is currently weighing a bill that would remove the bust of Roger B. Taney that is on display in the old Supreme Court chambers inside the capitol. Taney, who served as chief justice of the United States from 1836 to 1864, is best known as the author of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the notorious case which said that black Americans have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
Taney stands out as a uniquely odious figure in American history. One of the big questions in Dred Scott was whether Scott had standing as a U.S. citizen to sue in federal court. Taney’s opinion rejected the idea of black citizenship outright.
Blacks “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution,” Taney asserted. At the time of the founding, blacks “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order.” In Taney’s view, black Americans were entitled to nothing more than whatever cursory privileges “as those who held the power and the Government might choose to give them.”
In addition to being wildly racist,
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