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Tuesday, August 22, 2017


By David A. Plymyer

The hasty decision by Maryland’s State House Trust to remove the statue of Roger B. Taney from the grounds of the State House in Annapolis was an opportunity lost. The three members of the trust’s board who voted by email in favor of removing the statue missed the chance for something becoming exceedingly rare in politics at all levels of government: An informed and civil discourse that enlightens rather than polarizes, and that promotes the sense that a decision is based on something other than raw emotion or politics.

Taney’s personal life and career as a jurist presented the perfect opportunity for a discussion on the standards by which we judge historical figures. The consensus historical view of the Calvert County native was that he was a decent and distinguished man who, if he was guilty of anything, was guilty as the chief justice of the United States of an egregious failure to rise above the prevailing legal view on the rights of African-Americans under the United States Constitution when he authored the majority decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford.

Behind much of the contemporary criticism of Taney by white Americans is a profound conceit: The notion that, if born 240 years ago in a slave-holding state, we somehow would have been nobler and more heroic than Taney when it came time to decide Dred Scott.



Anonymous said...

Excellent point! Maybe Maryland could creat a park for all these statues with true and accurate accounts of the people and how they influenced history. Open a dialog, spark curiosity, encourage an unbiased understanding of history. Let people decide for themselves who are the heroes and villains, but let's not fail to understand the role that they have played in the history of America. Anyone have some land for a history park before someone melts the statues down?

Anonymous said...

He denied a man his right to freedom. Couldn't care less if he is immortalized with a statue. If people really want to learn about him they can hear his name as the man who kept Dread Scott a slave.

Anonymous said...

"He denied a man his right to freedom...."

Taney was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. His job was to apply the law as defined by the U S Constitution. At the time of the Dredd Scott decision the 13th Amendment had not been proposed, much less ratified. His decision was in keeping with the Constitution as it stood at that time. If the decision had gone any other way it would have been in violation of the Constitution. Fortunately, the 13th Amendment changed all that, but it was after Taney's decision. Roger Taney applied the law as it was at that time.

Anonymous said...

That is the best explanation I have seen. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

And he was a Democrat and the Democratic kkk Party wanted the statue. YOU MUST AGREE the party was founded by racist and ran by racist for 200 years. YOU MUST AGREE to REMOVE the party at once. STOP all money and donations. I know YOU Agree, yes ?

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that 6 other members of the Court joined with Taney -- he was not a lone ranger in the Dred Scott case.

Anonymous said...

I have NO doubt that the members of the trust made this decision in fear of their (and family's) lives. typical CLINTON/OBAMA politics.

Anonymous said...

Right! The JOB of a Justice is to make decisions on case law and Constitutional LAW. He may have hated the decision he HAD to make, but he was REQUIRED BY LAW to make it.

These things are what make up the Story of America.

Are you listening, LARRY HOGAN?????

Anonymous said...

The word hasty is key here. What exactly did "they" think was going to happen if they didn't act?