Who Was Roger B. Taney? House Votes to Remove Confederate Statues

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would remove all statues of Confederates from the U.S. Capitol building, including a bust of Roger Brooke Taney, a former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Taney delivered the pro-slavery decision for the Dred Scott v. Sandford case on March 6, 1857.

The new legislation would also remove a statue of Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi and president of the Confederate States of America, and that of others who were part of the Confederacy.

The Library of Congress website explains Taney's historic Dred Scott ruling declared that "African Americans were not citizens of the United States and could not sue in federal courts" and that "Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories."

The Associated Press reported the two-foot-high marble bust of Taney currently stands outside a room in the Capitol building where the late chief justice announced the Dred Scott decision.

The statue of Taney will be replaced by a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the country's first Black Supreme Court justice.

A Jefferson Davis statue at the Capitol.
A statue of Jefferson Davis (the former president of the Confederate States of America) by artist Augustus Lukeman seen at the U.S. Capitol building in June 2020. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Who Was Roger B. Taney?

Taney was born on March 17, 1777 in Calvert County of southern Maryland. He graduated from Dickinson College in 1795, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1799.

In the same year, Taney was served a one-year term in the Maryland House of Delegates, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

He later settled in Frederick in western Maryland, where he served five years in the state senate before moving to Baltimore in 1823. He became the attorney general of Maryland in 1827.

Taney later assumed office as U.S. Attorney General on July 20, 1831 under an appointment by former U.S. president Andrew Jackson, the department documents reveal.

While serving as U.S. Attorney General, Taney was Jackson's legal advisor in the former president's "crusade against the Second Bank of the United States," according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

"After Jackson was reelected in 1832, Taney advised him to withdraw the Government's deposits from the Bank. When Treasury Secretary Duane refused to do so, Jackson named Taney Acting Secretary in his stead.

"Taney's appointment was never confirmed by Congress, but during his nine months as Acting Secretary he transferred the Government's deposits from the Second Bank to designated commercial banks," the department explains.

First U.S. Cabinet Nominee To Be Rejected

According to the U.S. Senate website, senators complained that Taney illegally held his position as Acting Treasury Secretary. In 1834, Jackson submitted a nomination for Taney, which was denied the following day by "a pro-bank majority in the Senate."

The move made Taney "the first cabinet nominee in history to suffer the Senate's formal rejection," the Senate website says.

Taney resigned from office when Congress refused to confirm his appointment as Treasury Secretary. Jackson later appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court "in gratitude for Taney's actions against the Second Bank," according to the Department of the Treasury.

He served as chief justice until his death on October 12, 1864 in Washington, D.C., according to the Department of Justice.

Robert B. Taney statue at the Capitol.
A marble bust of Roger B. Taney, former Chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, on display at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in 2018. Robert Alexander/Getty Images