Will They Dig Up The Body of Justice Taney?

taneyrThere are some who worry that we are heading down a dangerous road. They see a trend to make America pure. We are in the process of examining the action of those who lived in America over seven score years ago and examining that person’s actions. Anything done by him that offends our present day sensibilities then actions must be taken to show our disdain for that person.

The question is where will it ever stop because the United States like other nations has not been perfect. Many people acted in accordance with the laws in existence at the time. Those laws differ from what we now believe. The question is whether it right to judge a person by the laws under which he lived or by our present day standards.

That is the basis for the division that exists in the Supreme Court of the United States. A civilized society must have some certainty in the laws that govern it. That is why the doctrine ol stare decisis was developed. This means something decided in the past must be followed except in extraordinary circumstances. Some judges take it seriously; other judges give lip service to the doctrine. The latter decide that if it is out of step with their current thinking then the law must be changed.

There is a small movement on to change the national anthem from the Star-Spangled Banner to some other song. This reason is that the author of the poem, Francis Scott Key, was a slave holder and a bigot. It seems he was district attorney in Washington, DC and enforced the law which did not outlaw slavery. It was written of him that in 1836: “Key made national headlines by asking whether the property rights of slaveholders outweighed the free speech rights of those arguing for slavery’s abolishment. Key hoped to silence abolitionists, who, he charged, wished to “associate and amalgamate with the negro.”

The author who wrote that also asked: “How is it that neither Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X nor Public Enemy came up with lesser-known hip hop artist Brother Ali’s line, “land of the thief, home of the slave?” He added to that: ““All Men are Created Equal” and “The Land of the Free”—both those mottoes sprang from the pens of men with quite narrow views of equality and freedom.”

That points to the problem of going back to find Unites State’s documents that were written by pure Americans; those whose opinions fit into the ideas of the purest of the present day.  If we are to throw out the Star-Spangled banner because of the beliefs of Key then we also throw out the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution. These were all written, at least in part, by slave holders and were ratified by slave holding states.

Like Saudi Arabia has the Mataween to enforce Sharia law the United States is seeing the rise of its own purity police (PP) who seek to purify society and to rid us of any reminders of the past which offend anyone. They want to whitewash the past so it does not blacken the present. Their goal is to ensure the memory of any person who did not conform to our present day thinking be erased from public view.

These deciders of what we shall remember are now actively pursuing Justice Robert B.Taney, who in 1836 was appointed the fifth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. Most of the scholars believe he did an exemplary job in his 28 years in that position. He died over 150 years ago.

He is dead and buried in Frederick, Maryland, where he practiced law and resided. A bust of him has stood outside its City Hall for 85 years. But will not for much longer.

It offends some of the citizens because Taney was the justice who wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision in which he was joined by six other justices. His  bust is to be removed if someone will take it. There seem no takers because of the fear if the PP. The PP have gone throughout Maryland demanding that all other reminders of Taney’s existence be washed away.

When that is done his gravestone and grave will remain. Will they be considered a blight on the soil of Frederick? I expect the PP will attempt to do that. You see Taney not only authorized the Dred Scott decision he also married the sister of Francis Scott Key.

13 thoughts on “Will They Dig Up The Body of Justice Taney?

  1. If you mean the priest John Wycliffe, he was just dug up and burned and his ashes scattered. The English are a curious people, very religious.

  2. There is precedent.

    Oliver Cromwell signed the death warrant for King Charles I in 1649. He died from natural causes in 1658 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The Royalists returned to power in 1660, the monarchy was re-established and King Charles II, who was living in exile, was recalled. The new parliament ordered the disinterment of Cromwell’s body from Westminster Abbey and the disinterment of other regicides John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton, for a posthumous execution at Tyburn.

    After hanging in chains “from morning till four in the afternoon”, the bodies were cut down and beheaded. Charles had the heads placed on a 20-foot spike above Westminster Hall (the location of the trial of Charles I). In 1685 a storm broke the pole upon which Cromwell’s head stood, throwing it to the ground, after which it was in the hands of private collectors and museum owners until 25 March 1960, when it was buried at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge.

    1. well, Henry, since we’re on the subject of digging up bodies in order to execute the person, wasn’t there a guy who committed the crime of translating the Bible into English!!!!!! who was dug up and then executed? in England?

      I know you know this

  3. 1. The 1856 Dred Scott decision is called by many scholars the Supreme Court’s worst decision. By a 7-2 majority, the Court basically said that African-American slaves and their descendants could never be “citizens”, had no “standing” to bring suits, and that Congress had no right to prohibit slavery in the Territories. Taney thought he’d settled the slavery question in America. In fact, his decision fueled the flames of war.
    The decision itself is unreadable, in my humble opinion. Archaic! Long winded! Convoluted!
    2. Justice Taney freed his own slaves. He died in 1864.
    3. Francis Scott Key freed some of his slaves, too; he legally represented free slaves, as well as prosecuting pro-slavery laws.
    4. When we tear down the monuments dedicated to former slaveholders, will the Washington Monument fall?
    5. End income inequality and outcome inequality.
    6. I accuse myself of too often throwing stones, rather than counting blessings.
    7. Thank Matt for allowing us to vent; and thank all who contribute, pro and con.

  4. Roger Taney was the first Roman Catholic to sit on the Supreme Court. The next Roman Catholic Chief Justice was also from the South, Edward White from Louisiana, born and reared on a slave plantation. This was at a time when anti-Catholic, convent burning mobs roamed the streets of Boston.

    The Dred Scott decision, penned by CJ Taney, is one of the best researched Supreme Court decisions ever written. It stands as a total refutation of the risible Marxist nonsense of the United States being established as a “propositional nation” that has been propagated widely since the 1930s by a hostile elite. It is readable to the non-attorney and should be required of anyone claiming to understand the founding principles of this nation.

    1. Hi tadzio,
      I just got an “A-” two weeks ago in HIST1101-62 “US History to 1877” and I learned that the Taney-led SJC held the country hostage for 11 yrs, I think, before issuing the Dred Scott decision which further enflamed matters and led to further deterioration of north/south (free/slave) state relations, especially along Mason-Dixon, and ultimately led to Lincoln refusing to surrender Fort Sumter and the spark of armed conflict and Civil War. That period was marked by multiple overlap and crisscross of party platforms, names and affiliations and political party maneuvering (WHEN JUDICIAL and LEGISLATIVE are SUPPOSED to be SEPERATE) which was the real convoluting factor.


      1. Congratulations on your A-. When I was was a student I got an A in US History for enjoying Morison and and suffering through Commager, the anointed joint text writers of the day. Both marks are irrelevant in a discussion.

        You confuse political consequences with with legal scholarship. Chief Justice Taney correctly presented the meaning and intentions of the writers of the Constitution. He did so in a magisterial presentation.

        The Constitution was altered later by means of three amendments. It was not Taney’s remit to alter the Constitution by twisting and turning words to fit the fashions of the day. That it took a bloody conflict to resolve the issue of human servitude in the United States when every other nation in the Western world accomplished it without war is a comment upon the all round inept political leadership of the day. It is not a reflection on Taney’s jurisprudence in a case that was but a small part of the path of folly that led to the Civil War.

        One notes that you made no reference to what you learned as an obedient student to the text of the Dred Scott decision. Reading original texts is frequently a good cure for the biased tomes of historians who usually propagate a “lie agreed upon”. There is more to history than regurgitating the prejudices of whoever is handing out marks this season.

        1. Indeed there is.
          I try to approach history, and the maelstrom that was/is the original subject of this blog the same way as Matt,…to seek the truth.

          Tadzio, I will admit that I did not read the full text of the decision, rather an overview, not my professor’s opinion of it, but in the current bachelor’s program online text that we used.

          The way the professor presented the material was always as a presentation of basic accepted facts, with an issued challenge to question for ourselves whether those facts have stood the test of time.

          We focused on a lot on the evolution and staggering flip-flops of the political party system, Lincoln’s unprecedented expansion of executive authority, and slavery as it affected the development of war, especially how the southern and middle-Atlantic states economies were beholden to slavery, and how that may have seeped it’s way into the Judicial branch with the 11 yr long holding of the decision right in the midst of the development of war. To me, that reeks of political maneuvering.

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the simple facts of Dred Scott’s case that he was a southern slave and when his owner moved north to live in a free state he sued to gain his freedom, and Taney ruled that he was still chattel property?
          Taney could have taken a bolder step, and expedited things, and why did he wait so long?

          It is funny that this comes up now, because I remember having simultaneous discussions in class and on this site, not too long ago when we were talking a lot about Trump and Billary.

          Anyway,…..I try to learn something from everyone I interact with, and you are no exception.

          Thank you for that.


  5. Wow. Wonder what will be next. The pp will want to wipeout Taneytown md also? Granted it’s a small town in carrol county md. I don’t think is was named after the honorable judge. But it’s a thought.

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