Roger B. Taney (March 17, 1777 – October 12, 1864)

Roger B TaneyRoger Brooke Taney (pronounced "tawny") was the eleventh United States Attorney General. He also was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States, holding that office from 1836 until his death in 1864, and was the first Roman Catholic to hold that office. He is most remembered for delivering the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford, that ruled, among others, that African Americans, being considered "of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race" at the time the Constitution was drafted, could not be considered citizens of the United States.

Described by his and President Andrew Jackson's critics as ". . . stooped, sallow, ugly . . . supple, cringing tool of Jacksonian power," as the new Chief Justice, Taney was as ideally suited for the complex and contradictory period of American history as any man could be: he was a Southerner who loved his country over his state; a believer in states' rights yet a firm believer in the Union; a slaveholder who regretted the institution and manumitted his slaves. In 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 (1831-1833) and then Secretary of the Treasury (1833-1834), he became one of Andrew Jackson's closest advisers.

Taney died during the final months of the American Civil War on the same day that his home state of Maryland abolished slavery.¹

Roger Brooke Taney Quotes

"No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of man than any [constitutional] provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government."
"The people of the United States are no longer living under a government of laws; but every citizen holds life, liberty and property at the will and pleasure of the army officer in whose military district he may happen to be found."

"It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." ~ From the Dred Scott Ruling

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