A day after President Donald Trump presented defense of keeping Confederate monuments in tact, a Roger B. Taney statue was removed from the ground of the Maryland State House in Annapolis on Friday morning, Aug. 18. Less than an hour away from the state house's Annapolis location, another Roger B. Taney statue was removed in Baltimore just days before. There's an irony, however, in Taney statues coming down during a national debate on the merits of Confederate monuments: Taney wasn't a Confederate soldier at all.
Who was he?
Taney is actually better known by his formal title, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.
Chief Justice Taney's most notable act as a member of the Supreme Court was his role in the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857. In the case, Scott argued that he should be declared free from slavery because he was taken by his master to states that banned slavery and resided there for extended periods of time.
When the Supreme Court ruled on the case, it found by a 7-2 majority that Scott could not be considered a citizen of the United States. In explaining the majority's decision, Chief Justice Taney referred to the Declaration of Independence's mention of "all men" being created and rejected that the standard could be applied to black people.
Taney, a Maryland native, wrote at the time,
It is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration...
The decision is now widely regarded as one of the worst in Supreme Court history.
Why was the statue was removed?
In Baltimore, a statue of Taney was removed along with three other monuments related to the confederacy. At the Maryland State House, the removal occured in reaction to the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia during the previous weekend.
The time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history.
The decision to remove the statue was officially made on Wednesday, when three of four members of the State House Trust voted in favor of taking down the monument. The statue was first erected in 1872, four years after the 14th amendment of the constitution was issued, granting citizenship to black people.
One of the members who voted on the decision, criticized the fact that the vote wasn't held in public. Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Miller argued,
This was certainly a matter of such consequence that the transparency of a public meeting and public conversation should have occurred.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump also made an argument related to the subject of Confederate monuments, suggesting that taking down statues of Confederate army leaders would lead to those of other figures not related to the Confederacy being taken down.
Though it's clear why Taney could be viewed as a hero of the Confederacy, one could easily argue his statue is the type Trump may have been referring to.