The Maryland State House removed a statue of Roger Taney this week, a Supreme Court Justice who did not join the Confederacy during the Civil War.
News was buzzing this week that after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Mayor of Baltimore ordered the city's confederate monuments removed under the cover of darkness. Another statue was removed at the State House, but it wasn't a monument to the Confederacy. This was a statue of Roger Taney.Most people will say, "who's that?" Roger Taney has a significant record of public service. He served as Maryland's Attorney General from 1827 to 1831. He briefly served as the United States Secretary of War for a little over a month in 1831 before transitioning into the role of US Attorney General under President Andrew Jackson. He also had short stint as the Secretary of Treasury before being nominated to the Supreme Court in 1836. There, he served as the country's fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, marking the first time a Catholic had ever been confirmed to the bench. He served as Chief Justice until his death in 1864 at the age of 87. With such a long record of public service, many are asking why his statue was removed. The reason given by Governor Larry Hogan is that Taney authored the Supreme Court's decision in the 1857 Dred Scott case. In this infamous case, the Supreme Court ruled that Africans -- whether free or enslaved -- were "beings of an inferior order... and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." The case was decided by a 7-2 vote and marks a dark time in American judicial history. The relationship between Taney and President Lincoln was so poor that when Taney died during the Civil War, the President did not even attend his memorial service. The State House Trust cited his Dred Scott opinion as the reason for voting to remove the statue from the Maryland State House grounds. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh also authorized the removal of the city's Taney statue under the cover of darkness. While there has been an active debate over whether monuments to Confederate leaders should stand in Maryland, especially given the fact that Maryland remained in the union, Roger Taney did not join the Confederacy. He remained on the Supreme Court through the Civil War, which has led some to criticize the city and state's decision to lump these statues in with other Confederate monuments slated for removal. Maryland State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Democrat from Calvert, wrote a letter to Governor Hogan defending Taney's record of public service and recommending that the statue be left up to educate people on the country and the man's complicated past. He also criticized the Governor for not holding public hearings before scheduling the monument's removal. During a press conference this week, President Donald Trump criticized the removal of these statues, arguing that if having a racist past is enough justification to tear down monuments and memorials, then all of the founding fathers would have their monuments destroyed as well. Not everyone agrees with State Senator Miller or President Trump. One man who watched the crews remove the statue told reporters that "it's just a bad statue overall... we deserve to celebrate the heroes of Maryland, not the villains."