The year of movable statues: what to do with Roger Taney?

My new op-ed at the Frederick News-Post on Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to support removal of the statue of Roger Taney from its place in front of the Maryland State House:

Taney did many things in an illustrious legal career but is remembered for only one: the disastrous Dred Scott decision, which served to entrench slavery….

Change in the display of public memorials is natural and inevitable….

No one has erased him from the history books — the Dred Scott case itself makes sure of that.

Plus: some thoughts from Andrew Stuttaford. From Atlas Obscura, displaced statues as a subject of historic preservation. Related: “My favorite Civil War era monuments are the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.” [@david_tanenhaus on Twitter]


  • The ancient Romans used to have statues with interchangeable parts. The head and arms were removable (no need to worry about the body, most posh Romans wore the same sort of clothing). When they got a new leader they would simply put a new head on the statue. The arms would often have props. If the leader was big on war, the arm would hold a sword, if he was more scholarly, the arm would hold a book, for example.

  • Besides being the first Catholic appointed to the Court, Taney was a radical Jacksonian critic who consistently opposed what he saw as efforts by Eastern banking interests to gain political control. His views in Dred Scott, notwithstanding that he had emancipated his own slaves decades before that case arose reflected in part his growing concerns over the growing power of those forces over the agricultural areas, which were either pro-slavery as in the South or pretty much indifferent to it as was the case in what we now call the Midwest.

    I’m waiting to see what legal academia has to say about the removal of the Taney statue. For those who think it proper, perhaps they could let us know why the names of those three notorious white racists, Douglas, Frankfurter, and Black, should continue to be honored given their support for Korematsu. the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. And while we’re at it, let’s ban the names of Holmes and Brandeis for their role in Buck vs Bell.

  • The Cultural Revolution in its finest.

  • So what i’m hearing is that although the statue may be in bronze the subject may have had feet of clay?

  • […] from Overlawyered] And from Chuck Lane at the Washington Post: how about a replacement statue honoring Maryland […]

  • In the spirit of understanding both sides of an argument; Would the liberal agenda justify tearing down the Egyptian Pyramids because the Pyramids were constructed by slaves?

    • Perhaps someone familiar with the liberal agenda, whatever that is, can help Isaac out. Most of the monuments under discussion in the United States were not constructed by slaves.

  • The Pyramids were built at the command of infidels, which would seem to qualify them for demolition under ISIS standards. But so far, national sentiment in Egypt has protected their pagan antiquities.

    • Those “pagan antiquities” are the source of most of Egypt’s tourism, and much of its foreign exchange.

      Although, IIRC, didn’t the Moslem Brotherhood government propose doing something to the pyramids and other tourist producing sites?