Roger Brooke Taney (1777-1864)

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Research files relating to cases that Taney argued or decided.


Roger Brooke Taney (March 17, 1777 – October 12, 1864) was the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, holding that office from 1836 until his death in 1864. He also served as the eleventh United States Attorney General. He is most remembered for delivering the infamous majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which included a ruling that that African-Americans, having been considered inferior at the time the Constitution was drafted, were not part of the original community of citizens and whether free or slave, could not be considered citizens of the United States, thus creating an uproar among abolitionists and the free states of the northern U.S.

Taney was a Jacksonian Democrat when he became Chief Justice.[A] Taney was a believer in states' rights but also the Union, a slaveholder who manumitted his slaves.[2] Throughout Taney’s tenure on the Supreme Court, he was a Jacksonian. He believed that power and liberty were extremely important and if power became too concentrated, then it posed a grave threat to individual liberty. He opposed attempts by the national government to regulate or control matters would restrict the rights of individuals. From Prince Frederick, Maryland, he had practiced law and politics simultaneously and succeeded in both. After abandoning the Federalist Party 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), Taney became one of Andrew Jackson's closest advisers, assisting Jackson in his populist crusade against the powerful Bank of the United States.

Taney's legacy remembers him as a chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who did much to further pro-slavery sentiment in mid-nineteenth century United States. Through his Court decisions, Taney provided Constitutional arguments in defense of the institution of slavery which ultimately pulled the nation further toward secession and the American Civil War.

(text taken from Wikipedia bio (as of 2015/12/19):[1])

For the controversy over whether or not to remove statues of Taney from public places see: Past and Future Monuments of the Monumental City: Finding Our Way

The principal secondary sources:


The Taney Period, 1836-64 (The Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States, Vol. 5) Carl Brent Swisher 1974[2]

Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers, James F. Simon 2007 [3]

Roger B. Taney, Carl Brent Swisher, 1936 [4]

Roger B. Taney: Jacksonian Jurist, Charles W[illiam] Smith 1936 [5]

Without Fear or Favor: A Biography of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, Walker Lewis 1965 [6]

The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics, Don E. Fehrenbacher, Oxford University Press, USA (1978)[81233970]


See the brief biography and imaged papers related to cases Taney argued before the Frederick (Md) county court on the University of Virginia's web site [7]. These papers may have been stolen from the Frederick County Courthouse.


See also a book review that appeared in the New York Tribune on August 8, 1865, and The Unjust Judge: Who Wrote It? by Walker Lewis, American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 50, No. 10 (OCTOBER 1964), pp. 932-937, Published by: American Bar Association, Stable URL: [8]:

1865 08 25 nytribune unjust judge.jpg