"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Roger Brooke Taney

This 1931 portrait bust of Roger Brooke Taney sits in front of the Frederick City Hall, formerly the Frederick County Courthouse.

The inscription reads:
 Chief Justice
Of the United States

Secretary of the Treasury

Attorney General
Of the United States

Attorney General
Of Maryland

Citizen of Frederick
And lawyer practicing
in the
Frederick County Court

Born in Calvert County
March 17, 1777

Died in Washington, D.C.
October 12, 1864

Buried in St. John's Catholic
Cemetery, Frederick, MD.

Joseph Urner 1931

"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 is most remembered for delivering the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), that ruled, among other things, 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, which created an uproar among abolitionists and the free states of the northern U.S. He is also notable as the first Roman Catholic (and first non-Protestant) appointed both to a presidential cabinet (Attorney General under Andrew Jackson) as well as to the Court." -- Wikipedia

"At the dedication of the Roger Brooke Taney Bust in Frederick on September 26, 1931, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes concluded that 'it is unfortunate that the estimate of Chief Justice Taney’s judicial labors should have been so largely influenced by the opinion which he delivered in the case of Dred Scott [v Sandford].'" -- from the nearby Dred Scott Decision marker.
Unveiling, September 26, 1931

"Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles E.Hughes at the unveiling of the bust of Taney in front of the Frederick County Court House in 1931. Justice and Mrs. Hughes are at left. Former Maryland Gov. Albert C. Ritchie in shown at right of the bust and Joseph D. Baker is at far right. --From Judge Edward S. Delaplaine's article on Taney in Valleys of History, Vol. 2 No 1. Winter 1966. (Internet Archive)
Urner's bust of Taney is prominent in quadriplegic artist Eric Mohn's watercolor of the old Frederick County Courthouse. This and other Mohn paintings of Maryland County Courthouses hang in the Jury Lounge in the Montgomery County Circuit Court building, in Rockville, Maryland.


Taney's reputation recovered some after the Civil War but has severely deteriorated in recent years.

In 2009,  a tablet marker dedicated to Harriet and Dred Scott was placed beside the Taney bust to explain the Dred Scott decision and add counterweight to balance the Taney monument.

The Aldermen of Frederick voted in 2015 to remove the controversial statue of Roger B. Taney from lawn in front of the City Hall.

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN OF THE CITY OF FREDERICK that the bust of Roger Brooke Taney would be more suitably located in a museum, gallery, educational institution, or other venue that gives the viewer the opportunity to appreciate the sculpture and its subject as a matter of choice, not by virtue of its presence on public lands;


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the 2009 Dred Scott Decision plaque, created as a companion piece to the bust, would also be more suitably located at such a venue;


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Roger BrookeTaney bust and the 2009 Dred Scott Decision plaque be removed from City Hall Park."  -- Mayor and Board of Aldermen, 10/1/2015.
The monument was removed from the Frederick County Courthouse on Saturday March 18, 2017.

In June of 2017, Urner's bust of Taney along with the tablet monument to Dread and Harriot Scott and Urner's 1926 bust of Thomas Johnson are in storage at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. They will be refurbished and placed in the cemetery. 

The two Urner monuments and the Dred Scott plaque will be refurbished and placed in the cemetery between the Francis Scott Key grave and monument and the Francis Scott Key memorial chapel as this diagram of the proposed project shows:

The plan was approved by the Frederick Historic Preservation Commission on June 8th 2017.

As mentioned on the monument  Taney's grave is in St. John's Cemetery in Frederick.

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