If We ‘Cancel’ Chief Justice Taney, Should FDR Be Next? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
If We ‘Cancel’ Chief Justice Taney, Should FDR Be Next?
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Roger B. Taney in a portrait from 1855-1860 (Matthew Benjamin Brady, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons)

The House of Representatives voted to remove the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney from the entrance of the old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol building based on his authorship of the notorious Dred Scott decision (Dred Scott v. Sandford), which upheld the institution of slavery, reasoning that black slaves were property not “persons” under the Constitution. The legislation states that Taney’s bust is “unsuitable for the honor of display to the many visitors to the Capitol,” and “expresses Congress’s recognition of one of the most notorious wrongs ever to have taken place in one of its rooms…”

Rep. Steny Hoyer explained his support for the bill by saying: “Over 3 million people visit our Capitol each year. The people we choose to honor in our halls signal to those visitors which principles we cherish as a nation.”

Let he who is without sin — and in Congress it is doubtful such a person exists — cast the first stone.

Taney was appointed to the Court by Democratic President Andrew Jackson, himself a slave owner and “election denier” (the “corrupt bargain” election of 1824). Taney served as Jackson’s attorney general prior to his appointment to the Court. He served as Chief Justice from 1836 to 1864, and contrary to popular myth he often followed the Marshall Court’s lead on federal supremacy. One of Taney’s biographers, Alvin Schumacher, noted that Taney freed the slaves he had inherited and considered slavery an evil but legally as a matter left to the states.

Taney authored numerous opinions during his 28 years on the court, several of enduring Constitutional merit, but Dred Scott overshadows them all.

If we follow the logic of Steny Hoyer by cancelling a significant historical personage for a single “notorious wrong” then there are plenty of others that should receive similar treatment. Let’s start with Franklin Roosevelt — the author of the notorious Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forcible removal of more than 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the American west coast to relocation centers further inland for no other reason than their race. That “notorious wrong,” according to Hoyer’s logic, should prevent us from honoring FDR. Or how about passing legislation to remove Chief Justice Earl Warren’s bust from the Supreme Court building? Warren, a liberal icon for expanding the rights of accused criminals, as attorney general of California, urged Congress to forcibly remove and incarcerate persons of Japanese ancestry whom he accused, without a shred of evidence, of “fifth column” and “sabotage” activities.

Or how about the six Supreme Court Justices who upheld FDR’s order — Hugo Black (a former KKK member), Harlan Fiske Stone, Stanley Reed, William O. Douglas, Wiley Rutledge, and Felix Frankfurter? Let us cancel them, too, for this “notorious wrong.”

The Senate has an office building named for Richard Russell (D-Georgia), a self-proclaimed white supremacist who repeatedly used his senior leadership positions to oppose civil rights legislation. Why is a Senate office building named after a man who committed such a “notorious wrong”? Congress funds the famous Fulbright Scholarship named after Democratic Senator J. William Fulbright, who also opposed civil rights, supported racial segregation, and decried “Jewish influence” in Washington. Let us please rename this scholarship for a more worthy historical figure. Democratic Senator Robert Byrd’s statue stands in the Capitol building, and in West Virginia there are bridges, roads, dams and other facilities named for this former member of the KKK. He, too, like Taney, should be canceled.

The list could go on and on. History is filled with imperfect people who at some point in their lives and careers committed some “notorious wrong.” All of the men on Mt. Rushmore had flaws but also made significant positive contributions to America’s history. Let he who is without sin — and in Congress it is doubtful such a person exists — cast the first stone.

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