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Branches of Baltimore History

Roger B. Taney Monument in Mount Vernon

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North Mount Vernon Place (Street View)

GPS: 39° 17′ 52.60″ N 76° 36′ 56.62″ W


Roger Brooke Taney was the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and is most historically noted for authoring the Dred Scott Decision (Dred Scott v. Sanford), which ruled that “…slaves could not win freedom by escaping to a free state and that no black person could be a U.S. citizen,” and which is considered an indirect cause of the Civil War.

Taney was, presumably, operating under a conceptual framework of dual federalism, in which individual states were seen as sovereign and separate from the federal government. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court under Andrew Jackson, Taney also served as Attorney General for his home state of Maryland and was the twelfth Attorney General of the United States.

He also notably kept a home in Frederick, MD where he practiced law with his partner Francis Scott Key, who authored the National Anthem. Taney died during the final months of the Civil War on the same day that Maryland abolished slavery. President Lincoln made no public statement regarding Taney’s death or career.

In 1865, controversy raged over the creation of a memorial bust of Taney to be displayed along with the four other chief justices who preceded him. Congress rejected the proposal and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner proposed that a vacant spot be left in Taney’s space.

In 1873 when Taney’s successor, Salmon Chase, died, Congress finally appropriated funds for both busts to be displayed in the Capitol. A statue of Justice Taney resides outside the Maryland State House, and Baltimore’s exquisite monument to this complicated figure is a re-cast of that 1871 sculpture by William Henry Rinehart. It was donated to the city by the Walters family in 1887.


Taney is situated just north of the Washington Monument proper, in a sunny location. He faces south and to his left you can see the elegantly beautiful spire of Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church, a building “…named by the American Institute of Architects as the most significant in the city of Baltimore.”



Written by monumentcity

May 15th, 2009 at 1:31 pm