Roger Brooke Taney

By Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)

Marble, 1877
Size: 29" h.
Catalog No. 21.00018

S-141, Old Supreme Court Chamber, Robing Room

U.S. Senate Collection
Office of Senate Curator

The fifth chief justice of the United States, Roger Brooke Taney was born in Calvert County, Maryland. After graduating from Dickinson College, Taney began practicing law in Frederick, Maryland, later moving to Baltimore. Appointed attorney general of the United States by President Andrew Jackson in 1831, Taney influenced opposition to rechartering the Second Bank of the United States. Although he was nominated for secretary of the treasury and for an associate justiceship on the Supreme Court, both appointments were rejected by the Senate. However, over strong Whig opposition, he was confirmed as chief justice of the United States in 1836.

Taney's judicial opinions reversed a pattern of interpretation established by his predecessor, John Marshall. Rather than emphasizing supremacy of the federal govenment, Taney upheld state sovereignty, especially in relation to the threatened domination of the South by northern culture and interests. The 1857 [Dred] Scott v. Sanford case, in which the Supreme Court determined that a slave under Missouri law had no constitutional right to bring suit in federal court for his freedom, most clearly demonstrated this view. Taney served as chief justice for 28 years, the second longest tenure next to that of John Marshall.

An 1874 resolution authorized the Joint Committee on the Library "to procure and place in the room of the Supreme Court of the United States busts of the late Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney and the late Salmon Portland Chase." Two years later, the committee authorized its chairman "to contract with some competent artist for a bust of the late Chief Justice Taney, the head of the same to be modeled after that of the Chief Justice [by William H. Rinehart] at Annapolis." Noted American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was engaged for the task. His copy was completed in 1877 and placed in the Court's chamber later that year.