Best Monument Begging for a Toppling: The Roger Brooke Taney statue in Mount Vernon Place

Judicial scholars tell us that Roger B. Taney, the fifth chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and native Marylander, had a more complicated attitude toward slavery than we’d expect from the author of the notorious Dred Scott decision, which ruled that African-Americans were not considered full citizens. (If you want to read about Dred Scott vs. Sandford, just Google “worst Supreme Court decision.”) The Mount Vernon statue, a re-cast of the William Henry Rinehart original that still sits outside the Maryland State House, depicts a seated Taney, the outline of his splayed legs visible beneath the folds of his robes. His right hand is holding a copy of the Constitution in his lap, and it looks, from the position of his right arm and leg, as though he’s tired of posing and wants to stand up and get the hell out of there. He looks like a man who has grown accustomed to being reviled. It’s a magnificent sculpture that is a defilement of one of the country’s most beautiful public spaces. It looks too heavy to topple, unfortunately, but it could be removed, sent away to an art school or a gallery of the damned.

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