Following a vote of the four-member State House Trust, Maryland removed a statue of former Supreme Court chief justice Roger B. Taney in the wee hours of this morning.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan had opposed removing the statue, but changed his mind after the deadly events at an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
Although the work was interrupted at one point by sprinklers that doused city employees and onlookers, the operation went smoothly and there were no protests. Instead, the Washington Post reports that Annapolis residents expressed satisfaction.
Some witnesses commented that Taney’s likeness, gazing slightly down, appeared to be bowing its head in shame as workers pulled straps around his frame.
“It’s just a bad statue overall,” said Robb Tufts, 43, of Annapolis. “He’s all hunched over like Ebenezer Scrooge . . . we deserve to celebrate the heroes of Maryland, not the villains of history.”
Although Taney was a respected jurist, Maryland attorney general, and state lawmaker, he was also responsible for the worst Supreme Court decision in American history. Hoping to prevent the great national crisis that loomed over slavery, Taney’s decision in the Dred Scott case upheld the constitutionality of human bondage and denied citizenship to blacks.
“The negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit,” Taney wrote in a passage that echoes in the white nationalist policies of the Trump administration.
Rather than prevent the Civil War, Taney’s words ensured it would happen — and that the postwar controversy over the rights of freedmen would be harder to resolve.
The controversy has continued to this day. A different statue of Taney was one of four Confederate monuments that the mayor of Baltimore removed in the dead of night this week.
— WJZ | CBS Baltimore (@cbsbaltimore) August 18, 2017
The vote to remove the 145 year-old statue from state house grounds and find a home for it in a museum was not unanimous.
Michael E. Busch, Speaker of the House, said Monday that the Taney monument “certainly doesn’t belong there” and now is “the appropriate time to remove it.” If it still stood after the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, the statue “would send a message that we condone what took place, that slavery is alright.”
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller was the lone holdout. He complained afterward that the vote “was not an ordinary matter of business” and should have been conducted in public rather than by email, which is how the Trust does ordinary business. Miller also defended Taney, noting that they judge freed his slaves and remained loyal to the Union.
Nevertheless, Gov. Hogan declared in a statement Tuesday that removal was “the right thing to do.”
“While we cannot hide from our history — nor should we — the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” he said.
A local ABC affiliate captured video of the removal. Watch:
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