Roger Taney
1777 - 1864
In 1857, as the author of the Supreme Court's majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford, Roger Taney ruled that the Constitution did not recognize the citizenship of an African American who had been born a slave. This decision sparked bitter opposition from northern politicians and a heated defense from the South, and was one of the most important events leading up to war. This single opinion cast a shadow over Taney's distinguished legal career and his personal reputation for integrity. As a Maryland litigator in the 1820s, Taney had declared, "Slavery is a blot on our national character, and every real lover of freedom confidently hopes that it will be effectually, though it must be gradually, wiped away." As Andrew Jackson's attorney general, Taney helped close down the Second Bank
of the United States, bringing him in direct conflict
with powerful leaders of the Senate, including Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Despite their opposition, in 1837 Jackson rewarded Taney by naming him chief justice of the Supreme Court. When Brady made this portrait of Taney around 1848, he had presided over the Court for two decades and was one of the most respected figures in Washington.

Mathew Brady Studio Daguerreotype, circa 1848
20.3 x 16.5 cm (8 x 6 1/2 inches); 25.4 x 20.3 cm (10 x 8 inches) framed
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut