Roger B. Taney

Roger B. Taney, Jackson’s fourth Treasury Secretary, was born in 1777 in Calvert County, Maryland and died in 1864 in Frederick, Maryland, where he is buried. The second son of a tobacco planter, Taney graduated from Dickinson College with honors in 1795. Unlikely to inherit much land, Taney became a lawyer and politician who held nuanced positions on the most important subjects of the day, including slavery and states’ rights. A Federalist turned Democrat, Taney became a Jackson man during the 1824 presidential election. Jackson rewarded him for his loyalty with several important posts, including acting Secretary of War, Attorney General, acting Treasury Secretary and Chief Justice.

Taney is best known and most hated for his controversial pro-slavery decision in the Dred Scott case (1857) when serving as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a post he held from 1836 until his death. Jackson appointed him to the high court in recognition of his services as acting Treasury Secretary. Unlike his two immediate predecessors in that office, Louis McLane and William J. Duane, Taney gleefully removed the federal government’s deposits from the Second Bank of the US and distributed them to state banks throughout the country loyal to the Jackson administration. The Senate responded by rejecting his nomination – his was a recess appointment – by a vote of 28 to 18.

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