Frederick Mayor Randy McClement has been trying to find a home for the Roger Brooke Taney bust since an October resolution was passed by the Board of Aldermen to relocate it from the front of City Hall.

But the mayor hasn’t found any takers yet, and even the Roger Brooke Taney House doesn’t want the Roger Brooke Taney bust. So that made us pause and raise the question: Why? It turns out that the Historical Society of Frederick County owns a second bust of Taney that was made by the same artist, but isn’t displaying it either, even at the Taney House.

We still maintain that if a bust of the controversial Supreme Court chief justice is to be publicly displayed then the Taney House is still the most suitable and logical site for it for educational purposes, since it is a museum interpretation of Taney’s life in Frederick.

In a Dec. 12 city notes column by Frederick News-Post Reporter Nancy Lavin, McClement said several places and groups he’s contacted regarding the bronze bust have turned him down. This was never supposed to be played out like an embarrassing game of “hot potato,” but, not surprisingly, that’s exactly what it’s become.

Taney was a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 28 years until his death in 1864. He practiced law in Frederick for about 20 years, owned property in the city and married the sister of Francis Scott Key.

But through the years, Taney became an increasingly controversial figure. While serving on the Supreme Court, Taney is credited by some historians as doing more to push pro-slavery views than any other justice in the history of the high court. As a former slave owner, he wrote the Dred Scott decision that declared that no slave or descendant of a slave could be a U.S. citizen, or ever had been a U.S. citizen and therefore were not entitled to the same rights as American citizens.

Still, by the early 1900s, local Frederick leaders wanted to honor Taney, so a bust was commissioned to be made by local artist and architect, Joseph Urner. The bust first appeared in front of what was then the Frederick County Courthouse on North Court Street in 1931.

It’s presence on public property, however, has always generated opposition, particularly during the past two decades. Critics contend the bust is a symbol of racism, white supremacy and hate speech and misrepresents Frederick County’s pro-Union role during the Civil War.

Supporters say the bust was a tribute to his 20 years as an attorney and is a part of Frederick’s history that should be used for historical, educational purposes. Some have even argued that Taney’s unabashedly, pro-slavery actions, now viewed as racist, turned out to be instrumental in pushing the country closer to the Civil War, which in turn led to the freedom of slaves and guaranteed their citizenship.

Though aldermen approved a resolution to relocate the statute, its removal is not guaranteed since City Hall is part of the Frederick Historic District. Translation: There will be many hoops to jump through. For example, any changes to the exterior, including sculptures, must be reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation District Commission. City officials also want the Public Arts Commission to weigh in on the decision given the statute’s significance as a creation of Urner.

But none of that is expected to happen anytime soon — particularly if a home can’t be found. So now might be a good time as any to have a frank discussion about whether the bust should be publicly displayed anywhere. We did some research on this and it turns out that after Taney’s death in 1864, there was heated discussion the following year in the U.S. Senate on whether a bust should be commissioned to be displayed in the Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol.

Then Sen. Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, said he objected “that a now emancipated country should make a bust to the author of the Dred Scott decision.” Sumner then added: “The name Taney is to be hooted down the page of history. Judgment is beginning now; and an emancipated country will fasten upon him the stigma which he deserves.” A marble bust was eventually made and displayed in the Capitol. There is another one on display in Annapolis.

As we continue to learn more about Taney, it turns out the Sumner made a good point 150 years ago that continues to become clearer as time marches on. Symbols that were once innocently displayed with good intentions (such as a bust) end up being offensive to others and may become increasingly offensive as culture changes.

The mayor and Board of Aldermen are right — the bust doesn’t belong in front of City Hall. And if it is displayed anywhere, we think it should be at the Roger Brooke Taney House for educational purposes, where there is room to interpret Taney’s controversial past.

And if the historical society thinks it’s too hot to handle — well, then that should speak volumes to the community.

(24) comments

jakinnaird

Why not move the bust to his gravesite?

jsklinelga

Maryland my Maryland contains one line that some consider offensive. The US Constitution contains the 3/5th compromise, a horribly racist notion. Should we ban it or burn it in disgrace. Taney was more then the Dred Scott decision. People most likely would not care about the bust, but most people's concern is over a zealous movement trying to recreate our history. As humans we were not perfect but many Americans are proud of our Constitution and of the Government produced by slaveholders. Our society echoes Christianity. We are humans that make mistakes but try to reconcile, forgive and move towards a more "perfect Union." Many do not want to rewrite history. It is Orwellian.

MAVRICKinc7

BUT aren't you more about forgiving the white race for their past and present crimes and FORGETTING that racist strategies of old and historic values of bigotry, segregation and prejudice ARE found today as yesterday?

Isn't this EXCUSE of yours the same one we've been hearing almost forever and that "we are HUMAN", just as those that walked the earth, with premeditation, AGAINST another human regarded as INFERIOR to yourself and has been for thousands of years, your life time and to current time? Is it not the same evasive strategy/EXCUSE we've been using that WE ARE NOT PERFECT, never have been and never will be?

What is it about the ingredients of WHITE WASH don't you get? Even now, some schools are picking Twain's Huckleberry Finn off the shelf, because it makes SOME PEOPLE (yet unidentified) feel uneasy and uncomfortable?

How can youn say we are proud of our Constitution when we IGNORE its provisions, much the same as WE have done with OUR own 1965 Civil Rights Bill, Emancipation Proclaimation or the Amemdments to the Constitution protecting ALL people and not just the chosen ones, whether Christian or not?

Even Fox news, on National TV made fun of Delegate Karen Young's proposal to change out the song lyrics of "Maryland My Maryland" for the Washington State University's "fight song."

The Dred Scott decision is nothing more than what WE BELIEVE now, that REPEATS itself through word manipulation, such as your own, and has for centuries.

It doesn't matter to me how you frame a LIE. If your selling Christianity, what role does Christianity play in your continued quest for religious market share, which has nothing to do with this current issue. Look around and see for yourself in all those nooks and crannies that you can't bring yourself to disclose or even recognize.

You're as much the propagandist as Sen. McCarthy was in his day or Hitlers sidekick and minister of the LIE, that a NATION bought years ago and working its way, under Donald Trump, to the head of the class in a National and International stage that has long been scripted for decades? You can certainly MOUTH the words of a "more perfect Union" but apparently in your own image and nothing to do with bringing America, or what's left of it, together, against self made and self serving barriers that remain standing against anyone who is considered different from the likes of yourself.

And those ZEALOTS you are refering to are nothing more the elected officials, (ALL WHITE) that don't want to be reminded they are just as racists as this Nation was in 1854 when the Dred Scott decision, by a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling that brought this divided Nation together in one great war that turned out to be nothing more than a bad DECISION, with 600,000 lost lives that continues to be waged to this very day through ever devisive means known to man, whether WHITE , BLACK. YELLOW or BROWN. How does one "RECONCILE" intentional strategies to dominate one person and population over another? Check your dictionary. HYPOCRITE is the same definition for BIGOT. When is either going to be removed from public discourse is up to the few, who are just as guilty as yourself for the propaganda we feed on daily, that eventually turns out to be just another LIE?

Sumner then added: “The name Taney is to be hooted down the page of history. Judgment is beginning now; and an emancipated country will fasten upon him the stigma which he deserves.” Was Sumner trying to recreate history?

bosco

Melt it down for Trans it bus tokens.

cctjr64

Then let's remove the bust of Thomas Johnson also since he was a slave owner, both at Rose Hill Manor and had slaves making cannonballs during the Revoluntionary War. Then let's lobby the the County Council and the BoE to rename Gov. Thomas Johnson High and Middle Schools if you all want to be so politically correct.

threecents

That is rigid thinking. There are degrees of guilt. For many Tanney went too far, while TJ did not. Get it?

MAVRICKinc7

Rigid thinking? How many levels of a LIE are you prepared to entertain at any given moment? Tanney didn't go any further than Slave owners of his time allowed, and from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Count, affirmed by a 7-2 vote. what MOST. of America was thinking at that time in our history. I'll be kind and call you a HYPOCRITE but just as much the bigot, segregationist, word manipulator and prejudiced soul that you really are. Taney played a significant role in history in bringing the Nation out and identifying what the Nation really thought. Professor Zinn did the same in his day, but rejected by yourself and other scholars for telling the truth of America, instead of through rose colored glasses like your own. WE are as compromised and confining in our thinking as we have ever been for centuries. All Taney did was create a level playing field, where both sides of a divided Nation, were allowed to work out their geographical ands economic difference and lost 600,000 souls over apoor business decision, that continues to be waged to this very day. What is it about FIRST DEGREE MURDER don't you understand. Peel enough layers of the onion nad you'll se that Washington and Jefferson played as much a role in the slavery issues, as Corporate America has established and a wage structure disparity that is any different than it was 100s of years ago; from ZERO to $8 an hour to day. Where YOU been all this time?

Dwasserba

It belongs in a dunking booth.

MAVRICKinc7

HUH? What is IT in the context you are refering to?

DeDeuceCoupe32

Dig a hole where the bust sits and bury it there. Problem solved. Now city officials can focus on less important issues they weren't elected to do.

public-redux

When I lived in Iowa, the state legislature commissioned an outdoor granite sculpture. The sculptor ordered three large blocks of granite, maybe 8 or 10 feet tall. They were purchased and trucked in at considerable expense. He dug a big hole and put one of the blocks in the hole. The remaining two blocks were arranged on top of the first block. Dirt was put back, completely covering the first block. Some legislators were reported to wonder if the sculpture could have been built at less expense with just two blocks of granite.

Comment deleted.
public-redux

Iowa was as white as new fallen snow when I lived there. [innocent]

glenkrc

I imagine you're talking about this: http://dsmpublicartfoundation.org/public-art/five-stones-and-a-ginko-tree/

Evidently the stone was buried at the specific direction of the "artiste".

MCEDDE21

Simple solution: Put it up on E-Bay. Some wealthy RWNJ will buy it, probably for BIG bucks. So, what if the HPC doesn't like it? What can they do, sue the City? The City says, OK, you win. We'll just keep the money in the treasury. Boom! Done!

jwhamann

No body wants him here. Maybe someone can take Roger on their world travels photographing him in front of famous places...especially the Taj Mahal.

MAVRICKinc7

"NO BODY" includes a lot more people that you don't represent. Bit of an EXAGGERATION don't you think?

jsklinelga

Start by renaming Taney Avenue, Taney apartments etc. Then investigate every street sign for names of famous people who were pro slavery. We can also petition Congress to rename our US capital city. Washington was a slave owner that helped write the laws that Taney used for the basis of his decision.

In 50 years from now, in a different society we may be removing the names in the Warren Court.

Chill. This article isn't about renaming anything.

MAVRICKinc7

It's about removing from HISTORY, by WHITE proxy vote, what remains the same as this NATION has been for the last 300 years to today's date. You can LIE to yourself and this audiece all you want, but the FACT remains current Frederick Governance is only attemting to WHITE-WASH it's past by EXCLUSION of the reminders that continue to haunt our perceptions of today and want to cover over our History that is just as germaine as it was in 1854 to today's date. How many layers of a long time LIE are you prepared to accept as another LIE we tell ourselves, from one day to the next?

threecents

This is one of the few times I understand what you are talking about, and I think you are wrong. Those who want to move it are motivated by the fact that it's current position implies we are celebrating the man and his achievements, and the fact is that some us do not want to do that. They would rather his bust be in a neutral forum, such as a museum. To say It's a conspiracy to erase history is insane. Personally, I don't care if it stays or not,

MAVRICKinc7

Threecents: since your response (below) to my recent comments have been reduced to "REPORT" status only, what would you have me or anyone else do to rebutt you conclusions? How many forms of CENSORSHIP are you familiar with? The FNP determined, just after your rebuttal to my comment that no further discussion would be entertained by the FNP and neutralizing the playing field that ALLOWS your comment to go unchallenged. What is CENSORSHIP other than closing off challenges that might lead to solutions rather throwing spears and barbed comments at one another that only allows denial and LIES this REGION tells itself every time we turn a page in history and try, with word manipulation, to make it into something it's not?

gabrielshorn2013

Threecents, the statue no more "celebrates" the Dred Scott decision than Germany's decision to preserve concentration camp sites. Yes, it's an in your face statement of "never again!!!"

Dwasserba

Even people who live there call these locations as "Tay-nee." What's more insulting than being mispronounced and it catches on.

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