Hoyer Introduces Bill To Remove Bust of Dred Scott Decision Author From Capitol

March 10, 2020 by Dan McCue
Hoyer Introduces Bill To Remove Bust of Dred Scott Decision Author From Capitol

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., introduced legislation Monday that would remove a bust of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney from public display in the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a bust of Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Taney, the Maryland-born Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1836-1864, wrote the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford, which declared that African-Americans could not be citizens of the United States and struck down limits on the expansion of slavery.

This past Friday marked the 163rd anniversary of that ruling, which continues to be a mark of shame for the United States. 

Currently, a bust of Taney is displayed prominently alongside those of his four predecessors, Chief Justices John Jay, John Rutledge, Oliver Ellsworth, and John Marshall, in the U.S. Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chamber, seen by millions of visitors each year. 

The bill’s planned replacement, a bust of Thurgood Marshall, honors the famed civil rights attorney who, in 1967 became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

“A bust of Chief Justice Taney should not be displayed in a place of honor in our nation’s Capital,” Hoyer said on the floor of the House Monday. “In Maryland we made the decision to remove a statue of Taney from the State House grounds, reflecting his shameful contribution to the evil system of slavery and its defense, and we ought to do the same here. 

“We are better than this,” Hoyer said, recalling the words of his late colleague, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

“It is time to make it clear to visitors from across our nation and from abroad that America celebrates champions of inclusion and equality, not proponents of hate and injustice,” the Majority Leader said.

Original cosponsors of Leader Hoyer’s bill are Rep. Karen Bass, of California, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Jim McGovern, of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Rules Committee, Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie Raskin, and David Trone, all of whom are members of Maryland’s congressional delegation.

The proposed swap comes two years after a statue of Taney was removed from the State House front lawn in Annapolis and the City of Baltimore took down another Taney monument in a Mount Vernon park. At the time, they were the latest monuments linked to slavery, segregation or the Confederacy to be removed from a public square.

Writing for the High Court in March 1857, Chief Justice Taney wrote that Scott, a longtime slave suing for his freedom, was not a citizen and that no slave – nor their free descendants – had standing to sue in the federal courts.

He based his ruling on an interpretation of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

A half-dozen House Democrats appeared at a news conference Monday afternoon to unveil legislation mandating the U.S. Capitol switch. They variously called the Scott decision “a stain” and “a mark of shame.”

“The people’s house can never really be for the people, with reminders of a painful history that sought to eliminate our existence,” Rep. Bass said. “We are entering a new era where we are reexamining our history and acknowledging that the physical reminders of white supremacy, cannot continue to be celebrated.”

Rep. McGovern said the Capitol building “ought to celebrate freedom and equality – not those who tried to defend racism and slavery.”

“Removing this bust from the Capitol is the right thing to do,” he said. “Having Roger Taney’s statue here sends the wrong message to the members, staffers, and millions of visitors who walk through these doors every year. It’s time to live up to our values and honor those who opposed injustice – not those who perpetuated it.”

Although Maryland’s congressional delegation was well-represented at Monday’s news conference, Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, was a notable exception.

Harris declined to co-sponsor the legislation.

On Monday, Hoyer said he had spoken to the lawmaker and “Mr. Harris has an interesting view: have both statutes there.”

In a written statement issued after the news conference, Harris said he does not support “denying history by removing Chief Justice Taney’s bust, but instead using its presence as a teaching moment by adding Justice Marshall’s bust, along with a plaque about how flawed the Dred Scott decision was ultimately found to be – the proof being the appointment of Thurgood Marshall.”

The Taney bust is mounted on a pedestal in the Capitol’s elegant Old Supreme Court Chamber, where the court met for 50 years beginning in 1810. The legislation would give the Capitol architect’s office 30 days to remove the bust. An agreement would need to be signed within two years to obtain a bust of Marshall.

Hoyer said he expected the legislation, which would require approval of the Republican-led Senate, to attract bipartisan support.

A+
a-
  • bust
  • Dred Scott
  • Steny Hoyer
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    Congress

    June 14, 2024
    by Tom Ramstack
    Congressional Bill Would Prevent Student Athletes Being Employees

    WASHINGTON — A U.S. House committee approved a bill Thursday that would prevent student athletes from being categorized as employees... Read More

    WASHINGTON — A U.S. House committee approved a bill Thursday that would prevent student athletes from being categorized as employees of their universities. A National Labor Relations Board judge ruled in February that student athletes were university employees, thereby allowing them to earn salaries and to... Read More

    June 14, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    GOP Wins Fourth Straight Congressional Baseball Game

    WASHINGTON — The Republicans soundly defeated their Democratic colleagues in the annual Congressional Baseball Game Wednesday night, the final score... Read More

    WASHINGTON — The Republicans soundly defeated their Democratic colleagues in the annual Congressional Baseball Game Wednesday night, the final score being 31-11. The number that really mattered, however, was the record $2.2 million the game raised for local charities. Next up is the 16th annual Congressional... Read More

    June 13, 2024
    by Tom Ramstack
    Democrats Criticize Chief Justice for Supreme Court Ethics Enforcement

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats criticized the Supreme Court's chief justice Thursday for failing to enforce ethics standards on the court... Read More

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats criticized the Supreme Court's chief justice Thursday for failing to enforce ethics standards on the court as they consider a proposal to intervene. Lawmakers were discussing a Senate Judiciary Committee bill to impose a new code of ethics on the Supreme Court.... Read More

    June 11, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Trump to Return to Capitol Hill Thursday to Rally Lawmakers

    WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump will be on Capitol Hill Thursday for separate meetings to rally House and Senate... Read More

    WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump will be on Capitol Hill Thursday for separate meetings to rally House and Senate Republicans in the wake of his recent conviction in the New York hush-money trial while laying out his vision for a possible second term in the... Read More

    June 11, 2024
    by Tom Ramstack
    Democrats Criticize Republican-Inspired Vote on Contempt for Attorney General

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are blasting Republicans ahead of their planned vote this week in the House to hold U.S.... Read More

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are blasting Republicans ahead of their planned vote this week in the House to hold U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt. Garland has refused to turn over audio tapes of Special Counsel Robert Hur's interview with President Joe Biden about classified... Read More

    June 7, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Netanyahu Set to Address Congress on July 24

    WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted a bipartisan invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress, and... Read More

    WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted a bipartisan invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress, and will do so on Wednesday, July 24, the two top Republicans on the Hill announced Thursday night. In a joint statement, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.,... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top