The Destatuification of a Justice

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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81 Responses

  1. Dan Scotto says:

    This was a great piece. To me, the gravest mistake in the Dred Scott ruling–a ruling full of them–was the gratuitous rejection of the Missouri Compromise. Logically defensible, perhaps, but an inexcusable judicial overreach.Report

  2. Damon says:

    Burt, never was an argument so well made for judicial activism. Remember this post when that same activism bites you back. 🙂Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

      1. No path is free of hazard.

      2. Wasn’t Taney being an “activist” when he struck down the Missouri Compromise?

      3. “Activism” isn’t necessarily the same thing as kritocracy.

      4. With all of that said, yes, I favor a judiciary that exercises its powers even if occasionally it does so in ways I dislike. Call that “activism” if you feel you must.Report

      • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Actually, I think the path of no or least hazard is for the judiciary to do what they are supposed to do: Not “interpret” it, but rule on its constitutionality. If that means kicking it back to the Congress, so be it. They are the body that makes the laws, and are beholden to the people for what they do. Or a constitutional amendment can be passed.

        And if the law isn’t changed, well, “democracy has spoken” hasn’t it?Report

        • Don Zeko in reply to Damon says:

          @damon I could ask this question in a spirit of points scoring (and maybe I am despite my protestations to the contrary), but what I’ve never been able to understand about your approach here is how one is supposed to come up with rigorous distinction between interpreting something and ruling on its constitutionality. The constitution almost always speaks in vague, general terms (a feature, not a bug IMHO), and statutes are routinely written in ways that permit multiple valid readings, whether by error or by design. The courts must rule on the disputes that reach them, so how are they supposed to avoid interpretation of statutes and the Constitution?Report

          • Damon in reply to Don Zeko says:

            Let me give you two, non lawyer-ly examples:

            1) The law reads as X. It is applied as X. If the law is unclear, unconstitutional,-kicked back to legislature for rewrite. Acceptable.

            2) The writers of the law specifically say the “fee” is not a tax. I find it is a tax because the law is a good thing to have. Unacceptable.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

              1) The law reads as X. It is applied as X. If the law is unclear, unconstitutional,-kicked back to legislature for rewrite. Acceptable.

              Damon, I hate to say this so baldly, but that makes no sense whatsoever. The whole purpose of the judiciary is to determine whether a particular reading of the law is constitutionally clear or not, and therefore, if they just say “yup! it’s clear!!” they’ve not only done their job but acted consistently with your methodology.

              Adding: re: 2, you got the term wrong. It’s not “fee”, it’s “penalty”.Report

              • Damon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Yeah, that WAS rather bad wasn’t it. I though about what I’d wrote after the post and I should have tried to be clearer.

                You said it pretty clearly. The SC should rule on the constitutionality of the law AS WRITTEN, not what was intended to be said, what WAS said.

                Fee, penalty, tax, whatever. The SC seems to view them all as the same thing, why shouldn’t we?Report

        • Murali in reply to Damon says:

          The law is open textured. It always requires interpretation. No judicial decisions would ever be made if they didn’t interpret.Report

      • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Oh, and Burt, I forgot to say this.

        EXCELLENT article. As others have said on this site, your posts enrich all our knowledge and experience on this site.Report

  3. Kolohe says:

    As usual, this was excellent.

    Taney not ‘ahead of his time’ – as you chronicled, before he was on the Supreme Court, he supported a disastrous war, and worked to defund an important government program. He was *way* ahead of his time.

    Ex parte Merryman might be (is) good law, but you can’t use that case to rule that he *wasn’t* a partisan hack, as the ruling went against the same Lincoln administration that made him their prime boogeyman.
    (and Maryland was only unionist with ‘functioning’ civil government *because* the administration had stepped in and put their thumb on the scale from the get go. The feds imprisoned pro-secession members of the state legislature and helped the state government move from downcountry slave holding secession friendly Annapolis to upcountry mostly non-slave holding Frederick.)

    Slateist pitch that ever slatepitched – Taney’s Dred Scott decision, while horrible, was absolutely necessary, especially in its maximum, judicial activism form, to heighten the contradictions and bring the matter to a head. The result was, yes, a civil war but also, slaves were free.

    – If Taney would have taken the morally correct line (i.e. ruling in favor of Scott), the secession crisis would have happened right then, under the auspices of the Buchanan administration which was likely not up to handling it.

    – If Taney would have punted, the political stalemate would have continued for another decade or so. That delay has unknown ramifications (duh), but one road leads to a more entrench institution of slavery, and the south finally finding religion on the need for interstate infrastructure – which in turn makes eat easier to defend the South from Northern armies. Plus, a Northern political situation that gets increasingly fractious as industrial capitalism hits is full stride and class distinctions really start to put a strain on things.

    – So the pitch is Taney wasn’t a heroic man, but he was a necessary man. An anti-Edith Keeler.Report

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    First off, excellent piece. It has a bunch of stuff I didn’t know before, and is all nuancy in a good way.

    Part of this nuance is the question of why did this guy get a statue in the first place? This isn’t just with respect to Taney. Yes, George Washington had his flaws, but he isn’t honored for those flaws. Compare this with Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. Had the Late Unpleasantness never occurred, they would be obscure historical figures known only to specialists. All those statues of them are honoring their roles in the war: they are celebrations of treason in defense of slavery.

    The fashionable argument for keeping the statues today is that said statues are part of history, and removing them is to remove history. I call bullshit. Yes, their existence is part of history. They should be properly displayed in museums with interpretive materials explaining how our appalling ancestors actually *honored* these guys. This is not, however, an argument for keeping the statues in situ. Their placement was chosen to honor these individuals, and keeping the statues in place carries the clear implication that we are still honoring them. And really, do we believe that this isn’t really the underlying point of the argument? The argument is so preposterous that I cannot believe it is made in good faith.

    We are having the same argument here in Maryland with respect to our state song. It is a sad state of affairs when the fact that it is sung to the tune of “O Christmas Tree” is only third on the list of why it is so embarrassing. We inadvertently elected a Republican governor. He recently quashed a move to replace the song, trotting out the “this is our history” argument. Yes, it is our history. This was made our state song by a bunch of appalling racists who wanted to honor appalling racism. We absolutely should remember this history. This is not, however, an argument for continuing to honor appalling racism. The guy is a schmuck.

    So bringing this back to Taney, a display of Chief Justices obviously should include him. This does not honor him individually. If his home town wants to have a statue, sure. Having a Chief Justice from your town clearly is a thing, even if you shuffle your feet and mumble when asked about what he actually did. But Baltimore? There is no creditable reason for Baltimore to be honoring this guy.Report

    • Kim in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      And yet, there are many free walls in Baltimore.
      I’d rather fund more art than less.
      Paint’s cheap, and kids will work for free, or nearly so (if you catch them spraypainting grafitti you simply call it community service).
      Honor more people, make it a project. Is there not a painting of “Baltimore’s Heros”? Or of a particular neighborhood’s? Put one up.

      If you have ugly monuments, drown them in more monuments, more public art.

      Once you start treating every single unoccupied building as a canvass, the whole city starts looking better.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I agree on the focus on who erected the statute, but I thought Taney lived in or near Baltimore. He practiced law there and had financial interests in the pet bank there. When the Merryman case was decided, he was presiding over the Circuit Court in Baltimore. Justices at that time were assigned circuits and I understood that Taney, as Chief Justice, assigned himself the Baltimore circuit so he could be close to home.

      The point that Taney was in Baltimore is an important one for the question of whether Taney was authorized to decide Merryman.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to PD Shaw says:

        I have reached the limits of my knowledge and what I can find easily. Yes, he practiced in Baltimore, but it’s not clear to me how long. He was 46 years old when he moved there in 1824. He was soon appointed state attorney general. I don’t know if this entailed physically relocating to Annapolis. He was appointed US Attorney General in 1831. He was nominated to the US Supreme Court in 1835, though apparently not confirmed until 1837. All in all, it looks to me like he was in Baltimore when he wasn’t somewhere else, which was most of the time.

        I’m sticking with my vote for a statue of Divine.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      There are monuments in New York City to people have little or no connection to New York City like that nice little statue of Ghandi in Union Square or to the Chinese civil servant that tried to crack down on the opium trade in China during the 1830s that led to the Opium War on Chatham Square. Taney was a Maryland native and Baltimore is the biggest city in Maryland. Regardless of the merits of the monument that is enough of a reason to put it there.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Honoring someone because that person did something worthy of honoring is always appropriate. The discussion at hand is about honoring someone because he is a local boy, regardless of or in spite of what that person did. Sometimes cities stretch what counts as a local boy. I believe that not less than three major cities claim Edgar Allen Poe. If the standard is “we really want to claim this guy” then certainly Baltimore could lay claim on Taney. But the connection is not so strong as to meet the “Yes, he was an SOB, but he was our SOB” standard. This is what the issue really comes down to: is he someone whom we want to find some excuse to lay claim to?Report

  5. PD Shaw says:

    I am no fan of Taney, nor Meryman, but I don’t start from the assumption that the continued presence of statuary in a location is an act of honor of subsequent generations. The statute was erected by people (in this case the City of Baltimore a few years after Taney’s death) to honor an important person in their community. I have no sense the honor was bestowed for anything more than the titular honor, as opposed to his views on race and the Civil War. Basically, there are two screens I operate on, who is the subject of the memorial, but more importantly, who are the people who erected it? Lee statutory erected, particularly outside Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s is highly suspect.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to PD Shaw says:

      That’s the thing: Taney wasn’t a Baltimorean. He was from another part of the state, and had no particular connection to Baltimore. There are lots of people with a much stronger connection if they are looking for a replacement. I suggest Divine.Report

  6. Richard Hershberger says:

    Oh, and the notion that Washington started the Seven Years/French-and-Indian War is absurd. Amusing, yes. Plausible, no. He was a party to a backwoods border skirmish. He did not cover himself in glory. (Keep in mind that while he carried the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, by experience and command he was more like a junior lieutenant commanding a platoon. He learned from experience. This is high praise.) Great wars are not caused by backwoods border skirmishes. (Next topic: the War of Jenkins’ Ear did not, in reality, have anything to do with Jenkins or his ear.)

    The North American portion of the Seven Year’s War was fought because the population of the English colonies had grown to the point where it was spilling over the Appalachian Mountains, and in particular into the Ohio Valley. The French regarded this, with pretty good reason, as their territory. This is why Washington was commissioned by the Virginia House of Burgesses to go wandering around western Pennsylvania (which they considered to be northwestern Virginia). The details of these wanderings are interesting, but not really relevant to why the subsequent war occurred.Report

    • Kim in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      Most wars are fought for economic reasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the misnamed French and Indian War (in reality a front of a larger war) wasn’t terribly important to either France or England.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kim says:

        The war began in America and spread from there. Both sides committed substantial resources to the North American front, and the loss of Canada was a major blow to the French. North America was not a mere sideshow.Report

        • And yet Canada was much less of a blow to the French than Guadeloupe would’ve been. (The Quebecois history books I had as texts in school were still quite evidently aggrieved by this.)Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Maribou says:

            Which would you rather have, fur or sugar? Well, if you are in Canada, maybe you want the fur. But for the rest of us…Report

            • To bring it back at least tangentially to the topic at hand, there’s also the issue that the Canadiens (*especially* the fur trappers) were stroppy and had inconvenient habits of independence, while Guadeloupe was profitable in large part because of French participation in the slave trade. (Wasn’t French colonists working in the cane fields…) I know Britain theoretically made the decision over which one to keep, but maybe if whoever was in charge of the French side had been a little more ahead of his time…Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

            Saint Dominique was probably more important to the French than all of French North America combined. It produced most of the world’s coffee crop at the time.Report

    • Yes. The Seven Years War was one in a long string of power struggles between the European powers. It could not have been caused or prevented by one man, and it involved far broader issues and a wider geographical scope than the Thirteen Colonies.Report

  7. LeeEsq says:

    One of my least favorite aspects of the current iteration of the Social Justice movement is how they go about trying to cast off any historical figure they identify as less than perfect, especially when that imperfection is in regards to race. Yes, there were many racist people in the past and these include a lot of people admired very deeply in popular history like Washington, Jefferson, or Theodore Roosevelt. There isn’t anything wrong in pointing it out but ignoring the entire record because of one major flaw from a modern standpoint seems to be missing the forest for the trees. For people like Taney or Cecil Rhodes, where their racism led them to commit great injustices and evil, than the demonization is appropriate but when the historical legacy is more complicated it seems simplistic.Report

    • greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Meh. The history of many monuments is indeed complex. But some of it is less so, such as the various monuments to southern civil war heroes and confed flag obsession that started around the civil rights era. There was also another spate of civil war monuments in the beginning of the 20 the century. Most monuments are about more then just the thing they say they celebrate. Some of them are divisive and represent white supremacy.Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    This was just stellar. Likely your best piece ever on this site, Burt, and that is saying no small thing.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      On the content of the post, I will also add this — which will likely make heads here explode.

      The older I get, the more I come of the mind that, at the end of the day, SCOTUSs are merely well organized and disciplined products of their time. D. Scott was decided the way it was, when it was, first and foremost because it reflected the wishes of the country at the time. Likewise Loving, Obergefell, and Plessy.

      I think this is an uncomfortable thought for most, because we like to believe in the narrative that the Constitution stays a fixed moral compass. But I think that, for the most part, every SCOTUS reflects the people it lives amongst as much as it does the framing document, if not more so.Report

      • Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’m not terribly bothered by that, actually.
        It’s us that need to keep the Supremes on the straight and narrow, just like the rest of the gov’t.

        And, at least with Obamacare, the Supremes have demonstrated that they will blink.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Actually I have heard it said that the SCOTUS keeps on eye on the Constitution and another on the last poll results.

        Which makes sense- the 9 members live and pray and socialize within the larger community called America, after all- they aren’t oracles.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        This is as cogent a restatement as I might have conjured on my own, explaining why I have picked SCOTUS as the focus of my own study of our history and culture. The law touches everything. The law is the product of politics, which is a product of our culture, which is a product of ourselves as a people.

        One nuance I might throw in, though, is that SCOTUS is at least as often as not a lagging indicator of cultural progress. A study of how SCOTUS interacts with its contemporary society is usually going to be a study of elites from a previous generation confronting issues raised by younger people or events different from those which previously formed the world views of the Justices. I particularly enjoy how the best of them try to tease out that which is timeless and good from our history and apply those ideas to new situations.

        The lagging indicator thing is well reflected in Dred Scott, I think. The decision was 7-2 in favor of the slaveholder, which roughly reflects that in the generation previous to the case — the generation of Andrew Jackson’s political ascendancy and the cyclical fragmentation and reformation of political parties opposed to Jackson’s, a generation in which politicians played “kick the can” with slavery and competing visions of national unity, a generation whose elites focused themselves intensely on economic growth and westward expansion. Did you know that there was only one Whig ever on SCOTUS? It was Benjamin Curtis, nominated by Millard Fillmore, the same guy who resigned in protest to Dred Scott after dissenting. That’s rather telling about the political vicissitudes of the 1830’s and 1840’s, if you ask me.Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Dred Scott did not reflect the wishes of the country at the time. The next year, the Republicans took control of the House for the first time, and Stephen Douglas, angling both to return to the Senate and become the next President, had to argue that the opinion could be circumvented by hostile state legislation. This was clearly an example of a judiciary out-of-touch with popular sentiment and overreach.Report

  9. Oscar Gordon says:

    I’m going to have to read this a few times over just to absorb it all. Very well done!Report

  10. Taney defunded the Bank of the United States, withdrawing all Federal monies on deposit from the institution.

    Which was a terrible idea, even though, or perhaps I should say particularly because, it was one of Andrew Jackson’s pet projects. At any rate, the resulting financial chaos led directly to the Panic of 1837.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Not only that, Taney did this in a scene reminiscent of the Saturday Night Massacre. Jackson ordered the Secretary of Treasury to withdraw the deposits and he refused; the law had established pre-conditions to their removal. Jackson then fired the Secretary of Treasury and appointed Taney to the position, and Taney withdrew the deposits. Jackson was censured by the Senate and Taney was the first person rejected by the Senate for a cabinet position.Report

    • notme in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      At any rate, the resulting financial chaos led directly to the Panic of 1837.

      Not according to this but I guess that you know better.

      • Mike Schilling in reply to notme says:

        As the BUS wound up its operations in the next four years, state-chartered banks in the West and South relaxed their lending standards, maintaining unsafe reserve ratios.Report

        • notme in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          In your effort to cherry pick you left out quite a bit.Report

        • Zac in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Come on, now, you didn’t think Notme had actually read his own link, did you? Have you learned nothing since he arrived here?Report

          • notme in reply to Zac says:

            Did you read the link? Clearly not b/c it doesn’t say that the end of the BUS caused the financial panic. Let me help you.

            “Speculative lending practices in western states, a sharp decline in cotton prices, a collapsing land bubble, international specie flows, and restrictive lending policies in Great Britain were all to blame.”Report

            • Zac in reply to notme says:

              Of course I read the link; I always read your links, because half the time they say the opposite of what you’re claiming, and that’s always good for a laugh.

              “Within the United States, there were several contributing factors. In July 1832, President Andrew Jackson vetoed the bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States (BUS), the nation’s central bank and fiscal agent. As the BUS wound up its operations in the next four years, state-chartered banks in the West and South relaxed their lending standards, maintaining unsafe reserve ratios.”

              PROTIP: It helps when you read past the first paragraph of a piece. Often, useful information is contained beyond.Report

              • notme in reply to Zac says:

                I read the whole thing and was not surprised to learn that mike was wrong, as usual.

                PROTIP: Many times the first paragraph contains a summary of all the info that will follow.Report

    • It seems trivially easy to opine that the Panic of 1837, and the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1907, the 1918 recession, the Great Depression, the stagflation crisis following the 1970’s oil shocks, and the Great Recession of 2008 were all — to borrow Dennis Sanders’ fine phrasing from another context — tragedies with many fathers.Report

      • Certainly, but the removal of the central bank played a key role, which is worth remembering when some ideologue insists that all would he well except for the Federal Reserve.Report

        • The terror that ideologues can exercise in this regard can go several different directions. A for-profit bank, with a charter from the federal government, that holds and manages the deposits of the government and serves thereby a class of bond holders can be grist for a critique similar to the anti-Wall Street Occupy’ism of recent note. It’s not only the anti-government reactionaries who would have supported dismantling the Bank of the US. It’s also the small-p populist crusade against “monopoly” and “special privilege” which some members of the left sometimes proclaim.

          Also, one distinction that that has gotten lost in this discussion is between Jackson’s refusal to sign the bill renewing the BUS, which he as president had the prerogative to do, and his decision to defund the BUS before its charter expired, which was at least arguably illegal (and why Jackson was censured for it).

          I say all this as someone who has an intense dislike of Jackson and the style of politics he represents and as someone who believes dismantling the BUS was a big error that probably contributed greatly to or aggravated the 1837 panic.Report

          • It’s not only the anti-government reactionaries who would have supported dismantling the Bank of the US. It’s also the small-p populist crusade against “monopoly” and “special privilege” which some members of the left sometimes proclaim.

            The big error was dismantling it and replacing it with nothing.Report

            • I’m inclined to say the pet banks and such decisions as the specie circular could count as “replacements,” but point taken. If Jackson had replaced the BUS with something like the Fed we have today then maybe things wouldn’t have been as bad in the late 1830s as they turned out to be.

              At which point, I think our main point of disagreement is how Jackson’s anti-BUS demagoguery compares (or doesn’t) to other strands of antimonopoly we’ve seen in this country since then. Even then, we might not necessarily be in too much disagreement.Report

  11. PD Shaw says:

    The case against Taney is that after causing the Civil War, he spent his remaining time writing judicial opinions which would give the Supreme Court an important role in resolving the war, including a prepared opinion declaring federal conscription unconstitutional. That Taney’s Supreme Court never got to weigh in on any of the issues of the war was primarily because of the slow nature of appellate review during a fast-changing environment of war. No case ever got to the SCOTUS. Also Taney died in 1864.

    Somewhat similar to Robert E. Lee who kept a public face of duty to country, while secretly planning other designs, Taney was publicly conforming, while privately scheming.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to PD Shaw says:

      I’m quite interested in exploring this further, @pd-shaw — are there legal or academic places you can point me to on the subject of Taney preparing to edge in on Lincoln behind closed doors? Was Merryman part of that scheme?Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        As far as I know, the original source on this was Don E. Fehrenbacher, Dred Scott: Its Significance in American Law and Politics. He reviewed the Taney Papers and found his later writings and concluded that he “would have struck down many of the administration’s principal war measures, including conscription, emancipation, and the currency program.”

        The Taney Papers do not appear to be on-line, but the main one of interest is an 8-page memorandum that Taney penned around the time of Lincoln’s inauguration, in which he concluded that the South was wrong in its belief that there was a Constitutional right of secession, but that the Union had no authority to force the seceding states back-in. (Essentially James Buchanan’s position) It is reasonable to conclude that Taney would not have upheld any of Lincoln’s war measures under this analysis.

        Mark E. Neely, Jr., specifically discusses Taney’s prepared opinion to strike down military conscription in Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to PD Shaw says:

      I’d say direct federal conscription was at least plausibly unconstitutional when it was imposed in 1863, assuming I understand it correctly. The more indirect kind of conscription, demanding/asking for quotas from states, might have been more legit. But IANAL or Legal Historian.Report

  12. First off, I’ll ditto those who commend Burt for this post.

    Second, one of my takeaways is that once a monument is created, it’s really hard to de-install it. That’s because it’s already there, but also because it quickly becomes part of a shared heritage and a site of contestation. The anti-Taney’ists gain something from its being there, even if they want to dismantle it but especially if they want to “recontextualize” it.

    So…..I guess going on in the future, we should think long and hard before setting up any future monuments. What seems like a good idea at the time might will take on a life and meanings of its own.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      I guess I don’t feel its that easy to take down a monument these days, and I might be one of the most anti-Taney people in this thread and I don’t want to see his statue removed.

      I am saddened that the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle in New Orleans is being removed. I lived there a few years and remember looking at it from the window of the street car as it jerked its way to where I worked. It was an attractive, classic monument to a guy who had no connection with the City, erected by people who wanted to honor their soldiers. It’s a city with a lot of odd anachronistic juxtapositions of time periods, factual and mythical.

      I don’t live there any more. And before I came, a lot of white people left the city, leaving it to people with no connection to Lee or the Civil War, either they are foreigners like I was (pronounced Na’thner) or they are descendents of slaves. The city has lots of problems without easy solutions and voting the removal of statutory isn’t very costly.Report

  13. Michael Cain says:

    I don’t want to honor this sort of history, but I don’t want us to forget it either.

    This is really, really well written, Burt. Invokes not just my usual envy of people who write so much better than I do, but makes me nervous that some other outfit that actually pays their writers is going to make you an offer.Report

  14. Richard Hershberger says:

    In other Baltimore Monument news–well, not “news:” perhaps “stuff”–this statue is of John Eager Howard, who was a local Revolutionary War hero:,-76.6157821,3a,25.3y,176.99h,91.38t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1shB7s6tqTtW5pn36CQREUQA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    This statue is immediately to the north of the Taney statue, which you can see in the middle ground. The whomping big pillar beyond that is the Washington Monument–the real one, not the johnny-come-lately one a few miles down I-95.

    Why do I bring this up? Merely to point out that the local name for the Howard statue is “John Eager Howard prepares to turn right.”Report

  15. CK MacLeod says:

    Easy to imagine a statue going up of Scalia, or a statue approved, then later canceled, and a fight about it along parallel lines.

    The “statue” and its “status” (signified in part by its location) is a “statement” about the “state” or the state of the state. Citizens of a republic who revere their laws and those who carry them out loyally will honor their servants, offering them up as figures eternally or at least trans-generationally deserving of emulation, but a democracy that reveres the sentiments and aspirations of its present, equal citizens has no need for statues, for the raising up of an individual or his or her image above the mass of equals. So, if we’re going to bring down Taney – or relocate him to the museum, along with Lee and Jackson and the others – we should bring down Lincoln, bring down Washington, and bring down King, and bring down all those graven images of the Savior, too. They were all – all – imperfect beings, and only part of them or their messages that we as democrats can approve is the part that signifies our perfect equality.

    (Also we should stop naming places, not just after individuals, but at all. Every place-name is the commemoration of an unjust expropriation of land that properly belongs to no one or no culture or its language. As a practical matter, GPS coordinates should be sufficient for navigation. Someday soon perhaps we will unlearn this unjust focus on the human, and quit with words, and the histories of injustice they reflect, too. All beings are evolutionarily equal. Science says so.)

    Otherwise, I think I agree with Kolohe – – though possibly more than Kolohe himself does.Report