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We weep for those whose tale is wrought
In amber of the poet's fancy ;
To hearing by such necromancy.
And sigh o'er griefs of ages hoary,
Without an ear to hear their story.
From homes where genial hearths were bright In tempest on a German town,
And mirth disported in their glow, A little outcast, tired and wet,
Cheer voices stole into the night, Went feebly plodding up and down.
To mock the sinking beggar's woe. The night was wild, the wind was high,
Only the wind that hurtled nigh And all was bleak on earth and sky.
Bore off his wailing to the sky.
On Jackson s election to the presi-| immediately became identified with the dency a powerful coalition against great issues which made Jackson's term him was formed in Congress and the an epoch in our political history. By Senate. His cabinet refused to support a happy coincidence Taney's policy and him and resigned their posts.
The the President's had a like complexmen who had elected him thought ion. Jackson was the declared enemy fit to withhold their countenance from of the great fiscal power of the landthe useful but difficult schemes he was the United States Bank. Taney knew revolving The political world was as well as he the immense influence in a ferment, and there was much to it wielded, and had often dreaded its indicate the imminence of the partisan application to corruption.
Such a tempest so soon to break. In such power in the hands of a party might an emergency Jackson, as may be be made an invaluable agent. It could judged, made the appointment of his overreach political chicanery as it cabinet a matter of nice calculation. could approach every official and conHis administration was threatened, and trol every interest in the land. So when, if not adequately supported must prove in 1832, came the pompous petition for a signal failure. He wanted men of a renewal of the charter, Jackson did talent, men of action, who would dare not hesitate to veto it and trust to the to look an excited people in the face event to justify his action. Taney and teach them their best interests in had been the first in the cabinet to the ruin of their pet schemes. Such a propose the veto, and the only one to one he found in Roger Brooke Taney. vote for it. He had embodied his reaHe
was at the time at the head of the sons in a letter to the President, and Maryland bar. His life had been spent through him they became known to in legal labors, and though averse to Congress. He regarded this as an issue political position he had more than once in which capital was arrayed on one interested himself in the partisan con- side and good policy on the other. tests of the time when a matter of prin- It was the government versus the ciple required vindication or the rights money-power, the constitution against of the people were menaced.
the bank charter. He did not fail to In 1831 he first assumed high offi- see that the contest would be waged cial dignity as Attorney-General, and with desperate energy—that the fiscal
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monster was preparing for a supreme as they were, averted a far more effort. But with Jackson he had ous calamity. Taney's tact and ad confidence in the people, and in that son's forethought saved the gove confidence did not hesitate to commit ment from impending bankruptcy. the question with which he had identi- The depression of the markets and the fied himself to the people's hands. stagnation of trade which followed the
Jackson's reëlection by an over-drain upon the bank's coffers were but whelming majority confirmed him in an earnest of what might have been exhis policy, and from that time no quarter pected had the bank directors been perwas given to the bank party. When mitted to squander the public revenues the national debt, which had become in unsafe ventures and the purchase of small and which it was the interest of party influence. The sufferings of the the bank to increase, came before Con- poorer classes, which are ultimately gress for consideration, Jackson claim- affected by all financial agitations, have ed that a continuance of the govern- been left at Taney's door by his politiment deposits in the bank would be cal opponents. But does it not rather extremely perilous. Taney, for his redound to his praise to know that he part, came forward with a statement of of all men detected the impending adventurous risks taken by this repos- crash and sacrificed popularity to avert itory of public trust and solvency, and it ? strongly opposed vesting in it functions Time passed and the bank question which might at any moment involve was forgotten in graver issues which the nation in financial ruin.
Some of the States waxed inFinding his opinion so ably second-tractable under an irksome tariff, and ed and his suspicions confirmed, Jack- loudly demanded relief. Then their son determined on immediate action. rights came into Congress for discussion, To Mr. Duane, the Secretary of the together with the question of the Treasury, he sent a letter instructing a government's real powers. The talents removal of the public deposits. Mr. of a period fertile beyond all others in Duane hesitated, then refused to com- forensic genius were brought to bear ply, and was at last deprived of office. upon these issues. The wisest statesJackson looked around among his men debated them and the sagest counsellors for a man of strict integrity jurists passed upon them. It was in and indomitable purpose, and found him the middle of this agitation that Mr. in Taney. He was made Secretary of Taney was raised to the high position the Treasury without delay, and he in the fulness of whose honors he died. immediately carried into operation the On the 6th of July, 1835, Chief-JusPresident's instructions, which had also tice Marshall breathed his last. He been his own counsels. Then came was a man of such eminence that his the order for the removal of the depos- name has passed into proverbial use its, the partial insolvency of the bank, as the synonyme of high judicial talents. the calling in of loans and discounts, To succeed him Roger Brooke Taney the pressure on the State banks, and was nominated. He had enemies who the financial difficulties which, severe eagerly opposed him; many who ma
ligned and denounced him. But these as difficult as it was ungrateful. He were but as the fire that chasteneth; and did not pretend to say what the law Taney, in assuming the ermine of chief should be; he only sought to show judge, rose higher in public esteem what it was. As expounder of the because of their machinations. His constitution, he could only interpret it tory when, after the lapse of years it in its literal construction. “It speaks,” looks upon this period with a calm eye said he, “in the same words, with the and surveys the actors in the great same meaning and intent, with which drama in their several rôles, will de- it spoke when it came from the hands cide whether the chief-justice was of its framers, and was voted on and really worthy of. his high responsi- adopted by the people of the United bilities. It is only when the temporary States. Any other rule of construcspasms and agitations of political con- tion would abrogate the judicial chartroversy have subsided and the schemes acter of this court and make it the of statesmen have been permitted to mere reflex of the popular opinion or mature that we can presume to pass passion of the day. This court was
not created by the constitution for such The records of Taney's term fill ro purposes.
Higher and graver trusts barren page in American history. have been confided to it; and it must Never before or since were state ques- not falter in the path of duty.” tions of such deep interest to the Nor did it. Taney's justice was old country submitted for adjudication; Roman justice-strict, unerring, imand never did the exigencies of any placable. Nothing could pervert it or time call more loudly for a full and clear turn it a hair's breadth from the even definition of the law. The governing tenor of its way. What the law set laws of the nation were yet imperfect. forth he abided by. If it conflicted Complete in themselves, they lacked with human justice he did not hide its consistency and directness. Questions deformity. If it were severe he did not of State rights were ever being raised, presume to tamper with it. If it and were found to clash with the pre- faltered he did not urge it on. Taney rogatives of the Federal government. discharged his duty to the letter. He It required a hand to sift and settle expounded laws which were not of his everything—to set aside bias, opinion, making, that their force might be conviction itself-everything but the clearly understood, and their flaws, if letter of the law. Taney's decisions they had any, be detected. are condemned for their unmitigated We will not follow him through his rigor. That is precisely the quality judicial trials, for trials they were. for which they should be extolled. Taney's enemies never let an occasion The constitution had to be defined. It slip to pick a flaw in his decisions or afterwards remained for legislators to to challenge his motives. We will remodel it if they thought fit. It had come down to the Dred Scott case,
than to be defined; and Taney, laying aside which no legal question submitted to prejudice, sympathy, and self-concern, the judgment of courts was ever more devoted himself to a task which was important in its consequences. The abolitionists and free-soilers had for a he never oppressed them; he always long time been at points with the ad- acted their friend and sympathizer. ministration, and this decision of Taney never advocated slavery. He Taney's effected a coalition between never by act or utterance gave it supthem. Then came the anti-slavery port. But he did tell his generation demonstrations, Lincoln, and the war. what its fathers had decreed years beThis Dred Scott case has been a fore and which he was not empowered weapon freely used by the enemies of to change. the chief-justice to deface his good He interpreted the laws that regurepute. They charge him with the lated slavery and recognized it. He grossest perversion of existing statutes, only pointed out the works of others and hold the subsequent legislation on without attempting to construct. which his argument was based to be Is the tottering cicerone you meet in idle and impertinent. The eternal a cathedral on the Continent, and who principles of justice have more than points out to you and explains the struconce been paraded by demagogues, and ture's several beauties or defects, to their violation charged on men of the be confounded with the architect who purest integrity. And so it proved built it? Is he to be extolled for its with Taney. For months the opinion perfections or held responsible for of the chief-justice was hacked at with its blemishes? Assuredly not. And no partisan blades. Learned senators and more is Roger Brooke Taney amenable virulent party-men handled it roughly. for his definitions of the law. When Their charge gained ground among history sifts his character and studies willing adherents, and has come down it she will fairly acquit him. She with them, to our day, that Roger cannot do otherwise. But until such Brooke Taney was slavery's confirmed time it is well for us Catholics to know advocate. But for him, they held, that we are warranted in having a just abolition would have become a mat- pride in the grand old jurist. He was ter of civil settlement. But for him, a Catholic zealous and devout, always the Slave Power, deprived of legal strictly observant of his duties and sanctions, would have shrunk and interested in the progress of his creed collapsed.
in the land he loved so well. Long ago How idle are these charges may not he died; his successor, too, has passed appear till we look beneath the judge's to an honored grave. But Taney's ermine to the man it covered. Taney memory is a legacy of which time will as a man was at heart a practical aboli- not rob us. It has become historic. tionist. He did not theorize as others As the years pass it will be honored all did and wait for an example to be offered the more. And when the student of him. He set the example himself. His the future cons the record of this own slaves he manumitted, and he re- country's great names, surely there will proved the severity of others to their be, beside that of the model Justice Marbondsmen. Many and many a little in- shall
, a fellow place for Roger Brooke cident is told of his kindness to the en- Taney.
C. C. slaved people. He never despised them,