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BOUT two years before the death of Chief-Justice Taney,*
in a conversation with him on the Lives of the Chief Justices of England, by Lord Campbell, he expressed a wish that I would write his life. It was accordingly agreed between us that I would do so; though I was fully aware of the difficulty and the delicacy of the undertaking. And how, almost entirely, I have had to rely upon my own resources for the materials of the life, will appear by the following letters from Mr. Campbell, the son-in-law of the Chief Justice, and a distinguished member of the Baltimore Bar.
BALTIMORE, November 4, 1864.
I this morning received your favor of the 3d. It gives me and the family great satisfaction to learn that you intend writing the Chief Justice's life, and have been for some time making collections with that view. I shall be very happy to contribute any information to you which I possess. I do not know whether you have ever seen Van Santvoord's Lives of the American Chief Justices. The volume was published by Scribner, of New York, in 1854. Many of the facts in it, and particularly those relating to his English ancestors, were communicated to the author by me, ex relatione of the Chief Justice. Van Santvoord says that the name Taney is of Welsh extraction, but I think that a mistake. There is a church known as Taney in Ireland, and I think in the county Dublin; and the name appears in the Rolls of Letters Patent and Closed in the years 1203 and 1221, published by the English Record Commission. I have a copy of a pedigree of the Brookes beginning in 1602 and ending in 1717. It records the aspect of the Planets at the time of the births of several of the children. If you think it would be worth while, I will send you a copy. I will also send Van Santvoord's book, if you have not got it.
Great men have often simple tastes, and the Chief Justice was no exception. He was passionately fond of flowers, and always thought well of one who liked them.
SAMUEL TYLER, Esq., Frederick City, Md.
Taney is pronounced Tawny.
BALTIMORE, November 29, I received your letter of the 26th, and to-day send you the Lives of the Chief Justices.
The Chief Justice kept no copies of the letters he wrote, and, with very few exceptions, destroyed all he received. I have not yet examined his private papers, of which he left very few, but have no idea that any which he did leave would be of any service to his biographer. The Supplement which he wrote to the Dred Scott case was copied by Mr. William J. Stone of Washington, and sent to Bishop Hopkins, to be used by him in his then forthcoming work on Slavery. He made no use of it that I am aware, and would no doubt return it to Mr. Stone on his application.
I will send you a copy of the Brooke pedigree, and I will also send you a copy of a protest which he addressed to Secretary Chase, against the taxation of the salaries of the Judges of the Supreme Court. Although the other Judges did not unite with him in it, it received their approbation so far, at least, that they directed it to be recorded on the minutes of the Court. I shall bear in mind the necessity of furnishing you with everything available for your work, which I am glad to know is in such fit hands.
Yours, very truly, J. MASON CAMPBELL.
With the small aid furnished by Mr. Campbell, my long intimacy with the Chief Justice enabled me to inquire at the proper sources for the information which I have given in the Memoir. It is all perfectly authentic. I spared no pains in verifying everything. To vindicate one who had been so misrepresented, so hated, even after he had gone to his grave, has necessarily imposed upon his biographer the duty of dealing somewhat harshly with his political enemies. I have forborne to speak of some public men, who deserve censure, because I feel that I have sufficiently vindicated the character of the Chief Justice without doing so.
Get but the truth once uttered, and 'tis like
A star new born, that drops into its place,
And which, once circling in its placid round,
Not all the tumult of the earth can shake.
The engraved likeness of the Chief Justice, in this volume, is a perfect representation of him in his eighty-fifth year. It was thought best to represent him as a private citizen, as he appeared every day.
Reasons for writing his own life — His father, Michael Taney - The Home-
stead in Calvert County - His forefathers on his father's side - They were Ro-
man Catholics-The disabilities of Roman Catholics in Maryland, under William
and Mary-Poor schools- His father educated at St. Omer's and at Bruges,
Jesuit Colleges in France-Returns home before the American Revolution-Mar-
ries the daughter of Roger Brooke, a wealthy farmer on Battel Creek - Roger
Brooke's genealogy given according to the superstition of Astrology - His mo-
ther — He goes to a school when eight years old — The queer teacher — The
Bible and Dilworth's spelling-book the only books - The illiterate condition of
the people - Barring the teacher out of school - Goes to another school - The
teacher imagines himself a disembodied spirit; is drowned attempting to walk
over the river more than two miles wide- David English becomes tutor in the
family-Goes to Dickinson College - An assiduous and successful student-
Graduates with high honors, 1795 - Specimen of an acrostic on his own name, by
a teacher who wrote a geography in rhyme - His college friends - The election
of Mr. Taney by the students to a literary honor - Delivers an oration - His view
of the rewards of ambition - Returns home in the Fall of 1795- The state of
society-Fox-hunting a chief amusement -The hunters breakfast on hominy,
bacon, and egg-nogg - Himself a fox-hunter - In 1796, begins the study of law
at Annapolis - The General Court - Its jurisdiction - The able judges — The
able bar- His studies-Objects to Moot Courts - His fellow-students- The
leaders of the Maryland Bar: Martin, Pinkney, Johnson, Key, Mason, Shaaf,
Harper, and others - Portraits of Martin and Pinkney - Pinkney the greatest
advocate he ever heard - Admitted to the bar in 1799- His first case in the
Mayor's Court of Annapolis - Very much embarrassed - His constitutional
sensibility and melancholy- Elected to the Legislature - The mode of con-
ducting the election - Death of General Washington - The deep impression
made on the Legislature - Returns home- His love of the country - Love of
the romantic-Candidate for re-election to the Legislature - Is defeated — The
reasons for his defeat - Takes up his residence in Frederick - His first speech
in Court there
Description of Frederick -- The business of the place- The refined soci-
ety--Thomas Johnson, upon whose nomination General Washington was
chosen Commander-in-Chief of the American forces-The kind of law busi-
ness in Frederick - His diligence as a student — His studies miscellaneous
A candidate, on the Federal ticket, for the Legislature Is defeated - Marries
Miss Key, the sister of the author of "The Star-Spangled Banner"— The
romantic residence where Miss Key was born - The charming mode of life on
Maryland Plantations - Happily married-He affiliated with society in all
its relations - Trustee of the Academy - Director of a Bank His punctuality
in the discharge of duties-His festive relaxations on the shady banks of the
Monocacy - Fond of excursions on horseback — In the summer at Arcadia, the
residence of Mr. Shaaf- Mrs. Taney participates in his love of nature - Coun-
sel for General Wilkinson-Refuses to receive a fee for defending the General —
The war of 1812 - Against the declaration of war- After war is declared, sup-
ports it with zeal - Denounced by a portion of the Federal party - Alienated
from Mr. Thomas - Their reconciliation at the death-bed of Mr. Thomas - The
history of the origin of "Star-Spangled Banner"- Nominated for a seat in the
House of Representatives - Is defeated - His spirit of toleration of difference
of opinion - Elected to the Senate of Maryland - Serves with distinction - An
amusing anecdote of Mr. Martin and Mr. Taney - Mr. Martin, Mr. Taney, and
Mr. Shaaf in a great ejectment cause- Defends the Rev. Mr. Gruber charged
with attempting to incite slaves to insurrection - His speech - The impartiality
of the administration of law in Maryland - A Marylander murdered in Penn-
sylvania in attempting to recover by law his fugitive slave- A gentleman mur-
dered by his slaves in Frederick County - The slaves receive a fair trial at law-
Mr. Taney attains such eminence, that he argues causes, from every county in
the State, in the Court of Appeals - His training as a lawyer — His skill and
manner in the trial of causes - Always advises amicable adjustment of dis-
putes - His marked deference to the Bench and courtesy to the Bar-Anec-
dotes of Mr. Ross and Mr. Palmer - His character as a lawyer, by Mr. Schley
of Baltimore- The death of William Pinkney - Mr. Randolph's speech in the
Senate of the United States on the occasion-Chief-Justice Marshall's opinion
of Mr. Pinkney - Mr. Walter Jones's opinion - The last days of Mr. Martin
The grave of Mr. Taney's mother, at Frederick - His pious devotions - Re-
quest that he shall be buried by the side of his mother, whenever he dies.
LIFE IN BALTIMORE. - - A. D. 1823-1836.
Takes up his residence in Baltimore- The origin and character of the
Federal Government - The history of its working - The origin and history
of the two great political parties traced through every administration down
to the election of General Jackson - The policy and principles of the two par-
ties Many of the great statesmen as they appeared as actors on the politi-
cal stage - The great measures of the different administrations - General
Jackson's correspondence with Mr. Monroe The Virginia resolutions - Mr.
Wirt An amusing anecdote of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar and Mr. Taney—
Mr. Taney's eminence as a lawyer - Is leader of the Maryland Bar- Letter
from Mr. Wirt to Mr. Taney-Appointed Attorney - General of Maryland -
James Dixon, one of his deputies - The trial of Markley for murder - Mr. Dix-
on's speech General Jackson's administration - Mr. Taney appointed Attor-
ney-General of the United States - The reason for his selection - He accepts
reluctantly Letters from Mr. Key to him giving conversations with General
Jackson, and with members of the Cabinet-- Mr. Livingston's letter informing
Mr. Taney of his appointment - Mr. Taney's answer — The issues presented at
General Jackson's election - The policy of his administration — Mr. Taney be-
comes a member of the Cabinet to support this policy - Jackson's inaugural —
His first annual message - The Bank of the United States - The veto of the
Maysville Road Bill - Nullification - Jackson's celebrated toast-Jackson
vetoes the bill for rechartering the Bank of the United States - Mr. Taney aids
in preparing the message- General Jackson's re-election-His first message-
Nullification - The Proclamation against South Carolina — The history of its
preparation Jackson repudiates some of its principles - Mr. Taney never saw
it until it was in print - His opinion of its principles - The compromise bill of
Mr. Clay-Nullification at an end - Mr. Calhoun's doctrines - Is the most
trusted friend of Jackson - Is appointed Secretary of the Treasury - The Bank
of the United States - A full history of the contest between it and the Execu-
tive department - Mr. Taney, the great actor in the matter - Correspondence
between Mr. Taney and General Jackson - Many new facts disclosed -- The
"Cabinet Paper" written by Mr. Taney - Mr. Taney baffles the Senate by his
Report to their inquiries - The Bank of the United States perishes - Its last
end - Mr. Taney rejected by the Senate as Secretary of the Treasury - The cor-
respondence between him and General Jackson - Returns to Baltimore-Great
demonstration of citizens-At a public dinner - Mr. Van Buren's letter and
toast-Public dinner at Frederick - His speech - Public dinner at Elkton-Re-
proves Mr. Webster with great severity in his speech - Is nominated as an Associ-
ate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States - Chief-Justice Marshall
favors his confirmation in a letter to a Senator-Is rejected - His opposition
against his own party in two important matters in the State of Maryland.
JUDICIAL LIFE. A. D. 1836-1856.
Appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States-
Letters of congratulation - The character of the Court as a co-ordinate de-
partment of the Federal Government-Its jurisdiction, and the various classes
of cases belonging to it — His qualifications for the office — His predecessors,
Jay, Rutledge, Ellsworth, and Marshall - Their respective views of the Consti-
tution of the United States, as manifested in their judicial decisions - Chief-Jus-
tice Taney takes his seat first in the Circuit Court at Baltimore - Declines to
instruct grand juries, as a useless form-Takes his seat in the Supreme Court