Roger B. Taney: Opinion in the License Cases(1847)
Roger Taney’s career in the U.S. Supreme Court began inauspiciously. A longtime ally of Andrew Jackson, he carried with him a somewhat tarnished reputation as a political hack. In the veto message he had drafted to accompany Jackson’s death blow to the national bank, Taney had written: “The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive.” Thus was the power of judicial review, the “invention” of Taney’s well-loved predecessor, John Marshall, dismissed out of hand.
It was not long, however, before Taney staked out his own judicial territory, developing a body of law that addressed the public welfare rather than private, individual rights. The three leading cases decided during Taney’s first term had all been argued while Marshall was...
Roger B. Taney (Library of Congress)View Full Size