Roger Brooke Taney (pronounced Tawney) was born in Calvert
County, Maryland, on 17 March 1777. He was called to the bar in 1799, and shortly after was elected to the House of Delegates
, serving until 1800. In 1806 he married Francis Scott Key
's sister Anne. He was elected to the state Senate in 1816 and was appointed Attorney-General of Maryland
In 1831 President Jackson appointed him Attorney-General of the United States, and in September 1833 Secretary of the Treasury. But this was during a recess of Congress, and when they reconvened after an especially long lunch in June 1834 they rejected his appointment, the first time this had happened for a Cabinet post. Jackson named him an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1835, but the Senate deferred a decision, effectively killing the appointment. In 1836 he was named Chief Justice, and this time the appointment was confirmed. He was the fifth in that office, succeeding John Marshall.
Taney made an enemy of President Lincoln in 1861 by ruling his suspension of habeas corpus unconstitutional, saying that that power was vested only in Congress. However Lincoln continued to do it, and was so authorized by Congress in 1863.
His personal attitude to slaves was not as harsh as his legal decisions might suggest. He freed those he inherited from his father, and provided monthly pensions for the older ones.
Anne Taney died on 29 September 1855 and their child the following day, from yellow fever. Roger Taney died on Washington on 12 October 1864.