Friday, February 20, 2009

Historical Image of the Day

Chief Justice Morrison Waite and his fine beard.

Appointed by Ulysses Grant in 1874, Waite served for 14 years. Like many of Grant's Supreme Court nominees, he worked to roll back racial protections for African-Americans. This makes me wonder why Grant's supposed belief in racial equality has improved his standing among both historians and progressives. Almost all of his judicial choices were terrible on race and you'd think that in an age when we pay so much attention to judges generally and the Supreme Court especially, people would take this into account. Those who promote Grant's presidency point to the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which he signed. But his own judges, including Waite, overturned the law in the Civil Rights Cases (1883). So I have yet to see a compelling case for the argument that Grant was a good president on racial issues.