A while ago, someone on my reading list had a post inviting people to pick one historical figure they would like to kick in the shins. I can't find the post now, but as I recall, the rules were that a mysterious person with a time machine made you the offer, with the restrictions that you were strictly limited to one kick in the shins, and that you couldn't choose Hitler (or, I suppose, any other such really obvious figure) since if you did, everyone would, and then history would be altered thanks to the permanent bruise he'd have.
I couldn't think of anyone then, but now I've got my choice: Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States, the author of the Supreme Court's opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford. It's been years since I read it, and my memory had faded about just how absolutely vile Taney's opinion is; but yesterday, I was listening to a lecture series on the history of the U.S. Supreme Court [*], and all through the sections on Dred Scott [**] and Taney's other slavery-related decisions, my foot just kept twitching.
So, who would you like to kick in the shins?
[*] I listen to podcasts, radio plays, or lectures while in the nursery with SteelyKid (I tried audiobooks, but while fiction moves fast enough when I'm distracted by driving, it's not sufficient for this). I picked this series as a way of easing myself back into the legal mindset before I go back to work in a few weeks.
[**] The decision is over 100 thousand words, so I don't recommend reading it (trust me—I have), but the principal holdings are that (1) no-one of African descent can be an American citizen, because the Constitution's framers viewed them "as beings of an inferior order" who "might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for [their own] benefit", and (2) Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in territories—neither of which was remotely supportable. For more, see Wikipedia.