The Republic according to John Marshall Harlan

The Republic according to John Marshall Harlan

by Linda Przybyszewski

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Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) is best known for condemning racial segregation in his dissent from Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, when he declared, "Our Constitution is color-blind." But in other judicial decisions--as well as in some areas of his life--Harlan's actions directly contradicted the essence of his famous statement. Similarly, Harlan was called the people's judge for favoring income tax and antitrust laws, yet he also upheld doctrines that benefited large corporations.

Examining these and other puzzles in Harlan's judicial career, Linda Przybyszewski draws on a rich array of previously neglected sources--including the verbatim transcripts of his 1897-98 lectures on constitutional law, his wife's 1915 memoirs, and a compilation of opinions, drawn up by Harlan himself, that he wanted republished. Her thoughtful examination demonstrates how Harlan inherited the traditions of paternalism, nationalism, and religious faith; how he reshaped these traditions in light of his experiences as a lawyer, political candidate, and judge; and how he justified the vision of the law he wrote.

An innovative combination of personal and judicial biography, this book makes an insightful contribution to American constitutional and intellectual history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469649283
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 07/25/2018
Series: Studies in Legal History
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Linda Przybyszewski is Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

Table of Contents

1 The Best Type of Slave-holders: A Family Ethic of Paternalism
2 Little or No Scope for Originality: Law, Religion, and the Union
3 An Opportunity to Make a Record: The Judge's Role
4 Every True Man Has Pride of Race: Civil Rights, Social Rights, and Racial Identity
5 The Hopes of Freemen Everywhere: Anglo-Saxonism and the Spanish-American War
6 This Age of Money Getting: Constitutional Nationalism and Free Labor
7 You May Rightfully Aspire: Manhood and Success in the Republic
Appendix: Harlan's List of Opinions for Publication


Tintype of John Marshall Harlan, circa 1903 frontispiece
Malvina Harlan
James Harlan
Robert James Harlan
John Marshall Harlan and Malvina French Shanklin
Harlan raised his own Union regiment, the 10th Kentucky Infantry, in September 1861
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., in 1903
Portrait of the Centennial Bench of Elders of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1903
Harlan and Augustus E. Willson at Transylvania University in 1908
1882 photograph of the U.S. Supreme Court
1911 photograph of the U.S. Supreme Court
Front page of the 17 February 1898 issue of the New York World depicting the explosion of the U.S. battleship Maine in the harbor at Havana, Cuba
Cartoon on the cover of the 11 June 1898 issue of Judge depicting the Philippines as a dark-skinned, primitive, and noisy infant
James Shanklin Harlan
Cartoon in the 7 September 1898 issue of Puck depicting Standard Oil as an octopus
John Maynard Harlan
Richard Davenport Harlan

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Clearly a book . . . that all judicial scholars will have to take note of in the future.—Law and History Review

Many scholars have helped to explain Harlan's seemingly prophetic vision, but Linda Przybyszewski offers the most original and persuasive understanding yet.—Journal of Supreme Court History

A bold and courageous undertaking.—Constitutional Commentary

A fine intellectual biography of an important figure in American Law.—Law and Politics Book Review

This book comes closer to the essence of Harlan, and to the meaning of his judicial career, than any previous work. Przybyszewski has bypassed the conventional terms in which Harlan has been characterized and recovered central themes. No one can feel the same about Harlan's historical labels, or Harlan himself, after reading her treatment.—G. Edward White, University of Virginia School of Law

The serious student of American history, or its government, can hardly fail to find this densely packed volume rewarding.—Rapport

This fine book provides a balanced and judicious study of Harlan's jurisprudence. Drawing on overlooked sources, Przybyszewski offers fresh insights into the norms that influences Harlan's work as a judge. . . . This work should be of interest to a wide range of scholars.—American Historical Review

Przybyszewski skillfully exploits several hitherto overlooked primary documents and argues that in the context of Harlan's life experiences and ideology, his juridical writings are less consistent and more of a 'mixed record' than commonly thought. . . . An excellent contribution to a discourse she invites others to join.—Choice

An excellent description and analysis of the possible sources and meaning of John Marshall Harlan's judicial decisions.—Journal of American History

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