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John Marshall Harlan

John Marshall HarlanBorn: 1-Jun-1833
Birthplace: Boyle County, KY
Died: 14-Oct-1911
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, DC

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Judge

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: US Supreme Court Justice, 1877-1911

Military service: Union Army (Civil War, Colonel, 10th Kentucky Infantry)

American jurist, born in Boyle County, Kentucky, on the 1st of June 1833. He graduated at Centre College, Danville, Kentucky in 1850, and at the law department of Transylvania University, Lexington, in 1853. He was county judge of Franklin county in 1858-59, was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress on the Whig ticket in 1859, and was elector on the Constitutional Union ticket in 1860. On the outbreak of the Civil War he recruited and organized the Tenth Kentucky United States Volunteer Infantry, and in 1861-63 served as colonel. Retiring from the army in 1863, he was elected by the Union party attorney-general of the state, and was re-elected in 1865, serving from 1863 to 1867, when he removed to Louisville to practice law.

He was the Republican candidate for governor in 1871 and in 1875 and was a member of the commission which was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes early in 1877 to accomplish the recognition of one or other of the existing state governments of Louisiana; and he was a member of the Bering Sea tribunal which met in Paris in 1893. On the 29th of November 1877 he became an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. In this position he showed himself a liberal constructionist.

In opinions on the Civil Rights cases and in the interpretation of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, he dissented from the majority of the court and advocated increasing the power of the Federal government. Among his dissents was the 1896 case, Plessy v. Ferguson, which established "separate but equal" as an acceptible precept in American law. Harlan wrote in his dissent: "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. ... In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case."

Harlan supported the constitutionality of the income tax clause in the Wilson Tariff Bill of 1894, and he drafted the decision of the court in the Northern Securities Company Case, which applied to railways the provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In 1889 he became a professor in the Law School of the Columbian University (afterwards George Washington University) in Washington, DC.

Father: James Harlan (US Congressman and state politician, b. 1800, d. 1863)
Mother: Eliza Shannon Davenport
Wife: Malvina French Shanklin (m. 1856)

    University: Centre College, Danville, KY (1850)
    Law School: Transylvania University, Lexington, KY (1853)
    Professor: Law, George Washington University (1889-1910)

    US Supreme Court Justice (1877-1911)
    Attorney General of Kentucky (1863-67)

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