The great dissenter The story of John Marshall Harlan, America's judicial hero

Peter S. Canellos

Book - 2021

"The definitive, sweeping biography of an American hero who stood against all the forces of Gilded Age America to fight for civil rights and economic freedom: Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan"--

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

347.7326/Canellos
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 347.7326/Canellos Checked In
Subjects
Genres
Biography
Biographies
Published
New York, NY : Simon & Schuster 2021.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
viii, 609 pages, 16 unnumbered leaves of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [503]-571) and index.
ISBN
9781501188206
1501188208
Main Author
Peter S. Canellos (author)
  • A father's prophecy
  • Journey into the heart of slavery
  • Faith and the founding fathers
  • Dread and Dred Scott
  • The soul of Kentucky
  • John vs. John
  • "Knowledge is power"
  • John, Robert and Benjamin
  • "Do-do take care"
  • Destiny
  • Standing alone
  • "The colonel has indeed surprised us"
  • In trusts we trust
  • Requiem for the gilded age
  • The humblest and most powerful
  • The walls of segregation
  • The constitution follows the flag
  • Freedom in the workplace
  • "I am a innocent man"
  • "Ever may his name be said in reverence"
  • Self-inflicted wounds
  • "A vicarious atonement"
  • "Justice Harlan concurring"
  • "Our basic legal creed".
Review by Booklist Reviews

Harlan's father so admired Chief Justice John Marshall that he named his son after him, hoping his child would one day follow his namesake onto the Supreme Court. It was a prophecy that would pay off, though first there was a Civil War to fight and then elected offices to pursue and lose. Through it all, John Marshall Harlan steadily built a reputation as a patriot and a man of honor. In this meticulously researched and acutely analytical biography, Canellos offers a nuanced portrait of the Supreme Court justice whose arguments in some of the most consequential cases in American jurisprudence earned him the titular sobriquet, The Great Dissenter. Yet for all his contrarian positions, Harlan, who served from 1877 to 1911, consistently addressed controversial issues with logic, eloquence, humanity, and passion that garnered widespread public support if not that of the administrations under which he served. History will judge Harlan's legal acumen for the impact his opinions eventually had on future generations and the way in which they presaged societal changes his contemporaries could not begin to imagine. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan is known primarily for his dissents and particularly his Plessy v. Ferguson assertion that "all citizens are equal before the law," which served as mighty inspiration for future desegregation efforts. Raised alongside an enslaved boy named Robert Harlan, who as a key political leader post-Civil War helped put him in the Supreme Court, Harlan became an outspoken advocate for the rights of Black people. From Politico editor-at-large Canellos; with a 60,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this biography, veteran journalist Canellos (Last Lion) examines post-Civil War Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan (1833–1911), with the added perspective of modern politics and values. Harlan's several dissenting opinions on civil rights cases were, Canellos argues, extremely prescient and a guide for judicial recognition of civil rights and due process in the 20th century. This book effectively covers Harlan's primary influences: his religious background, Civil War military service for the Union, and upbringing in a slaveholding Kentucky Whig political family. (Harlan didn't free the enslaved people in his household until the 13th Amendment was ratified.) Canellos devotes considerable attention to Harlan's close relationship with half-brother Robert Harlan (1816–97), who was born into slavery at the Harlan family plantation. In the author's telling, Robert, an activist and politician, influenced Justice Harlan to eventually advocate against racial discrimination and to be the lone dissenting justice on Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which established the "separate but equal" doctrine of segregation. VERDICT Canellos has written a skillful biography that illuminates the lives of both John Harlan and Robert Harlan. It will spark the interest of readers looking for more insight on the Reconstruction era. As in Canellos's previous books, the life and times of his subjects come alive here.—Mark Jones, Mercantile Lib., Cincinnati Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Biographer Canellos (Last Lion) intertwines in this original and eye-opening biography the lives of Supreme Court justice John Marshall Harlan and his rumored half-brother, Robert Harlan, who was born a slave. Appointed to the court by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 "as a kind of human olive branch to the South," Kentucky-born Harlan was the lone dissenting voice in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 and Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, decisions that established the legal precedent for enforcing racial discrimination and segregation. Canellos contends that Harlan's egalitarian impulses were informed by growing up alongside Robert, the rumored son of Harlan's father and an enslaved woman, who made a fortune in the California Gold Rush and became a political power broker in Cincinnati. The second half of the book examines the cases that defined Harlan's judicial legacy and their lasting impact on issues ranging from income tax to civil rights; Canellos notes that Harlan's dissent in Plessy became a touchstone in Thurgood Marshall's fight to reverse decades of racial discrimination. Written in lively prose and enriched with colorful character sketches and a firm command of the legal issues involved, this is a masterful introduction to two fascinating figures in American history. Agent: Wendy Strothman, Strothman Agency. (June) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An epic rendering of the American legal system’s greatest failures and most inspiring successes, this definitive biography of Supreme Court Just John Marshall Harlan chronicles the life of this hero who stood up to Gilded Age America in a fight for civil rights and economic freedom. 60,000 first printing. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"The definitive, sweeping biography of an American hero who stood against all the forces of Gilded Age America to fight for civil rights and economic freedom: Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The “superb” (The Guardian) biography of an American who stood against all the forces of Gilded Age America to fight for civil rights and economic freedom: Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan.They say that history is written by the victors. But not in the case of the most famous dissenter on the Supreme Court. Almost a century after his death, John Marshall Harlan’s words helped end segregation and gave us our civil rights and our modern economic freedom.But his legacy would not have been possible without the courage of Robert Harlan, a slave who John’s father raised like a son in the same household. After the Civil War, Robert emerges as a political leader. With Black people holding power in the Republican Party, it is Robert who helps John land his appointment to the Supreme Court.At first, John is awed by his fellow justices, but the country is changing. Northern whites are prepared to take away black rights to appease the South. Giant trusts are monopolizing entire industries. Against this onslaught, the Supreme Court seemed all too willing to strip away civil rights and invalidate labor protections. So as case after case comes before the court, challenging his core values, John makes a fateful decision: He breaks with his colleagues in fundamental ways, becoming the nation’s prime defender of the rights of Black people, immigrant laborers, and people in distant lands occupied by the US.Harlan’s dissents, particularly in Plessy v. Ferguson, were widely read and a source of hope for decades. Thurgood Marshall called Harlan’s Plessy dissent his “Bible”—and his legal roadmap to overturning segregation. In the end, Harlan’s words built the foundations for the legal revolutions of the New Deal and Civil Rights eras.Spanning from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement and beyond, The Great Dissenter is a “magnificent” (Douglas Brinkley) and “thoroughly researched” (The New York Times) rendering of the American legal system’s most significant failures and most inspiring successes.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The definitive, sweeping biography of an American hero who stood against all the forces of Gilded Age America to fight for civil rights and economic freedom: Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan.They say that history is written by the victors. But not in the case of the most famous dissenter on the Supreme Court. Almost a century after his death, it was John Marshall Harlan's words that helped end segregation, and gave us our civil rights and our modern economic freedom.But his legacy would not have been possible without the courage of Robert Harlan, a slave who John's father raised like a son in the same household. After the Civil War, Robert emerges as a political leader. With Black people holding power in the Republican Party, it is Robert who helps John land his appointment to the Supreme Court.At first, John is awed by his fellow justices, but the country is changing. Northern whites are prepared to take away black rights to appease the South. Giant trusts are monopolizing entire industries. Against this onslaught, the Supreme Court seemed all too willing to strip away civil rights and invalidate labor protections. As case after case comes before the court, challenging his core values, John makes a fateful decision: He breaks with his colleagues in fundamental ways, becoming the nation's prime defender of the rights of Black people, immigrant laborers, and people in distant lands occupied by the United States.Harlan's dissents, particularly in Plessy v. Ferguson, were widely read and a source of hope for decades. Thurgood Marshall called Harlan's Plessy dissent his 'Bible''and his legal roadmap to overturning segregation. In the end, Harlan's words built the foundations for the legal revolutions of the New Deal and Civil Rights eras.Spanning from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement and beyond, The Great Dissenter is an epic rendering of the American legal system's greatest failures and most inspiring successes.