Skip to content

The Harlan Bible

March 8, 2020

Bible, Author Vortix (PD)

The following excerpt is from an article titled “An Exceptional Gift” by Judge Darrell White (Ret.) [1].  It concerns a little-known historic artifact, the personal Bible of Justice John Marshall Harlan.

Every US Supreme Court justice has signed the Harlan Bible since its dedication in 1906.

“John Marshall Harlan was born in…Kentucky, in 1833, into a politically-prominent slave-holding family….[However, in 1861 he] organized the 10th Kentucky Infantry Volunteers for the Union Army and served as its commander…until…1863, when he assumed his father’s law practice following the elder Harlan’s sudden death…

Partly from practical political considerations and partly from revulsion at the Jim Crow laws and vicious acts of ethnic violence committed in the aftermath of the Civil War, Harlan…spoke out boldly in opposition to the execrable institution he had once defended…

A longtime leader in Washington DC’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Harlan went on to bear genuine fruit of a changed heart.  He was the only justice to dissent in two pivotal Supreme Court cases concerning ethnic relations.  The first came in 1883, when constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was at issue.  Harlan…dissented alone as his colleagues on the Supreme Court nullified important federal legislation guaranteeing everyone, regardless of ethnicity, color, or previous condition of servitude, entitlement to the same treatment in public accommodations (i.e., inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement)…

When Harlan’s Supreme Court colleagues ruled in the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case that ‘separate-but-equal’ passenger facilities on railroads were constitutionally justified, Harlan defiantly stood alone, dissenting in language that is still quoted today:

‘In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens.  There is no caste here.  Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.’

…Justice Harlan was dead serious about the Bible’s importance to America’s system of civil government…

‘I fully believe in both the Bible and the Constitution…I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  Nothing which it commands can be safely or properly disregarded; nothing it condemns can be justified.  No civilization is worth preserving which is not based on the doctrines or teachings of the Bible.  No nation that habitually ignores or violates the rules prescribed by it for the conduct and government of the human race, can long last.’…”

[1]  Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2019), pp. 3-6, “An Exceptional Gift” by Judge Darrell White (Ret).


From → Christian, Law, Religion

  1. I would love to see this statement splashed all over the web, on billboards, on TV, and especially in our schools because it is apparent that many have forgotten this altogether.

    “In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens”.

  2. Very interesting Anna,
    Lord I wish the majority still held those same concepts..

  3. Oh what an interesting post; such a wonderful man to learn about and the history of the Bible that is still in use. Thank you for sharing. I love this kind of history and may never have heard of it otherwise!

  4. Reblogged this on idahodimple.

  5. I love this❤️❤️. You’ve got a nice blog, and I’m glad to follow you. 🤗
It’s an honor to be here 🙇 . I hope I can make good friends with you💐

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: