cover image John Marshall Harlan: The Last Whig Justice

John Marshall Harlan: The Last Whig Justice

Loren Beth. University Press of Kentucky, $40 (328pp) ISBN 978-0-8131-1778-2

John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911), an associate justice of the Supreme Court, is remembered for his liberal dissents on a conservative court. Political science professor at the University of Georgia, Beth has written a well-researched study of Harlan's life with the emphasis on his career. Covered are Harlan's years in Kentucky as a lawyer and politician who began as a Whig, switched parties several times and finally wound up as a Republican Party organizer whose political savvy earned him a Supreme Court seat during the Hayes Administration. Although he fought on the Union side during the Civil War, Harlan was no abolitionist. He owned slaves and opposed the Emancipation Proclamation. Once on the court, however, his views changed dramatically. He dissented in civil rights cases that eroded the rights of blacks to equal protection and supported the rights of defendants to due process. An academic, richly detailed biography of an important jurist. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Apr.)