John Marshall Harlan
John Marshall Harlan (1 June 1833 – 14 October 1911) was an American lawyer and politician from Kentucky who served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court. He is most notable as the lone dissenter in the Civil Rights Cases (1883), and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which, respectively, struck down as unconstitutional federal anti-discrimination legislation and upheld Southern segregation statutes. These dissents, among others, led to his nickname, "the Great Dissenter." He was the grandfather of John Marshall Harlan II.
New Orleans Gas Co. v. Louisiana Light Co. (1885)
- New Orleans Gas Co. v. Louisiana Light Co., 115 U.S. 650, 658 (1885)
- An English historian, contrasting the London of his day with the London of the time when its streets, supplied only with oil-lamps, were scenes of nightly robberies, says that "the adventurers in gas-lights did more for the prevention of crime than the government had done since the days of Alfred".
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
- Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 559 (1896)
- But 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 color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.
- If evils will result from the commingling of the two races upon public highways established for the benefit of all, they will be infinitely less than those that will surely come from state legislation regulating the enjoyment of civil rights upon the basis of race. We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people above all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow-citizens, our equals before the law.