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John Marshall Harlan


From the personal collection of Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark


Justice Harlan requests seats for friends in the Supreme Court

John Marshall Harlan, 18331911. Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 18771911.  Autograph Note Signed, John M. Harlan, on Justice Harlanʼs 1½" x 2¾" personal calling card.

Justice Harlan sent this note on his personal calling card to the Supreme Court Marshal to direct that friends be given seats in court, likely for oral argument or for the announcement of decisions.  The undated note reads:  “Admit Mr. Walker & his friends to court room  /  John M. Harlan"

Harlan served more than 33 years on the Supreme Court.  His was the lone dissenting vote two major civil rights decisions of the late 19th Century.  In the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), the Supreme Court held unconstitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1875 on the ground that the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not give Congress the power to prohibit discrimination by private persons, as opposed to state and local governments.  In Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), the Court upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation in "separate but equal" public facilities.

This card is in fine to very fine condition.  There is a paper clip  impression at the left margin, which is not as obtrusive as the enlarged scan below shows.  It affests one word of the text and the "J" in Marshallʼs signature.  Marshall has written and signed the note in black.

Provenance:  This card comes from the personal collection of Justice Tom C. Clark, who served on the Supreme Court from 1949 until 1967.  Justice Clark collected the autographs of Supreme Court Justices dating back into the 19th Century.  We are privileged to offer a number of items from this collection.




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