The Bible and the Constitution

A fascinating excerpt from the Marquette Law Review, Winter 2001:

In 1906, an interviewer, seizing upon Justice Brewer’s turn of phrase, asked Harlan whether it was true that he went to bed “with the Bible in one hand and the Constitution of the United States in the other?”  [Interview by James B. Morrow with John Marshall Harlan, WASH. POST, Feb. 25, 1906, in JOHN MARSHALL HARLAN PAPERS, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS]

After observing that he could not remember ever going to bed precisely so encumbered and stating that he “did not profess to be a theologian,” Harlan went on to respond to the question with a brief statement about his religious beliefs:

“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 that 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.  This country is, in a large sense, a Christian country, and its adherence to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity is becoming more and more every year a marked feature in American civilization.”

[This article appeared in a number of newspapers. There are several copies of it, clipped from different newspapers, in the Harlan Papers.]

Source: Marquette Law Review, V 85, Number 2

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