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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

10 - John Marshall Harlan the Elder

Summary

David J. Brewer is famous for announcing in 1892 “this is a Christian nation” from the bench of the United States Supreme Court. He believed that Christianity justified an official separation of church and state while remaining the foundation of all human law. A liberal Congregationalist who was comfortable straying from literal readings of the Bible, Brewer spoke often in public on Christianity although his religious faith rarely surfaced in his judicial decisions. His many public speeches allow us to see how religion underlay his opposition to economics regulations as part of an influential conservative voting bloc on the Fuller Court at the turn of the century. Brewer’s stance against appeals in criminal trials relied upon his belief that flawed human justice and perfect divine justice played different roles. Brewer’s work in the peace movement was supported by a hope that it helped to hasten the Second Coming of Christ.