History

Celebrating All of the Bill of Rights

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As Brian Doherty notes below, today is the 218th annivesary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Over at Liberty & Power, historian David Beito celebrates by unearthing a fascinating 1941 radio special commissioned by President Franklin Roosevelt to mark the 150th anniversary. As Beito reports, the special was produced by New Dealer Norman Corwin and featured contributions by Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart, Edward G. Robinson, and FDR himself. And you might be surprised to hear that it was a fair and balanced performance:

Broadcast only a week after Pearl Harbor, it still holds the ratings record for any dramatic show. About half the American population tuned in. The actors, especially Stewart and Welles, give a hyper exuberant commentary on each amendment.

Despite Corwin's leftist political beliefs, the content (with a few exceptions) does not reveal a pro-New Deal slant. The section on the second amendment (32.35 minutes into the program) seems downright libertarian. It interprets the amendment as not only protecting gun ownership by individuals but also their right to use these weapons to overthrow an oppressive government.

Read the whole thing (plus audio link) here.