Lapham: Censored Constitution Went on Segregated Tour

In 1947, the U.S. Constitution went on a country-wide tour aboard the “Freedom Train.” Enthusiastic crowds greeted it at 300 stops in all 48 states, but the trip was not without controversy.

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Also aboard were the Magna Carta, Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence and 124 other documents celebrating liberty.

Not making it onto the Freedom Train: the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection, and the Fifteenth Amendment, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

At stops in the South, the audience was segregated, whites entering the train at one time, blacks at another.

According to Ray Raphael, author of “Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right,” many current discussions of the document are blindly self-serving and as ideologically segregated as the southern leg of the Freedom Train tour.

I spoke with Raphael on the following topics:

1. Vigorous & Energetic Government

2. Direct & Indirect Taxes

3. Hard Compromises

4. Wiggle Room

5. Evolutionary Document

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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)