New Dealers for the Second Amendment

In 1941, the Roosevelt administration commissioned a radio special, “We Hold these Truths,” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Listen to it here.

The producer and writer was Norman Corwin (an ardent New Dealer who is still going strong at age 99). It featured an all-star cast including Orson Welles, James Stewart, Walter Brennan, and Edward G. Robinson, and closed with a speech by Roosevelt.

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 commentatory 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.

David T. Beito, a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and a retired professor of history at the University of Alabama, is the co-author of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer and is writing a new book, FDR’s War on the Bill of Rights.
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