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History As It Happens

May 9, 2023

Can the 14th Amendment save the U.S. from defaulting on its debts if Congress fails to raise the federal government's borrowing limit? That may depend on who you ask. Like so much else in the Constitution, Section 4 of the 14th Amendment means different things to different people today as it did in the 1860s when it was ratified. In this episode, historian Jeremi Suri discusses Section 4's enduring relevance, and the importance of civics in understanding past and present political conflict. The 14th Amendment is arguably the most consequential one ever ratified after the Bill of Rights. It was passed in a certain historical context – in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War – but its words stand for all time. It was designed to make a more perfect union.