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tv   American Artifacts Drafting the U.S. Constitution  CSPAN  February 24, 2018 7:24am-8:01am EST

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>> sunday night on after words, author tara westover talks about growing up with survivalist parents in the idaho mountains in her book "educated, a memoir." >> a lot of people seem to have taken to hard this idea to learn something you have to have a degree and you have to have a whole institution in place to teach it to you and i'm grateful to my parents that i was not raised to think that so when i decided i wanted to go to college when i was 16 it felt like something i could do. not because i had any formal education but okay i need to learn algebra. i'll buy a book and learn it. i didn't do an amazing job. i barely got into the university but i kept going with that and i think my parents took it too far. i arrived at university underprepared. i once raised my hand in a class and asked what the holocaust was. i had never heard of it. people thought i was being
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anti-semitic, they thought i was denying it. i wasn't, i had never heard it before. so i would not say this is the ideal education. i would not say that. >> watch after words sunday night at 9:00 eastern on book tv on c-span 2. each week american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums and historic sites around the country. up next we visit the national constitution center in philadelphia to learn about the creation of the u.s. constitution in 1787 and to see several rare early drafts. >> welcome to the national constitution center, i'm jeffrey rosen the president of this wonderful institution which, as c-span viewers know, is the only institution in america chartered by congress to disseminate information about the u.s. constitution on a non-partisan basis and today i am so excited to show you a new gallery we've just opened, american treasures, which contains the five rarest early drafts of the u.s.
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constitution in american history. not even at the constitutional convention were these five drafts displayed in the same place and now, thanks to a great partnership with the historical society of pennsylvania and the wonderful support of david rubinstein, we've been able to open this gallery, display these drafts together and tell the story of the evolutionover the text of the constitution into the draft that was ratified on constitution day, september 17, 1787. it's so exciting. i can't wait to show it to you. let's go inside and come take a look. in many ways this gallery tells the story of the that underappreciated hero of the constitutional convention, james wilson. we've all heard of james madison and alexander hamilton, the rap star of the moment, of course president washington but in many ways james wilson was the intellectual architect of the
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central idea behind the constitution that we the people of the united states as a whole have the sovereign power. that was the big idea eventually embodied in the pre-ambamble to us constitution. and it wasn't the way things started, when the delegates came to draft the constitution, they came as representatives of individual sovereign states and many of them insisted that we the people of each state are sovereign but wilson, who served in the continental congress saw that the articles of confederation were too weak to achieve centralized purposes and wanted a stronger central government and a strong president elected by the people insisted that we the people of the united states as a whole are sovereign, not the people of each state and not the parliament itself as in britain. that brilliant idea was what lincoln invoked when he insisted the south had no ability to secede without the consent of we the people of the united states as a whole and it's the
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foundation of the idea in the pre-ample that popular sovereignty rests in we the people. in this gallery, we'll see the e electrocutions of wilson's draft. he was the first important signer who put pen to paper. we're about to see his draft. he was born in scotland, he went to st. andrew's university but he came to america and studied at ben franklin's new college of philadelphia. he served in the continental congress where he became concerned that the central government didn't have strong enough powers. he was initially opposed to independence which got him into trouble with the philadelphia mob who came to his house to denounce him but he changed his mind and became a strong supporter of nuclear weapons. he was anti-slavery and a pennsylvania delegate to the constitutional convention. in the book "plain honest men" it is said wilson and madison were the leaders of the convention. but wilson is the in favor of popular sovereignty by we the
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people. madison believes that the people can generate into demagogues and mobs and popular passions have to be checked and the president should be elected by the legislature not the people in order to ensure that direct democracy doesn't degenerate into demagoguery. so wilson and madison had a big debate. wilson became a very distinguished u.s. supreme court justice and he died, alas, in debt, it was a sad ending to a heroic career. but right now we're about to see the very first draft of the u.s. constitution written by james wilson. so now we are going to see the rarest draft of the u.s. constitution in american history. the very first draft. many of us know the copy of the constitution in the national archives, but that was the final copy. every important document has a first draft and this is it. it was drafted on july 24, 1787.
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remember the constitutional convention begins on may 25. i remember that because the address of the national constitution center is 525 arch street in philadelphia. 525 is may 25 and two months later was the first time that the committee created this draft of the constitution. so how did it end up here? well, it belongs to the historical society of pennsylvania and james wilson died in 1789, the year the bill of rights was proposed. he gave this document, along with a bunch of others of his papers to his son bird wilson. bird wilson dies in 1859 and gives it to his relative emily hollin hollingsworth and she gives it to the historical society of pennsylvania. they had it for a long time and their visionary interim president charles cohen said, hey, all of these priceless documents are here at the historical society, wouldn't it be wonderful if americans from
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around the country could see them? so the historical society is lending them to the constitution center to be displayed here on a long-term loan and that's why you can come and see them for the first time. so look at wilson's beautiful handwriting which is still legible and let's pause for a second and think about how exciting it is that the first time that anyone tried to set down the ideas of the constitution occurred in this draft. there are a couple of really significant parts about it. there's no preamble, it doesn't begin "we the people of the united states" as thanks to wilson the final drafts would begin. it just says the government of the united states shall consist of a legislative, executive and judicial branches. that's the most important thing we have to know about the constitution in america, that there are three separate branches of government and that was initially the very first words of the first draft of the u.s. constitution. we know that congress doesn't have specific powers listed.
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it says congress can make laws for the general interest of the union and to address problems the states can't handle on their own and the presidential term is six years and there's a single term for the national executive, that will change a bunch of times during the amendment process so we can look at wilson's beautiful handwriting but at the constitution center we want all of you wonderful c-span viewers and all americans to study the evolving text of the constitution so you can learn from it and realize how the presidency and congress and the judiciary evolved and that's why we've created this great online tool that i want you to check out, not now because i'm talking but after you finish watching this show. we have it on a touch screen and you can get it on line at s s and this is the printed version of each of the texts we've displayed here. so we're talking about the july 24 version, we just saw the original and you can now see this is the very first words of the u.s. constitution committed
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to paper "resolved that the government of the united states ought to consist of a supreme legislative judiciary and executive branch." if there's nothing else we know about the u.s. constitution, let's remember it has three branches. what's number two? the legislature of the united states ought to consist of two branches. that was a huge struggle. the delegates spent the first two months of the convention disagreeing about whether there would be a unicam raera body or bicameral. and then there was a crucial question of how the two branches would be elected. representatives of the big states led by virginia said we want popular election because we'll get the seats. representatives of the small states like new jersey said no, no, we want each state to have two representatives and roger sherman in the connecticut compromise decided to mix and match. the house is popular elected, the senate has two
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representatives per state and you see that in the first draft, resolved the members of the first branch ought to be elected by the people for the term of two years, resolve that members of the second branch should be chosen by the individual legislatures and remember until the passage of the 17th amendment which was state legislatures not the people who chose senators in the side here you can compare callouts about how the drafts change and we talked about how there's no preamble in this draft. we see also that the three-fifths compromise, the infamous compromise that allowed the states that were determined to preserve slavery to accept the constitution but the framers agreed to base representation on the state's free inhabitants plus three-fifths of all other persons. that was from an earlier attempt by the continental congress to tax the state and although
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inpham outs and dinfa infamous and repealed after the civil war which abolished slavery, this three-fifths compromise is in the early draft and here we see the sixth year presidential term which changes a whole bunch of times. we see the senate appoints supreme court justices without any involvement from the executive. now of course we know the president appoints the justices and the senate confirm. the first draft had only the senate confirming. there should be amendments but they don't decide how they should be passed and it's not until the final draft on september 12 they come up with a process for how to amend the constitution and let's look at the last provision. it doesn't have the details of ratification. the framers are proposing a constitution but it's not until it's ratified in the name of we the people as a whole by special ratifying conventions it achieves the status of supreme law and the first draft says
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there should be ratification but it says the people choose representatives who decide whether or not to adopt the framers' proposals. that represent wilson's belief that we the people are sovereign, the constitution can only be ratified in our name and our right to govern comes from god or nature not government. we have an unalienable right to abolish government when it fails to protect the natural rights we retain during the transition from the state of nature to civil society. the rights of conscience, these are spelled out in the bill of rights which the constitution doesn't contain and that is represented by the ratification process. the ultimate contribution of james wilson, the sovereignty of we the people. so we learned that from the first draft and it's only july. now let's look at the second draft and we'll see the first time the constitution expresses the idea of we the people.
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know we're going to see the second draft also written by james wilson on august 3, 1787 after a ten-daybreak from the july 24 draft by wilson, it came out of what was called the committee of detail which was a geographically diverse group assembling different revolutions and it's amazing to read wilson's beautiful handwriting but to see how dramatically the constitution is evolving and the most important evolution in this second draft of the constitution is wilson's immortal preamble "we the people of the states of new hampshire, massachusetts, rhode island, providence plantation and so forth." why did wilson enumerate the individual states? after all, he believed that we the people of the united states as a whole are sovereign. well some thought that it was a vestige of a time when we the
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people of the states with sovereign, others that they wanted to signal how many states were ratifying and we'll see in the final draft that language about the individual states is left out and we become we the people of the united states. once again let's check out the text because it's so exciting to compare the evolution of the preamble so we'll go back to this great interactive you can check it out online at and here this is the manuscript of the committee of detailed repo report. look, there's the original preamble. we the people of the states of new hampshire, massachusetts, rhode island and providence plantations, connecticut, new york, new jersey, pennsylvania, delaware, maryland, virginia, north carolina, south carolina, and georgia do ordain, declare and establish the following constitution for the government of ourselves and our posterity. it doesn't have all that
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inspiring language about establish justice, provide for the common defense and so forth. it just says ordain declare and establish the constitution for the government of ourselves and our posterity. now let's see what else this next draft says, the style of the government, the name shall be the united states of america isn't that exciting? the first time we see on paper the words united states of america. let's see what changes are taking place. we have the short preamble. we have congressional powers getting spe getting specified. congress has the power to make rather than declare war. later the president took a greater role. the necessary and proper clause. this is very important to define congress's powers. before the constitutional convention the continental
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congress has specific enumerated powers. the u.s. constitution gives congress the flexibility to pass laws necessary and proper to carry out its enumerated powers. the scope of that clause remains hotly debated today but the appointment power, now the senate has the treaty making power as well as the ability to appoint supreme court justices, still the president has no role in these crucial duties. the election of the president. wow, look at this. there's an election but the president is chosen by the legislature, that was james madison's innovation. he's the framer who is afraid of demagogues and the mob, he sees a tension between populism and constitutionalism. he fears a directly elected president or president who communicates directly with the people as he said in federalist 10 would be an invitation to demagogues and tyranny so he wants a president elected by the legislature and that's what happens in this draft over wilson's objections. wilson is saying we need
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election by the people and later they settle on the electoral college. there's a kingly title for the president. his title shall be his excellen excellency. can you imagine if that had prevailed today. instead of mr. president the president would be his excellency. he shall be elected by ballot by the legislature. amazing. the presidential term is now expanded from six to seven years and the president chosen by the legislature is limited to a single term. the framers don't want to encourage the executive to seek favor with congress to secure reelection. they think he'll be independent the way judges are if he has a single seven-year term. we see the outlines of an amendment process. two-thirds of state legislatures can ask congress to call another convention. that's in the final version of the constitution and even today a number of states have called for a convention of the states to introduced a balanced budget amendment. that provision, although never
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invoked after the original constitutional convention in american history remains part of the constitution and the final change, ratification, we have more information about ratification but a blank space for the number of states required. the ratification of certain numbers of states shall be sufficient for organizing this convention. this is crucial. the constitution, the ratification process specified even in the second draft is illegal according to the ratification process of the articles of confederation. the articles say they can only be amended with the unanimous consent of 13 states. this provision says a certain number of states less than possibly the whole will be sufficient to ratify the constitution in the name of we the people. it was illegal because the framers led by wilson were invoked their natural or unalienable right to abolish government which they felt is in all of us in the state of nature before we form civil society and reverting to that original
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power. they insisted they could choose a ratification procedure that was illegal according to the existing methods of ratification so all that just in the second draft. this is so exciting now we're just in early august. let's now move further along in august and see in the next draft the preamble that we know and revere today "we the people of the united states." let's go see it now. so welcome to draft three of the constitution and its september 12, 1787, just five i before the constitution is proposed and an awful lot of really important crucial changes are being made at the very last minute. these changes come out of the committee of style, that is a committee with a very elegant name and an extraordinarily impressive group of members that include alexander hamilton, the rap star of the moment, james
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madison, widely recognized as the framer of the constitution, and gouverneur morris, a delegate from pennsylvania, he was a very beautiful stylist. he because responsible for the crucial stylistic change which was an amazingly important substantive change in the u.s. constitution which is then in this draft of the committee of style the preamble for the first time says we the people of the united states. not we the people of the states of massachusetts, rhode island, and so forth but we the people of the united states. why was that change made? . some say it was merely a stylistic change because the framers didn't know which of the 13 states would ratify so they hedged their bets by keeping it more concise. but others s disagree and say change to we the people of the united states was the tangible
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expression of james wilson's belief that we the people of the united states as a whole are sovereign, not we the people of the individual states. there are a another series of important changes, congressional power is altered. congress has the power to declare rather than make war. the presidential term is four years and they eliminated the term limits of the seven-year term plus it's election by the electoral college. that was the compromise wilson wasn't able to get popular election so the electoral college was considered. a group of wise delegates because they know the best candidates would be able to exercise independent judgment and choose the finest candidates in the land. that hope was soon obviated by the growth of the party system after the election of 1800 which changed the electoral college from the very start. so this draft is signed by jacob
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broome, a delegate from delaware and it includes his notations and it's really thrilling, isn't it, ladies and gentlemen, to read article 1 section 8 with the powers of congress and this draft says "congress made by joint ballot appoint a treasure and may be joint ballot appoint a treasurer is scratched out and it says the congress shall have power to lay and collect tax which is is the draft we know. isn't it amazing in september 12 they're cutting and pacing and scratching words out. let's go back to the interactive constituti and look at other textural changes. so here we are at the text of the document we just saw and my goodness let's read the preamble which is evolving into its final form. we the people of the united states in order to form a more
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perfect union establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution for the united states of america. isn't it amazing even on this draft on september 12 jacob broom has are stretched out the preposition before establish justice. so there is other fascinating annotations throughout. you can check them out online. we have the idea that the senate tries impeachments on oath and affirmation for the benefit of quakers and others who were against swearing oaths and the time place and manner of holding elections is prescribed in each state. congress can make or alter such regulations except as to the place of choosing senators, that was the last-minute addition.
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a couple other crucial changes, we talked about the change in the preamble, we the people of the united states and also the aim of forming a more perfect union. finally the president has the power to make treaties and appoint supreme court justices along with the senate although the senate provides advice and consent. ladies and gentlemen that was september 12, a very important addition at the last minute. the amendment process is almost fully spelled out. congress can propose amendments with the support of two-thirds of each house or two-thirds of the state legislature but we don't have the provision of allow two-thirds of the states to call a convention though we saw a version in the earlier text ratify and then ratification says the people of nine out of the 13 states. they filled in the crucial blank and said nine states is enough to ratify as long as they call special conventions for the
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purpose. september 12, finally time for constitution day, september 17 and we'll see the very final draft of the u.s. constitution. ladies and gentlemen it's constitution day, september 17 and we have the final version of the constitution which is printed for the delegates to debate and share with the united states. how exciting to think that this printing of which a handful of copies survive is arguably more constitutionally significant than the copy in the national archives because this is the copy that the deg gatts themselves debated in deciding whether to passed the constitution and ultimately that we the people debated into deciding whether to ratify it. upstairs in the constitution center we have a copy printed on september 19, two days after this draft and that draft which was widely circulated was the most dramatic expression of the
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people's ability to ratify the constitution in their name. a couple important changes at the last minute. isn't it stunning to think of how much you can do with a deadline from may 25 to september 17 the entire constitution is drafted, it's important it's done in secret. the windows are closed, no leaks, no twitter. you can't undo compromises and you can make them because people are actually able to shift their positions because they're not being called out by their partisans. here are three. the veto override. the number of people necessary to override the president's veto is lowered from three-fourths to two-thirds of each house of congress. imagine how hard it would be to override a veto with three quarters. the amendment process is specified. two-thirds of the state legislature cans ask for a convention and this is important. article five says an amendment
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can never deny a state equal representation in the senate without the state's consent. that's an unamendable provision of the constitution. law students love having late night dorm debates about whether or not an unamendable constitutional provision is itself a violation of the people's natural right to alter and apolish government and amend the constitution. now let's wonk out and inspire ourselves patriotically by returning to the text and seeing the final tweaks in the last draft of the u.s. constitution. here's the final draft of the u.s. constitution and a couple crucial changes made at the last minute. represent in congress. originally the text says there can be no more than one representative for every 40,000 people in the house.
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george wanted a motion that the number be changed to 30,000, the only time during the convention he voiced his opinion and the other delegates unanimously agreed. if you go on line you'll see the very first amendment to the constitution that was proposed but not adopted in what became the bill of rights said there should be one representative in congress for every 30,000 inhabitants. had that passed there would be 4,000 congress people today. a couple crucial changes, here it is, the appointment power. the framers decide to allow the presidents, the courts or department heads to directly appoint inferior officers as designated by congress. that's the source of the president's power to appoint some people without congressional approval without that it would be hard to get anyone appointed.
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a call for yuunity. ben franklin on the last day of the convention encourages unanimous support of the constitution and he proposed the final text that was added which included by the unanimous consent of the state's present that allowed the signers to say they were only witnessing what was done by the convention even if they had individual reservations despite this, three deg gatts present refused to sign and you can see who those are by going upstairs and in the back are the three who refused to sign. elbridge gary of massachusetts, i've learned to pronounce it gerge gerrymandering. that's what eldridge gerry did in massachusetts and two virginia delegates, edward randolph and george mason, one of the most underappreciated of the founders who refused to sign the constitution because it
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didn't contain a bill of rights. why not? because james madison among others said a bill of rights would be unnecessary or dangerous. unnecessary because the constitution itself is a bill of rights, it gives congress only enumerated powers and since congress has no power to infringe speech there's no reason to fear that congress would abridge free speech and dangerous madison said because if a write wasn't written down they wouldn't be protected and to try to reduce them to a single list would be folly but in the face of objections from the three anti-federalists and state rad phii ratify ing ratif madison changed his mind and supported the adoption of additional amendments to prevent further abuse of powers. now in the final section of this wonderful american treasuries
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gallery we've been seeing these earn credibly rare priceless earliest drafts of the constitution lent by the pennsylvania historical society. we're going to see the first public printings of the bill of rights lent by david rub rubens to see how they were whittled down the 12 proposed and the 10 actually passed. let's go see those now. we're about to see the first 19 amendments proposed to the constitution. 10 were ratified but madison proposed 19 and they appear in the gazette of the united states on october 3, 1789 and you can find them online at the interactive constitution. this is this amazing new online tool the national constitution center has launched. 11 million hits since it
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launched where you can click on any provision and see the leading liberal and conservative scholars describing what they agree and disagree about but on the rights interactive portion you can click on any part of the bill of rights and see its a antecede antecedents. so when madison made this list of 19 amendments he didn't make it up out of thin air. he had the state constitutions like george mason's virginia doctrines of 1776 or the massachusetts constitution in 1780. all of them had bills of rights and madison cut and paced monk the most popular to create his original list of 19 so there was one amendment madison thought was the most important. it says no state shall violate the equal rights of conscience or the freedom of the press or trial by jury in criminal cases. this is revolutionary. the final bill of rights that was passed only applied to
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congress the first amendment says congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech. it doesn't say the state shall make no law but madison thought these basic rights of conscience, freedom of the press and trial by jury are so fundamental that the states as well as congress shouldn't abridge them. madison lost the battle. the amendment did not pass along with several others, 19 on this list. it took the civil war to pass the 14th amendment to the constitution which has been construed today as applying the bill of rights against the states so today states as well as the federal government are forbidden from abridging basic rights, including those in these lists. this list of 19 is fascinated. it was created in which the order they were supposed to be inserted in the constitution so the first amendment says first that there be prefixed to the constitution a declaration that all power is originally vested
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in and consequently derived from the people. it goes on to say the government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people which consists with the enjoyment of life and liberty which acquires and uses property and obtaining happiness and safety and it says the people have an indub bia right to chan government whenever it be found inadequate of the purposes of its constitution that's astonishing. what document does that sound like? why the sladeclaration of independence. we hold these truths to be self-evident, they are endowed by their creator with unalienable rights. and whenever government becomes destructive of these rights it's the right and duty of the people to alter and abolish it. so symmetrical.
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we began this tour of these documents by recognizing james wilson's belief the right to alter and abolish government is an unalienable right that comes from god or nature and not government and we see the first amendment that madison proposed would have declared the right to amendment be unalienable. it didn't pass but that was embodied in article 5 so go on line, check out the interactive constitution, check out constitution center for the evolving texts of the five rarest drafts of the constitution but come to the national constitution center. it's an inspiring beautiful place for citizens to unite around this amazing document of human freedom that unites us, the u.s. constitution. how exciting it is to share with you the five rarest drafts of the constitution assembled for the first time thanks to the historical society of
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pennsylvania, thanks to david rubinstein and c-span friends, happy constitution day. announcer: the conservative political action conference has been held every year since 1974, when california governor ronald reagan delivered the first keynote address. up next on "reel america," from 30 years ago, president reagan speaks about the state of the conservative movement. in february, 1988, he contrasts what he sees as conservative accomplishments was what he argues are the ineffective liberal ideas of the democratic party. this is 30 minutes. [applause]


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