When the Secretary of the Treasury announced that Andrew Jackson would be replaced on the face of the $20 bill by Harriet Tubman, responses from conservatives were lively.
The abolitionist newspaper founded by Frederick Douglass was called the North Star, after the direction of travel taken by runaway slaves. As his fame and influence grew, Douglass became a living version of that guiding light (and the newspaper was eventually renamed Frederick Douglass’ Paper). Like Polaris, he was the brightest star in the constellation of the 19th century.
Recently Justice Clarence Thomas reflected on the American condition and its relation to the Constitution. He focused far less on specific legal issues and more on the enduring love of country “we the people” give it. He described how the founding documents still speak to us today, in particular those lovingly displayed at the National Archives, the site of the public interview conducted by Yale law school professor Akhil Amar.
The coverage in the Washington Post and New York Times emphasized different aspects of the conversation. The Times probed his views of religious diversity in America and on the Court.
The Post had a more interesting albeit incorrect take, that Thomas had admitted a flaw in the Constitution’s treatment of slavery and race, as though this was news. Thomas allowed that blacks were not perfectly part of “we the people.” Might this flaw in the Constitution confirm the hypocrisy of the “we hold these truths” of the Declaration? Moreover, the alleged admission might clash with Thomas’s opposition to race-preference policies. Might not then his original understanding approach to jurisprudence be fatally compromised? After all, following Justice Thurgood Marshall, why not begin celebrating the Constitution following the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments?