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Letter: Debt amendment and the Civil War

The Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP

In response to former Chief Judge Sol Wachtler, I believe he has misinterpreted the 14th Amendment ["It's in the Constitution: Pay our debts," Opinion, Oct. 11].

The line he quotes, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned" refers to the validity of the debt. No one from either political party is claiming that the debt is invalid.

However, the judge leaves out the next line, which reads, "But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void."

This is saying that debts of the Union are valid, and debts of the Confederacy are invalid. Why else would there be a need for this section of the amendment? Issuing more debt to pay off other debts is not considered paying your bills.

Robert Dirmeir Jr., Baldwin