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View Diary: If government is full of tyranny, why arm it to the teeth? (239 comments)

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  •  The Second Amendment was entirely about the (1+ / 0-)
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    prevention of a standing army. Its "militia" clause is no mistake. It was based on George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights. Mason was one of the few drafters who did not put his name to the new constitution because he was miffed that it didn't contain a sufficiently vigorous Bill of Rights. It was precisely to win over critics like Mason that Madison drafted the bill of rights.

    What does the Virginia Declaration of Rights say about arms?

    XIII That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and be governed by, the civil power.
    See any familiar clauses? So what about that part with the standing armies? Well, Madison was a bit conflicted. Yes, he was Jefferson's chief lieutenant, but his prime collaborator during the fight for the  constitution was Jefferson's eventual arch-antogonist, Hamilton. (Jefferson was so much Hamilton's rival that he could not resist paying him a back-handed compliment as a parting shot after Hamilton's death, setting Hamilton's bust opposite his own in the foyer of Monticello, remarking to those that noticed it "opposed in death as in life.") At the time of the drafting of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Madison was arguably (save perhaps Washington and Hamilton himself) the greatest proponent of centralization. He actually proposed an article in the new constitution that would allow Congress to veto any state law it found obnoxious.

    Long story short (Too late-I know. I get that a lot). Madison was not about to give up on the possibility of a peace-time standing army. The Second Amendment was not a declaration of ultimate truths, it was an attempt to relieve the anxieties of those who feared the power of a central government. Thus Madison tried to split the difference and assuage the anti-Federalists by guaranteeing the right to bear arms, but not explicitly outlawing a standing army, which he, quite rightly, perceived would eventually become a necessity.

    His first attempt to assuage the anti-Federalists, in his Federalist 46 made this quite explicit:

    Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the Fœderal Government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State Governments, with the People on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by Governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.
    When that didn't do the trick he came back with a watered-down version of Mason's own Declaration in order to keep the possibility of a standing army alive while still placating the anti-Federalists. What neither Mason nor Madison foresaw was that insane jackasses like Wayne LaPierre would take this compromise and make it into an industry that kills more Americans every year than the British army ever did.

    Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

    by journeyman on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 11:04:13 AM PDT

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