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With the Newtown shooting and the subsequent discussion of the changes in gun control laws there has been an inordinate amount of discussion, and much of this discussion is based on wrong premises. This is an attempt to clarify what some of those errors are.

I’ll be writing several entries here to set straight a number of bizarre notions floated by the right which characterize a series of strawmen, red herrings, and outright misrepresentations of both present day reality and history.

In the first entry I’d like to address the very foundation of most of their arguments, as it’s a fundamentally flawed and serious misrepresentation of the 2nd Amendment.

The modern interpretation by the right is now that the 2nd Amendment was written to protect the citizenry from a tyrannical government. Nothing could be further from the truth—in fact the polar opposite is closer to the truth than this.

This “Insurrection Theory” is the root of the present day arguments of the 2nd Amendment, and it goes against both logic and history.

Insurrection Theory states that the 2nd Amendment was included because the founders had learned through their own history that nothing could defeat a well-armed citizenry. They had learned from the Revolutionary War, and the so-called, “Minutemen” that an ardent and motivated citizenry, in desperation of defending their own rights, would defeat any standing army.

Because of this understanding, the gun advocates argue, the founders saw fit to install the second amendment as a safeguard to the other essential liberties. Should a tyrannical government step too far the citizenry could rise up and put down the over-stretching government.

There are several problems with the line of reasoning.

First among them, the founders had no such understanding. In fact what they’d learned from the Revolution was the exact opposite of what they claim. The Revolutionary fighters were composed of two groups, the Continental Armies, and the militia, composed of civilian, voluntary fighters.

The latter was an enormous failure. The militia had problems getting drunk, often even on the battle field. Some would even drink to the point of passing out.  They would fire their guns in camp, often inuring or killing their own troops. They easily deserted and/or surrendered. They were far from a lethal fighting force.

Things got to the point that the only thing that could be done was to sandwich the militia between two divisions of Continental forces left with orders to shoot the first deserter. The only hope was to make the militia more fearful of their own forces than the opposing forces.

While some will argue that this is “revisionist history” the reality is that the current version of the heroic minuteman standing guard for nothing more than liberty and freedom is the revised version. Earlier history books tend towards a more negative view of the militias. It’s only in the last 50 years that the heroic version has been embraced.

It is little secret that George Washington despised them, their lack of training, and their even greater lack of discipline. Washington wrote,
 

“The militia . . . are dismayed, intractable and impatient to return home. Great numbers have gone off, in some instances by whole regiments."  
That’s hardly indicative of learning the effectiveness of militias.

The militia did help to win the Revolution, but it wasn’t as pretty or noble as some today want it to sound. The degree of impact they had, and lessons learned by the Founders from it, are greatly exaggerated.

It certainly didn’t provide for the “lesson” that militias work. It proved to the founders that the ideal of the militia as a replacement for a standing army was a foolish notion.

That’s why when the delegates gathered for the Philadelphia Convention, they determined in the original Constitution, in the first article, to give the federal government the right to establish and maintain a standing army.

Logically, if they felt that the best defense of the nation was left in the hands of an armed and motivated militia, then why would they not include that in the original document, rather than establish a standing army?

The very fact that the right to raise a standing army is in the original document, and the 2nd Amendment is only just that—an amendment—indicates that the founders felt the security of our nation was best left in the hands of a standing army, not in the hands of the militia.

Yes, there are all kinds of quotes which can be found on the Internet which indicate that the founders felt the militia were needed to overcome tyranny but there are three things to bear in mind.

First, not everything you read on the Internet is necessarily true. There are a number of bogus quotes which can’t be found in any historical writings.

Second, many of the quotes were prior to revolution, meaning the learning from the revolution wasn’t included.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, they were no more of a single mind then they are today.

There wasn’t a single-mindedness about the need of a militia. There were many different ideas and many different motivations behind why people wanted it. Some were more in favor of it than others, and some wanted it for very different reasons that purported to day.

Why we do have it will be the subject of the next entry. This is concerned with the fallacious and misguided arguments about why we have it.

The notion that somehow the 2nd Amendment was included to ensure that the government wouldn’t become tyrannical is a myth, which expressly contradicts the very intent of the new government.

This is clear both through the writings of the time and the immediate history of the times.

Prior to proving this though, let’s analyze the argument. In essence what people are arguing is that, should “the people” decide that a government has grown to large or domineering, i.e. “tyrannical,” they can rise up and overthrow it. (There's another discussion to be had here, but we'll leave that to another entry).

For example, in the first paragraph of Federalist Paper No. 29, Alexander Hamilton writes,

“THE power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents to the duties of superintending the common defense, and of watching over the internal peace of the Confederacy.”
He concludes that same paper saying,
 
“In times of insurrection, or invasion, it would be natural and proper that the militia of a neighboring State should be marched into another, to resist a common enemy, or to guard the republic against the violence of faction or sedition. This was frequently the case, in respect to the first object, in the course of the late war; and this mutual succor is, indeed, a principal end of our political association. If the power of affording it be placed under the direction of the Union, there will be no danger of a supine and listless inattention to the dangers of a neighbor, till its near approach had superadded the incitements of self-preservation to the too feeble impulses of duty and sympathy.”
In other words Hamilton is arguing the need for a militia for the exact opposite reason that the gun advocates would have you believe. The militia is a safeguard against invasion or insurrection or invasion, not a safeguard for it.

In fact he’s even arguing that if there is an insurrection in one state, the federal government can use its power to march a militia from one state to another to put it down.

Lest someone argue that this is mere liberal spin, then bear in mind in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, the militia was ordered by President George Washington to do precisely that. Burdened with what they felt were unfair taxes, farmers rebelled and rose up in arms in Pennsylvania.

Washington ordered the militias from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to put it down, and they did. When the 13,000 troops arrived, the 500 insurgents went home. (As an interesting aside, President Washington literally led the troops, riding at the front!)

This characterizes two points:

First it characterizes the intent of the amendment was clearly not to fight against some tyrannical, over-taxing government as the right would have you believe. If it were, those very same founders who included it wouldn’t have utilized it in a manner the precise opposite of how they intended it.

Second, it illustrates the foolishness of the argument. When push comes to shove, how is a ragtag group of angry farmers going to suddenly overthrow a standing army? And a quick reminder, it was the standing army which defeated Britain’s standing army, not the ragtag group of farmers.

Another point worth making here is that it insults the intelligence of the founders. They built in many safeguards into the Constitution to prevent the Federal government form becoming tyrannical. It built in a separation of powers, a balance of powers, a chambered Congress and a means for the Constitution to be amended.

In fact the 2nd Amendment is an amendment. The very existence of it is proof that the Constitution works.

But this whole notion also suggests an idiocy on the part of the framers, arguing on the one hand providing for a power of the Federal government to put down insurgencies, and on the other providing the states with the rights to raise militia to fight against the Federal government’s standing army.

Why we do have a 2nd Amendment and how it came about will be the subject of the next entry.

1:07 PM PT: Guns

Originally posted to Backell's Big Blog of Bodacious Brewing Brainstoms on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:14 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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Comment Preferences

  •  I May Have To Use My 2nd Ammendment... (0+ / 0-)

    ...rights to protect my country against the successionists and militia revolutionists plotting its overthrow. Ain't that a tyrannical kick in the head.

    ego sum ergo ego eram

    by glb3 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:29:41 PM PST

  •  Any analysis such as this that fails to discuss (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros, happymisanthropy

    the predicate of the Declaration of Independence and the grievances and remedies set forth therein is, in my opinion, missing the point.

  •  The founding father's were absolutely brilliant (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy, Wolf10, Jon Says, theboz

    And for every check they had a balance.

    The federalists were sucking air pretty hard with well justified concerns of government corruption and governmental tyranny. Heck, I don't think it is ever a bad time to be concerned with governmental corruption and tyranny.

    Theodore Sedgewick could not envision a time when citizens wouldn't be armed:

    "It is a chimerical idea to suppose that a country like this could ever be enslaved . . . Is it possible . . . that an army could be raised for the purpose of enslaving themselves or their brethren? or, if raised whether they could subdue a nation of freemen, who know how to prize liberty and who have arms in their hands?"
    Noah Webster:
    Before a standing army can rule the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.
    James Madison made fun of the Brits for disarming their citizens! They were afraid to "trust" their people with arms!

    For the founding fathers, the idea that the citizens of this country, when it was so very much smaller, would not be armed - was almost inconceivable.

    I say almost, James Madison:

    The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.
    Even a cursory study of the founders papers, letters, drafts, correspondence, memoirs, etc etc etc would lead a person to the absolute understanding that citizens would be armed as a no brainer.
    •  How and Why We Have it... (5+ / 0-)

      How and why we have the 2nd Amendment is the next discussion, but why we don't have it is abundantly clear. The framers were NOT worried about the tyrannical federal government.

      Misuse of quotes won't change the fact that the Framers purposed to put in the constitution Article 1: Section 8 before they put in the Second Amendment.

      Nor do they alter the fact that the militia was used to quash the very type of rebellion you suggest the amendment was there to protect.

      Answer those questions if you want to have a real discussion. Simply cutting and pasting quotes doesn't prove anything.

      •  One of the problems for the other side in relying (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CwV, backell

        on the founding fathers, is that the particular writers they cite were not ALL of the founding fathers, and the opinions of this or that one did not necessarily carry the day. What carried the day is in the Constitution, and only there, as the result agreed after the deliberations of the famous ones who wrote down their opinions and less famous ones who did not but had equal voting power.

        The fact is that Article I, Sec. 8 contains BOTH a standing army and Federal supervision and control over state miitias, and refers specficially to militias able to be called up to suppress insurrection. It also calls for a permanent Navy, an issue also to be considered in connection with the two years at a time standing army. There was not in the final decision any decision made not to have any standing military forces ad to rely on state militias alone.

        •  Answer me this (0+ / 0-)

          what do you think the Bill of Rights were? For what purpose? I mean, if it all ended at the Constitution, why bother with the Bill of Rights?

          •  For Good Purpsoe (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Glen The Plumber, Sharon Wraight, CwV

            But why and how the Second Amendment was established, is moot for this discussion. We don't need to know why it was in order to know why it was NOT established. It's not binary.

            That will be, as I said in the diary, discussed next. For now though it's unneeded.

            You simply can't ignore these two questions.

            1. If their primary concern was tyranny, why did Article 1, Section 8 precede the 2nd Amendment?

            2. If the second amendment was set up so the militia could put down a tyrannical Federal government, why was it used, just a few years later, by the Federal government to quash an insurrection?

            These two things falsify the notion that it was there as a safeguard from tyranny. Why the 2nd Amendment (and the rest) were established is moot (in the real sense of the word, i.e. a worthy discussion, but not one needed to settle the present debate.)

      •  Those were the people we are talking about (0+ / 0-)

        talking about the issue we are talking about. I can't give you much more conclusive evidence than their own words, as they discussed it amongst themselves.

        The federalist papers weren't about a concern about a tyrannical government? You don't understand that the Bill of Rights are just that, an enumeration of basic human rights?

        Come on, you have got to be kidding me!

        Let's keep it real simple.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/...

        In a paper later collected into the Anti-Federalist Papers, the pseudonymous "Brutus" (probably Robert Yates) wrote,

            We find they have, in the ninth section of the first article declared, that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless in cases of rebellion — that no bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, shall be passed — that no title of nobility shall be granted by the United States, etc. If every thing which is not given is reserved, what propriety is there in these exceptions? Does this Constitution any where grant the power of suspending the habeas corpus, to make ex post facto laws, pass bills of attainder, or grant titles of nobility? It certainly does not in express terms. The only answer that can be given is, that these are implied in the general powers granted. With equal truth it may be said, that all the powers which the bills of rights guard against the abuse of, are contained or implied in the general ones granted by this Constitution.[23]

        Brutus continued with an implication directed against the Founding Fathers:

            Ought not a government, vested with such extensive and indefinite authority, to have been restricted by a declaration of rights? It certainly ought. So clear a point is this, that I cannot help suspecting that persons who attempt to persuade people that such reservations were less necessary under this Constitution than under those of the States, are wilfully endeavoring to deceive, and to lead you into an absolute state of vassalage.[

        •  The Anti-Federalists Weren't the Framers (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Glen The Plumber, tofumagoo, CwV

          And, no, the Federalist Papers WEREN'T a concern about a tyrannical government. They were a series of papers PROMOTING the RATIFICATION of the Constitution.

          Using the anti-Federalist papers to prove what the Federalist Papers said is disingenuous, no?

          This isn't an argument against the Bill of Rights, nor is it an argument against the 2nd Amendment. It is an argument that the 2nd Amendment wasn't invoked as a safeguard against tyranny.

          If so, why did they framers stand by while Washington ostensibly (by such definition) invoked such "tyranny" by USE of the militia?

          •  Are you really arguing (0+ / 0-)

            that the American Revolution was not fought against tyranny? Do you know what a "king" is?

            I'd like an honest answer to both of those questions.

            •  It was against Tyranny (5+ / 0-)

              So what? They deliberately set up a non-tyrannical government. The answer to tyranny wasn't the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, it was the Constitution itself.

              •  They attempted (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Neuroptimalian

                to set up a non tyrannical government, but didn't feel to terribly confident that it would be.

                The Declaration of Independence was the answer to tyranny. The Bill of Rights was the safe guard against it.

                •  Way to skip over (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  CwV

                  Everything in between. The Declaration of Independence was an entirely different document. You simply can't gloss over the entire revolution, the Articles of Confederation, the Philadelphia Convention and so on, and then jump to the Bill of Rights, and in particular, the 2nd Amendment.

                  •  I'm not glossing over anything! (0+ / 0-)

                    In fact, I was distressed that you had failed to take into account the Declaration of Independence (and still obviously discount it) and consider the Bill of Rights a non binding list of fluff of no importance.

                    Madison for goods sake! The biggest Federalist around! He insisted on the Bill of Rights!

                    •  You're missing the point (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      congenitalefty

                      I'm not dismissing the Declaration of Independence as a document. I'm dismissing it's relevance to the Second Amendment as relating to a fear of tyranny being the purpose of it.

                      Yes, Madison insisted on the Bill of Rights. But he didn't insist on the 2nd Amendment because he was afraid of the Federal government coming and taking away his guns.

                      I am writing another Diary Entry which will address these arguments.

          •  The "framers" (0+ / 0-)

            were inclusive of both groups. Both groups were consulted, respected, and had input into the final product.

            Yates comes to mind of the top of my head. The "Brutus" quoted above, and also a signatory to the Constitution.

            There was overlap. It was a deliberative process. Anything less would have been tyranny.

            •  True (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CwV

              But as I said in the diary, "Third, and perhaps most importantly, they were no more of a single mind then they are today."

              I understand this and have said repeatedly that I will engage more on this in the next diary.

              However, the use of the militia to quash the very thing which the right purports that the second amendment was there to promote proves it's not there for that reason.

              •  So you think (0+ / 0-)

                they were all just kidding around about that government getting out of hand thing?

                They really didn't think that the government's powers should be enumerated so that it would be limited?

                You think they planted all those letters and documents surrounding the founding in order to fool us and set up an indestructible government with no remedy for the citizens?

                You think they were arrogant enough to think they had created a perfect system that in no way would become obsolete?

                •  No. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  congenitalefty

                  I think that they addressed those things in drafting the Constitution. Do you think that the only place where they WEREN'T kidding around was the Second Amendment?

                  You're OVER EMPHASIZING the importance of that "fear" and UNDERSTATING the other actions that were put in place to allay them.

                  •  I think they were deadly serious (0+ / 0-)

                    about the whole document, including the Bill of Rights. And when I say deadly, I mean literally. These guys shot AT each other, for God's sake.

                    These people had just overthrown the most powerful government on the planet at the time. They were very serious people.

                    I tend to believe they meant what they said.

      •  checks and balances (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annecros

        the whole point of which being that no power is absolute.

        The framers were NOT worried about the tyrannical federal government.
        The antifederalists were.  You know, the people who convinced the federalists to add a bill of rights?
        Misuse of quotes won't change the fact that the Framers purposed to put in the constitution Article 1: Section 8 before they put in the Second Amendment.
        And the second amendment was added precisely because of concern that Congress might misuse the powers of Sections 8 and 9 to disarm the general public.  Thus, an amendment to prevent that.
        Nor do they alter the fact that the militia was used to quash the very type of rebellion you suggest the amendment was there to protect.
        Strawman argument.

        The second amendment does not protect armed uprisings, but it was intended to protect the right to own the hardware necessary for an armed uprising.  

        It was obviously never intended to guarantee that any such attempt would automatically succeed (otherwise, anarchy) nor was it intended to protect the instigators of unjustified violence from due punishment for any murders they might commit.

        the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

        by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:30:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  As I said Before (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Glen The Plumber, CwV, congenitalefty

          The how and why of the Second Amendment being added will be addressed next.

          And sorry, simply calling it a strawman argument does not make it one. If your argument is to somehow parse between an insurrection and a civilian populace rising up against a tyrant then THAT'S the strawman.

          What distinguishes the two? Who determines when it's merely an uprising and/or insurrection and a rebellion against a tyrant? It's all in the mind of the upheavers isn't it?

          •  That would be (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            happymisanthropy

            the people. As in "We the..."

          •  You do not have a right to shoot people. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            annecros

            You do have a right to own guns.
            If you can't see the difference between "owning a tool that will allow you to shoot someone," and "shooting someone," there's probably no point in having a conversation.

            Ditto, the difference between "owning the tools that would allow some chance of the overthrow of an unconstitutional regime (however improbable that might be)" is not the same as "overthrowing the government Wednesday night because you were bored."

            If you have the right to do something, you have the right to do it Wednesday night because you were bored.  Nobody says there's a legal right to overthrow the government.

            The how and why of the Second Amendment being added will be addressed next.
            Good, maybe Thom Hartmann will put down the crack pipe and learn something.  What the fuck is a supposed Thomas Jefferson fan doing ranting against the second amendment?
            If your argument is to somehow parse between an insurrection and a civilian populace rising up against a tyrant then THAT'S the strawman.
            No, I'm parsing the difference between owning a gun and shooting people with the gun.  The first part is a right, the second part is not a right.
            What distinguishes the two? Who determines when it's merely an uprising and/or insurrection and a rebellion against a tyrant? It's all in the mind of the upheavers isn't it?
            You made it up, why should I have to explain it to you?

            the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

            by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:04:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Talk about strawmen (0+ / 0-)

              Who said anything about having or not having a right to own guns? See that's the problem with this debate. Too many people think it's a choice between absolute gun rights or no guns at all.

              This isn't a discussion about WHETHER the 2nd Amendment exists but WHY it exists.

              And yes, as obtuse as you're being about it you ARE parsing the difference between an uprising and rising up against tyranny.

              The second amendment does not protect armed uprisings, but it was intended to protect the right to own the hardware necessary for an armed uprising.
              This is nonsense. You're equivocating the difference between having the weapons IN ORDER to have an uprising and the uprising itself? That's like saying that the freedom of speech is about the right to have a mouth but not say anything IF IT means that it's the right to turn against a tyranny.

              And no, I didn't "make it up." You did when you started parsing when you said, "we the people" get to determine it. Were they people in the Whiskey Rebellion?

              Was Timothy Mcveigh a perosn?

              That's the issue. When you say it's about the right of the people to rise against tyranny you advocate anarchy, and even I'm not that liberal.

              •  Your getting the people you are screaming (0+ / 0-)

                at confused.

                Simmer down.

                If you think people rising against tyranny is anarchy, I suppose that would be tyrannical?

                •  Screaming? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  congenitalefty

                  I'm not screaming, I'm discussing. Just because you're reading it as screaming doesn't mean I'm screaming.

                  Ergo, no simmering is needed.

                  I think that suggesting that anyone, at anytime, can revolt against what they view as tyranny is anarchy, yes. What would you say is the difference?

                  People forget this is a democratically elected government. The "people" speak on election day.

              •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
                Who said anything about having or not having a right to own guns? See that's the problem with this debate. Too many people think it's a choice between absolute gun rights or no guns at all.
                Non-responsive.
                This isn't a discussion about WHETHER the 2nd Amendment exists but WHY it exists.
                yet if you don't like the answer, you pretend it's something else.
                And yes, as obtuse as you're being about it you ARE parsing the difference between an uprising and rising up against tyranny.
                Show me where I did that.  Take as much time as you need.
                This is nonsense. You're equivocating the difference between having the weapons IN ORDER to have an uprising and the uprising itself? That's like saying that the freedom of speech is about the right to have a mouth but not say anything IF IT means that it's the right to turn against a tyranny.
                18 USC § 2385 - Advocating overthrow of Government

                Your absurd case is darn close to reality.  I can own a megaphone, but I can't use it to advocate the violent overthrow of the US government.  

                Let's talk, for example, emergency rescue radio beacons.
                The whole point of the thing is to set out a signal to let rescuers know where you are and that you need help.

                Do I have a right to own such a device? YES, it's a form of speech that falls under the first amendment, particularly because it's necessary for survival.

                Do I have a right to use such a device whenever I feel like it?  NO.  Summoning the coast guard and police to respond to a false emergency does not have protection under the first amendment.

                So yes, I certainly can separate a right to own a tool and the supposed right to use that tool, even if the tool has only one use.

                And no, I didn't "make it up." You did when you started parsing when you said, "we the people" get to determine it. Were they people in the Whiskey Rebellion?
                That wasn't me.  I think that was Anne.
                Was Timothy Mcveigh a perosn?
                I emphatically deny that anyone has a right to take up arms against our government.  Or, in other words, I affirm that governments have the just power to crack down on people trying to overthrow them.
                That's the issue. When you say it's about the right of the people to rise against tyranny you advocate anarchy, and even I'm not that liberal.
                But I didn't say that.  If there is a right to actively pursue, or even speak in favor of, the violent or nonviolent overthrow of governments, tyrannical or otherwise... it's not in the first or second amendments, or anywhere else in US law.

                the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

                by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 07:16:54 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  You emphatically deny it (0+ / 0-)

                  But then you openly advocate it WHEN YOU SUPPORT the notion that the 2nd Amendment is to safeguard against tyranny.

                  My absurd case is intentionally absurd because it illustrates the absurdity of your own position.

                  You can keep SAYING there's a difference, but logically there's not. You can't say that it's OK to arm yourself against the government, but not do anything else. It's preposterous.

  •  Failure to Discuss? (5+ / 0-)

    How? You're apparently confusing some things here.

    Here's a brief history lesson for you. In order of events.

    1. Declaration of Independence.
    2. Revolutionary War
    3. Constitution

    Seeing as how you apparently missed it the first time around. The Framers learned a thing or two during the actual revolution.

    They were naive in what they thought a militia could do to some degree.

    Beyond that you're confusing how they felt about what they perceived as a foreign government with what they felt about the government they were creating.

    What you perceive as "failing to discuss the predicate of the Declaration of Independence" is actually a purposeful and deliberate omission of what doesn't belong in the conversation.

    It's not a failure to do something. It's just not shoehorning something which doesn't belong in the conversation into it.

    •  English Bill of Rights 1689 (3+ / 0-)

      Do any of these sound familiar?

      That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;

      That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;

      That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;

      That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;

      That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;

      That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;

      It is my contention that you can not understand the Bill of Rights without looking at English Common Law, the English Civil War, and the English Bill of Rights that grow out of the subsequent struggle with King James II. The Americans were British citizens up to that fateful summer in 1776.

      Consider this:

      [In April 1786 John Adams hosted Thomas Jefferson in London. Here, they have visited Shakespeare's home, where Jefferson was deeply moved, and now are surveying Cromwell's battle sites.]

      "At Edgehill, scene of the first great battle of the English civil war, and later at Worchester, the setting of Cromwell's final victory over Charles II [sic], in the year 1651, it was Adams' turn to be deeply moved. This was history he knew in detail. Here were "scenes where freemen had fought for their rights," he wrote in his diary. Finding some of the local residents sadly ignorant of the subject, he gave them an impromptu lecture.

      "And do Englishmen so soon forget the ground where liberty was fought for?" he asked. "Tell your neighbors and your children that this is holy ground,…All England should come in pilgrimage to this hill once a year." "

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:19:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And those rights (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        se portland

        were expanded. The English Bill of Rights were Parliament against the Crown. The US Government has a much different structure and intent.

        But heck, they even allowed all protestants to bear arms!

        •  "I fear we have traded one George for another." (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annecros

          That was what was overheard during Washington's Inauguration. The fear was that a standing army would allow a George Washington to rule as a king, to station armies in your home's, as James the II had done.

          The Constitution would allow a National army (The whole Federalist/Anti-Federalist is a bit reversed, it you ask me. The Anti-Federalist were actually the Federalist and the Federalist were the Nationalist. But I digress.) It was a contentious idea at the time. Madison was smart. He fashioned an amendment that placated opposition, but did nothing to diminish Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16. Much in the same way the Third was intended to appeal to the old fears of a 'new George', but it did nothing to stop the new National government from build barracks, forts, and camps.

          Robert Whitehill and Patrick Henry, who were dead set against a standing army, tried to add all sorts of poison pills to kill the proposed constitution, but Madison out maneuvered them.

          After the war of 1812 the idea of the standing army was a past gone discussion. American would always have a standing army to provide for the common defense.

          Post Script, when the Spanish American War broke out the U.S. called up the militias -  and more than half of them did not even show up. The ones that did, were so poorly trained that they were more of  a danger than an asset, hence the Militia Act of 1903 setting up the National Guard.

          It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

          by se portland on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:46:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That was heard during the inauguration ? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            se portland

            That's the best you've got. "Someone" heard "something" during the inauguration and that means that the entire process of writing the Constitution and ratifying process never happened?

            I'm fully aware of the history of how the 2nd Amendment came about, but it WAS NOT to fight against tyrannical government.

            The safeguards against that are embedded in the democracy itself, the three branches of government, the balance of powers and the bichambered congress.

            •  Sorry (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              se portland

              BTW, sorry for the tone of my previous comment. You were considerably more respectful than me. I don't know how to edit a comment to amend my tone. Apologies.

              •  There is no edit post publication (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                se portland

                If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

                by CwV on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:36:10 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  My father was a Republican (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                backell

                and we use to get pretty brutal in our debates, but we always knew it was a debate of ideas, not personal. I sometimes think he is the reason I become a liberal. He wanted someone to debate, and I took up the part of the devil's advocate.

                But that said, I really, really think the Founding Fathers did not have any problem with people owning guns to hunt and self defense, that was just an accepted - duh. But the Second Amendment had nothing to do with that. It was about the 'common defense', not personal gun ownership for shooting intruders in your home, or hunting deer. Hell, they use to fight duels over points of honor. :)

                But that is not what the Supreme Court said. Whether I like it or not, they ruled that the Second Amendment grants citizens the right to own guns for personal protection. I think they are wrong, but I am not going to start an insurrection over it.

                It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

                by se portland on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:41:13 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Than you have to admit (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annecros

              That a militia is to defend the constitutional government, not overthrow it. The diarist is refuting, and I think rightfully so, the right to insurrection in the constitution.

              But yes I am saying there was a fear of tyrany.

              From Whitehill's discription in the Dictionary of American Biography:

              He was one of the small group which in this period fanned jealousies and suspicions of the Pennsylvania back country into an opposition which was probably the most vehement experienced by any state and nearly resulted in armed conflict... At no period of his official career did Whitehill reflect better his back-country views than as a member of the Pennsylvania convention to ratify the federal Constitution (1787). In the Assembly he sought a delay in the election of delegates ...In the convention he resorted to every device to delay and defeat ratification. He insisted that there were inadequate safeguards against a tyranny and on the day of ratification attempted, without avail, to have fifteen articles incorporated as a bill of rights.
              [Bolded text by me.]

              It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

              by se portland on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:12:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Instructs its citizens to treason (9+ / 0-)

    Garry Wills has a good article about the historical aspects of the Second Amendment.

    The Standard Model finds, squirreled away in the Second Amendment, not only a private right to own guns for any purpose but a public right to oppose with arms the government of the United States. It grounds this claim in the right of insurrection, which clearly does exist whenever tyranny exists. Yet the right to overthrow government is not given by government. It arises when government no longer has authority. One cannot say one rebels by right of that nonexistent authority. Modern militias say the government itself instructs them to overthrow government— and wacky scholars endorse this view. They think the Constitution is so deranged a document that it brands as the greatest crime a war upon itself (in Article III: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them... ") and then instructs its citizens to take this up (in the Second Amendment). According to this doctrine, a well-regulated group is meant to overthrow its own regulator, and a soldier swearing to obey orders is disqualified for true militia virtue.

    Gun advocates claim that a militia is meant to oppose (not assist) the standing army. But even in England the militia’s role was not to fight the king’s army. The point of the militias was to make it unnecessary to establish a standing army. That no longer applied when the Second Amendment was adopted, since the Constitution had already provided Congress the powers to "raise and support armies" (Article I, Section 8, Clause 12), to "provide and maintain a navy" (Clause 13), and "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces" (Clause 14). The battle against a standing army was lost when the Constitution was ratified, and nothing in the Second Amendment as it was proposed and passed altered that. 46 Nor did it change the Constitution’s provision for using militias "to suppress insurrections" (Clause 15), not to foment them.
    Yet gun advocates continue to quote from the ratification debates as if those arguments applied to the interpretation of the Second Amendment. They were aimed at the military clauses in the proposed Constitution. Patrick Henry and others did not want the Constitbtion to pass precisely because it would set up a standing army— and it did.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:00:37 PM PST

  •  I will add, hardly any in the southern region (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tofumagoo

    of our country fought in the revolutionary war. And many deserted and went home. In fact, some were deported after the war. As a reminder, there was good reason ( they didn't put up a fight against them) behind confederate president Jefferson Davis requesting the help of Great Britain in the civil war. Thanks to France and Russia blocking Great Britain at sea, the north won. They've always been traitors.

    •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)

      Ever heard of the DAR? Bastion of the old south.

      Now, it would be fair to say that much of the Revolutionary War was not fought on southern soil.

      •  Nor did the South (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Glen The Plumber, tofumagoo

        Send in their militias to aid in the Revolution, but it wasn't because of where it was fought. But more on that in the next post.

        •  I be the people (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Charles Hall

          in the "Southern Theatre" of the Revolutionary War would love to hear you tell us all about it.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/...

          Keen to recover their lands and be rewarded for their loyalty to the crown, these men realized that the best way in which to convince the British to undertake a major operation in the South would be to exaggerate the level of potential Loyalist support. As a group, they had great influence on the British ministers in London.[13] The British operated under the expectation that they would find substantial support for their actions, if only they liberated the right areas. While in South Carolina, Cornwallis wrote in a letter to Clinton that "Our assurances of attachment from our poor distressed friends in North Carolina are as strong as ever."[14] For the most part, this assumption was incorrect, as Cornwallis soon realized as the campaign progressed.[15]
          •  The point being? (0+ / 0-)

            Not fighting with the Brittish or joining with them doesn't mean they fought against them. Some did, but not on the same scale and for reasons which had nothing to do with the Revolution at all.

  •  I saw a documentary confirming the dairist claim. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber, David PA, tofumagoo

    In fact, some militia men were actually executed to discourage them from deserting.

    •  poor discipline in the ranks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annecros

      is not limited to militiamen.  Hell, a lot of British soldiers and mercenaries deserted too.  But hey, if it helps your argument that only militias have ever had discipline problems, pretend away.

      the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

      by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:34:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Pretending away? (0+ / 0-)

        But don't let that have you "ignore away" the realities. Why was Washington not voicing the same complaints about the standing army?

        Yes armies always have deserters, but the militia deserted on a greater scale. Ignore that if you want "if it helps your argument."

        •  Washington (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          happymisanthropy

          was consolidating a power base.

        •  you're saying that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annecros

          the militias who won major battles in the Revolutionary War, sometimes with absolutely no help from the regular army, had worse discipline than any regular army in the history of regular armies?  Seriously?

          Why was Washington not voicing the same complaints about the standing army?
          I haven't read his papers, so I don't know how much he did or didn't complain about regular soldiers.

          I do know that Michael Bellesiles deliberately butchered George Washington quotes to make it sound like discipline problems in a particular militia unit indicated a worthlessness of militias in general, when Washington was really drawing attention to how unusual it was to have a militia unit perform that badly.

          But hopefully you're not as dishonest as some other diarists who have actually cited Bellesiles-based scholarship as though it were a legitimate source.

          the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

          by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:14:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am saying (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            CwV

            That George Washington didn't have any trust in them. Washington's quotes are hardly unique to one historian.

            Here is the source document I quoted from. Calling this a question of "honesty" is dishonest.

            http://www.loc.gov/...

            •  so Washington says (0+ / 0-)

              -that the militia sucks
              -that the regular troops suck too, but that's the militia's fault, so they don't really suck.
              -that it's somebody else's fault that he fucked up and lost the battle.

              pretending that this proves... what are you trying to prove again?  I forget.

              And Bellesiles is the most dishonest crook in the history of liberal arts, no exaggeration.  

              the purpose of the second amendment is to promote a well-regulated militia, in the same sense that the purpose of the first amendment is to promote a well-informed electorate.

              by happymisanthropy on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:27:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Oh well, (0+ / 0-)

      if you saw something in a documentary and drew a conclusion, it must be true!

      I need some fresh air.

  •  The entire Constitution is an appeasment (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    backell, Sharon Wraight

    ...to slave owners. This is why it directly confers NO human rights or labor protections on the people -- and why it allows the corporatocrisy to asset-strip and exploit the people.

    Furthermore, the Constitution is now "entrenched" and can no longer be amended. It is disregarded and shunned by all of the world's high courts -- and never used as a model for modern constitutions, which all nations enjoy.

    James Madison wrote the Second Amendment to assure the southern states that Congress would not undermine the slave system by disarming the militia, which were then the principal instruments of slave control throughout the South.

    ::

    The story begins in Richmond, Virginia in the summer of 1788. Since it had been proposed by the convention in Philadelphia two years earlier, the Constitution of the United States had been the focus of an intense struggle.

    It was with high drama, therefore, that the Virginia ratifying convention convened in Richmond in June 1788. Madison led the forces for ratification, and as its principal author, no one understood the Constitution better. Yet the opposition was equally formidable. The anti-Federalists were led by George Mason, the most intellectual of the anti-Federalists, and Patrick Henry, who was considered the greatest orator of the day.

    Mason and Henry made many arguments against ratification, but one of the strategies they devised was particularly shrewd. Virginia was nearly half black, and the white population lived in constant fear of slave insurrection.

    The main instrument of control was the militia. So critical was the militia for slave control that, in the main, the southern states refused to commit their militia to the war against the British. The Constitution, however, would transfer the lion's share of the power over the militia to Congress.

     Slavery was becoming increasingly obnoxious to the North, and southern delegates to the Philadelphia convention demanded and got an agreement, somewhat cryptically written into the Constitution, that deprived the federal government of authority to abolish slavery.

    ::

    The Federalists prevailed, but just barely. Although Virginia ratified the Constitution, Madison limped out of the Richmond Convention. Half of Virginia was still anti-Federalist, and the anti-Federalists were determined to end Madison's political career.

    Madison won a House seat, and he went to Congress politically committed to supporting a bill of rights. When he drafted that document, he included a provision that with minor modifications became what is now the Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    Madison wrote this provision for the specific purpose of assuring his constituency that Congress could not use its newly acquired power to deprive the states of an armed militia. Madison's concern was not hunting, self-defense, national defense, or resistance to governmental tyranny--but slave control.

    ::

    At the time, the southern states extensively regulated their militias and prescribed their slave control responsibilities. Rather that being symbolized by a musket in the hands of the minutemen, it is associated with a musket in the hands of the slave holder.

    http://www.vpc.org/...



    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:58:02 PM PST

    •  There is much more at the links posted (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      backell, Sharon Wraight
      The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

      In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.

      In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state.  The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

      As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, "The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search 'all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition' and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds."

      http://truth-out.org/...



      Denial is a drug.

      by Pluto on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:08:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This scholarly article is a must read: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        backell, Sharon Wraight

        http://www.saf.org/...

        Excerpt:

        This left only Virginia. The stakes were enormous. Not only was Virginia critical as a possible ninth state, but because it was the largest[73] and one of the most prosperous and respected states[74] -- the home of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, among others -- it was by no means clear that the United States could succeed without it.[75] However, the prospect of Virginia's ratification was uncertain.[76] Madison would serve as the principal advocate for ratification, and no one understood the new Constitution better than Madison. Yet the opposition was equally formidable.

        ::

        The anti-Federalists were prepared to raise any argument that would win votes against ratification.[79] Their strongest ally was fear, and they raised a multitude of concerns about the potential calamities under the new Constitution.[80] Among these was one topic about which Virginia was already concerned and fearful -- the subject of slavery.[81]

        ::

        One of Virginia's main concerns was that the federal government would abolish or directly interfere with the slave system. During the Constitutional Convention, Pierce Butler of South Carolina declared: "The security the Southn. States want is that their negroes may not be taken from them which some gentlemen within or without doors, have a very good mind to do."[82] Most believed that question had been settled in Philadelphia. The Southern states had made it plain that they would not join the Union if emancipation was an open issue and insisted that the Constitution protect the slave system.[83]

        Though the Constitution did not do so expressly, it included a number of provisions directly related to slavery. Taken together, these provisions evidenced an agreement that neither Congress nor the Northern states[84] would attempt to interfere with slavery in the South. [85] Most believed this was sufficient. Charles [Page 328] Pinckney, one of South Carolina's delegates to the Constitutional Convention, went home and told the state house of representatives:

        We have a security that the general government can never emancipate them, for no such authority is granted and it is admitted, on all hands, that the general government has no powers but what are expressly granted by the Constitution, and that all rights not expressed were reserved by the several states.[86]
        Others wanted this principle expressly included in the Constitution and would soon seize upon the opportunity to include such a provision in a bill of rights. A little over a year later, for example, William L. Smith of South Carolina wrote a letter urging adoption of a proposed bill of rights because "if these amendts. are adopted, they will go a great way in preventing Congress from interfering with our negroes after 20 years



        Denial is a drug.

        by Pluto on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:24:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Virginia forced the inclusion of the 2nd Amendment (0+ / 0-)

    According to Thom Hartmann on last week's shows the State of Virginia needed the 2nd Amendment to ratify the Constitution because they needed to maintain state control of their armed militias which were used to maintain slavery.

    Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

    by RMForbes on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:02:06 PM PST

  •  There really was fear of a standing army (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros

    The Federalist Papers make a point of addressing such fears, pointing out for example that military appropriations were time-limited.

  •  Just finished reading a short book that was in the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    backell

    family library my dad keeps at the house where me and my siblings grew up.  He has all sorts of old books, encyclopedias, and atlases.  The book is called "The Right to Bear Arms."  I like to travel back in time to read what people thought in the past.

    The themes in the book cover a lot of the same points I see in this diary and in the comments.  The book concludes that the right to bear arms covers self-defense, but not the right to stage a revolution against the federal government. The most convincing arguments are based on historical events of the 1770s, 1780s, and 1790s that show how insurrections were handled at the time.  There was no tolerance at all for citizens who chose to take up arms to settle grievances with government. It cites laws that were passed prohibiting more than x number of people carrying firearms from gathering in public and people who were sentenced to death for what they did.  It seems very unlikely to me that the founders would write a Constitution that contradicted events that were recent to them.  For one thing, there was no public support for the groups that took up arms.  There was anger because of the chaos that resulted.  

    In some ways things were very different then, but not so different in other ways.

    "Democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle." ---'Fighting Bob' LaFollette

    by leftreborn on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 04:02:32 PM PST

  •  Well, not entirely. (0+ / 0-)
    Things got to the point that the only thing that could be done was to sandwich the militia between two divisions of Continental forces left with orders to shoot the first deserter. The only hope was to make the militia more fearful of their own forces than the opposing forces.
    The nation did not understand the militia was totally useless until the War of 1812. See for example the Battle of Bladensburg.

    Oddly enough, seagoing militia -- privateers -- were very effective in both wars, but especially 1812.

    Also, FWIW, the militia was used to great effect in the Battle of Cowpens. By pretending to flee they took the British regulars into a trap.

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:24:17 PM PST

  •  Even with a Continental Army (0+ / 0-)

    we needed some advantages to prevail in the conflict:

    1.  The distance between Britain and the colonies made logistics and the transport of troops difficult.  If the distance had been shorter, the British probably would have crushed the rebellion similar to how they did with Scotland and Ireland.

    2.  There was division among the British civilian and military leadership about how (and even whether) to prosecute the war.  That made recruiting difficult and forced the British to resort to using mercenaries such as the Hessians.

    3.  There was miscommunication and rivalry among British commanders, most notably between Burgoyne and Howe in 1777.  Rather than moving north from New York City to join Burgoyne (who was coming south from Canada) in cutting off the New England colonies, Howe instead took Philadelphia, then the seat of the colonial government.  That left Burgoyne on his own, and led to the victory of the Continental Army at Saratoga.

    4.  With the Saratoga victory, France entered the conflict on the American side.  In addition to pressuring the British on a number of fronts all over the world, French naval forces provided a counterbalance to the British Navy the colonial forces didn't have.  This was decisive in the last battle of the war at Yorktown.  Spain and the Netherlands also entered the war against Britain.  

    The Continental Army and militias did okay at times, not so good at others.  Without the advantages mentioned above, the outcome probably would have been different.  Want to see a conservative's head explode?  Tell them that we owe our independence to the French and a gay Prussian drillmaster (Baron von Steuben)!

    The British sent their criminals to Australia and their religious nuts to America. The Australians got the better of that deal.

    by EWembley on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 11:33:12 PM PST

  •  No it wasn't (0+ / 0-)

    It was intended to give George Washington Troops to fight the British.A well regulated militia was what the United States army at that time was made of.So all this crap about tyranny is just that crap

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