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Let’s Be Clear: The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery…

In Around the web on January 17, 2013 at 8:29 am

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From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

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.”

It’s the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, “Why don’t they just rise up and kill the whites?”  If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well-regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

Sally E. Haden, in her book Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, notes that, “Although eligibility for the Militia seemed all-encompassing, not every middle-aged white male Virginian or Carolinian became a slave patroller.” There were exemptions so “men in critical professions” like judges, legislators and students could stay at their work.  Generally, though, she documents how most southern men between ages 18 and 45 – including physicians and ministers – had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy.

By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South.  Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings.  As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband – or even move out of the state – those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse.  And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery, and the southern economic and social systems, altogether.

These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned over 300 slaves) and the southern Christian evangelical, Patrick Henry (who opposed slavery on principle, but also opposed freeing slaves).

Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.

This was not an imagined threat.  Famously, 12 years earlier, during the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, Lord Dunsmore offered freedom to slaves who could escape and join his forces.  “Liberty to Slaves” was stitched onto their jacket pocket flaps.  During the War, British General Henry Clinton extended the practice in 1779.  And numerous freed slaves served in General Washington’s army.

Thus, southern legislators and plantation owners lived not just in fear of their own slaves rebelling, but also in fear that their slaves could be emancipated through military service.

At the ratifying convention in Virginia in 1788, Henry laid it out:

“Let me here call your attention to that part [Article 1, Section 8 of the proposed Constitution] which gives the Congress power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States. . . .

“By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither . . . this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory.”

George Mason expressed a similar fear:

    “The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practised in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless, by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has an exclusive right to arm them [under this proposed Constitution] . . . “

Henry then bluntly laid it out:

    “If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia.”

And why was that such a concern for Patrick Henry?

“In this state,” he said, “there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States. . . . May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free.”

Patrick Henry was also convinced that the power over the various state militias given the federal government in the new Constitution could be used to strip the slave states of their slave-patrol militias.  He knew the majority attitude in the North opposed slavery, and he worried they’d use the Constitution to free the South’s slaves (a process then called “Manumission”).

The abolitionists would, he was certain, use that power (and, ironically, this is pretty much what Abraham Lincoln ended up doing):

    “[T]hey will search that paper [the Constitution], and see if they have power of manumission,” said Henry.  “And have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defence and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of slavery? May they not pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power?

    “This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point: they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it.”

He added: “This is a local matter, and I can see no propriety in subjecting it to Congress.”

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” and a slaveholder himself, basically called Patrick Henry paranoid.

“I was struck with surprise,” Madison said, “when I heard him express himself alarmed with respect to the emancipation of slaves. . . . There is no power to warrant it, in that paper [the Constitution]. If there be, I know it not.”

But the southern fears wouldn’t go away.

Patrick Henry even argued that southerner’s “property” (slaves) would be lost under the new Constitution, and the resulting slave uprising would be less than peaceful or tranquil:

    “In this situation,” Henry said to Madison, “I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone.”

So Madison, who had (at Jefferson’s insistence) already begun to prepare proposed amendments to the Constitution, changed his first draft of one that addressed the militia issue to make sure it was unambiguous that the southern states could maintain their slave patrol militias.

His first draft for what became the Second Amendment had said: “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 [emphasis mine]: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

But Henry, Mason and others wanted southern states to preserve their slave-patrol militias independent of the federal government.  So Madison changed the word “country” to the word “state,” and redrafted the Second Amendment into today’s form

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State [emphasis mine], the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Little did Madison realize that one day in the future weapons-manufacturing corporations, newly defined as “persons” by a Supreme Court some have called dysfunctional, would use his slave patrol militia amendment to protect their “right” to manufacture and sell assault weapons used to murder schoolchildren.
~~

  1. Can it be also clear that perhaps slavery would never have happened if they slaves had been armed Mr. Hartman?

    Violent crimes in the United States have been ‘plummeting’.
    http://www.alternet.org/story/150307/crime_rates_are_plummeting_–_and_no_one_knows_why

    ” I know the sense of helplessness that people feel, I know the urge to arm yourself because thats what I did. I carry a concealed gun at all times so If someone is going to take me out I going to take them with me.” Ms.Diane Feinstein testifying to Congress.

    “I want to be absolutely clear, so when you all go home and you’re talking to your buddies and you say, ah ‘He wants to take my gun away.’ You’ve heard it here; I’m on television so everybody knows it. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.” President Obama

    A recent poll conducted by the National Association of Chiefs of Police indicated that almost 64 percent of police commanders and sheriffs favor a law allowing private citizens to carry concealed firearms for protection. Almost 73 percent said that citizens should not be restricted from purchasing more than one weapon, and 96 percent say they believe criminals obtain firearms from illegal sources.
    http://www.federalobserver.com/archive.php?aid=10104

    “Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” – Mohandas Gandhi, an Autobiography, page 44
    (Natural News was then banned from Facebook for posting this quote)
    http://www.infowars.com/facebook-bans-gandhi-quote-as-part-of-revisionist-history-purge/

    ‘You cannot have a successful police state if the citizens are well armed’
    ~~Paul Craig Roberts. Undersecretary of Treasury in the Reagan Administration

    1. In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915-1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves against their ethnic-cleansing government, were arrested and exterminated.

    2. In 1929, the former Soviet Union established gun control as a means of controlling the “more difficult” of their citizens. From 1929 to the death of Stalin, 40 million Soviets met an untimely end at the hand of various governmental agencies as they were arrested and exterminated.

    3. After the rise of the Nazis, Germany established their version of gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and others, who were unable to defend themselves against the “Brown Shirts”, were arrested and exterminated. Interestingly, the Brown Shirts were eventually targeted for extermination themselves following their blind acts of allegiance to Hitler. Any American military and police would be wise to grasp the historical significance of the Brown Shirts’ fate.

    4. After Communist China established gun control in 1935, an estimated 50 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves against their fascist leaders, were arrested and exterminated.

    5. Closer to home, Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayans, unable to defend themselves against their ruthless dictatorship, were arrested and exterminated.

    6. Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves from their dictatorial government, were arrested and exterminated.

    7. Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million of the “educated” people, unable to defend themselves against their fascist government, were arrested and exterminated.

    8. In 1994, Rwanda disarmed the Tutsi people and being unable to defend themselves from their totalitarian government, nearly one million were summarily executed.

    The total numbers of victims who lost their lives because of gun control is approximately 70 million people in the 20th century. The historical voices from 70 million corpses speak loudly and clearly to those Americans who are advocating for a de facto gun ban.

    Governments murdered four times as many civilians as were killed in all the international and domestic wars combined. Governments murdered millions more people than were killed by common criminals and it all followed gun control.

    Historically, American gun control legislation has been imitating Hitler’s Nazi Germany gun control legislation for quite some time. Consider the key provisions of the Nazi Weapons Act of 1938 and compare it with the United States Gun Control Act of 1968. The parallels of both the provisions and the legal language are eerily similar.

    The Nazi Weapons Act of 1938

    1. Classified guns for sporting purposes.

    2. All Germans desiring to purchase firearms had to register with the Nazi officials and submit to a background check.

    3. The law assumed that non-Nazi German citizens were hostile and thereby exempted Nazis from the gun control law.

    4. The Nazis assumed unrestricted power to decide what kinds of firearms could, or could not, be owned by private persons.

    5. The types of ammunition that were legal were subject to control by governmental bureaucrats.

    6. Citizens under 18 years of age could not buy firearms and ammunition.

    United States Gun Control Act of 1968

    1. Introduced term “sporting purpose.”

    2. Exempted government agencies from the controls which applied to law-abiding citizens.

    3. Age restrictions of 18 years and 21 years were applied to anyone who wished to purchase firearms and ammunition.

    4. Authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to decide what firearms could or could not be owned by private persons.

    5.The types of ammunition that were legal were subject to control by governmental bureaucrats.

    6. Age restriction of 18 years and 21 years were applied to anyone who wished to purchase firearms and ammunition.

    Thomas Jefferson was very clear in his writings regarding the right to bear arms. Jefferson knew that the preservation of the Republic ultimately rested upon a well-armed citizenry. Jefferson felt it was absolutely necessary for American citizens to be able to protect themselves.

    The protection that Jefferson spoke of was not from our obvious enemies of the day (France and Britain), but from our own government. Jefferson made this point quite clear when he admonished future generations of Americans to fulfill their duty to overthrow a government if they failed to serve the needs of the majority of its citizens.

    Private ownership of guns is the necessary component needed to fulfill the Jeffersonian mandate for national self-defense. Yet, increasingly reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the United States government is incrementally chipping away at private citizens’ right to own a gun.

    This does doesn’t make sense because FBI statistics clearly show that 90% of the guns used in the commission of a crime are stolen! Does the government really believe that criminals, both American citizens and illegal aliens, as well as terrorists, are suddenly going to perform their civic duty and immediately register their guns?

    How is America better-served if the only ones who don’t have access to guns are the law-abiding citizens? So, one must ask who are the gun control laws designed to protect and why?
    http://www.activistpost.com/2012/12/back-to-future-what-history-teaches.html

  2. Thanks for posting this very illuminating Thom Hartmann piece. I hope people post links to it on Facebook and everywhere else.

  3. Far more murders are done without guns than with them. Are clubs, knives, poisons, etc. next? How about cars? Cigarettes? Alcohol?

  4. If you want to see what a law professor having the very unfortunate name of Carl T. Bogus (that’s really his name) had to say about the origins of the Second Amendment, and the article that is surely the source of Hartmann’s piece, here’s the link. The article is long, but very well footnoted so that anyone who wants can check the sources.
    http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/Bogus2.htm

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