Founding Fathers’ Quotes on the People’s Right to Bear Arms

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Just three days after the horrible shooting in Newtown Connecticut, progressive forces are in full “never let a crisis go to waste” mode to advance their anti-gun agenda.  They have allowed no time for mourning and are striking while the iron is hot.  It’s a selfish and shameful act that is driving the national debate towards gun control and the away from the root cause of our problem; the devaluing of human life.  I decided that the best people to help make the case for those of us who cherish America and our second amendment rights are our founding fathers.  Below are some quotes from the founders on the people’s right to bear arms.  Take a few minutes to read them.

“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
George Mason
Co-author of the Second Amendment
during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788

“A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves …”
Richard Henry Lee
writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic, Letter XVIII, May, 1788.

“The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full posession of them.”
Zachariah Johnson
Elliot’s Debates, vol. 3 “The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution.”

“… the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms”
Philadelphia Federal Gazette
June 18, 1789, Pg. 2, Col. 2
Article on the Bill of Rights

“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; …”
Samuel Adams
quoted in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789, “Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State”

“Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”
George Washington
First President of the United States

“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside … Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.”
Thomas Paine

“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
Richard Henry Lee
American Statesman, 1788

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“The great object is that every man be armed.” and “Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
Patrick Henry
American Patriot

“Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?”
Patrick Henry
American Patriot

“Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not.”
Thomas Jefferson
Third President of the United States

“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; … “
Thomas Jefferson
letter to Justice John Cartwright, June 5, 1824. ME 16:45.

“The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
Alexander Hamilton
The Federalist Papers at 184-8

H/T cap-n-ball.com

The federal government should not be injecting itself in this issue.  First off they have no constitutional authority to restrict gun ownership no matter what President Obama believes.  Secondly this is a states issue and should be addressed at the local level.  A cookie cutter approach will not work because of the uniqueness of each community across America.  My question is where was all the progressive outrage over Fast and Furious?  Something to think about.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!  .

Original Post:  The Sentry Journal

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We Know About the Federalist Papers. What About the Anti-Federalist Papers?

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Constitutional scholars, federal justices, and lawyers who try cases in federal courts and the Supreme Court often go to the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist papers and other historic documents to get to the original intent of our constitution. Although my education on American history was woefully lacking, I was, at least, aware the something called the Federalist Papers existed. It was decades later when I actually read any of the Federalist Papers and then only about ten of the eighty-five or more papers. It was only recently that I decided it might be educational to find out what those opposed to the ratification of our constitution had to say. I have now read about ten of Anti-Federalist Papers.

The Articles of Confederation signed in 1781 is considered our first constitution. Although written by essentially the same group of Founders, their first attempt at forming a federal government for the United States was a total disaster. The thirteen states were so intent on maintaining their power and sovereignty that they created a Federal government that was toothless. Article II stated:

ARTICLE II

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

Under the Articles of Confederation, there was no Executive branch, there was no judicial branch, there was no one designated as head of state to negotiate treaties or commerce with other nations,there was no taxing authority, and the federal government had no control over interstate commerce or in the coinage of a national currency and each state was, therefore, setting tariffs to protect their own industries and creating their own currencies. The Federal government was a joke and that was how it was perceived by other nations.

There were during the years after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation a few attempts to fix parts of it; but they went nowhere. Finally in May of 1787 twelve states, Rhode Island was the exception, sent delegates to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation such that the federal government could truly function. However, after about four weeks, the majority of the delegates voted to throw out the Articles of Confederation and start over on a new constitution. Some delegate were very unhappy over this turn of events and the New York delegates walked out temporarily.

Working behind closed doors the delegates worked and debated in secrecy until the final document of seven articles on four pages was completed on September 17, 1787. Copies printed so as each state could then hold ratifying conventions and that is when the “fun” began. The destiny of our constitution was fought until March 4, 1989.  Supporters of ratification published papers explaining and defending the new constitution. All of these 85 papers were signed Plubius. But, consensus today atributes 52 to Alexander Hamilton, 28 to James Madison, and five to John Jay. Collectively they have become known as the Federalist Papers. Those that opposed ratification of the constitution as it was written also published their arguments against ratification. Most were written under pseudonyms, such as, Centinel and Brutus and Federal Farmer and Cato. Some, however were signed with the authors proper name. These letters became collectively known as the Anti-Federalist Papers.

In the course of ny research for this post, I found several references to the  Anti-Federalst as the “old patriots” (those that had been loyal to the crown and did not support the Revolution) and the Federalist were refered to as the “new patriots who had supported the Revolution. I think that is an over statement because as you will see Patrick Henry was an Anti-Federalist and argued against ratification of the constitution as written.

If you click on the link above to the Anti-Federalist Papers, you will find an index to 85 papers. Scroll through it and look at the titles and you will the gamut of concerns the Anti-Federalist had.

The fear that an American aristocracy would take over our new government was common to many of the Anti-Federalist. Massachusetts, for example, was appalled that Senators would be elected to serve six-year terms and could possibly serve for a life time. The Federalist argued that they had addressed that concern because Senators were to be appointed by the state legislature and they could remove an appointee at will. Sadly, the states lost that power with the 17th Amendment in 1013.

Patrick Henry gave a total of 24 speeches before the Virginia ratification convention.  If you have time, you may want to read Henry’s Speech No. 1. Patrick Henry was very much a states rights man. He objected to the words “We the People” and would have prefered “We the States”.

I was impressed that in several of the A-F papers I read the authors were concerned about the “Commerce Clause” and thee “General Welfare Clause” would be used to expand the powers of the federal government. The Federalist, of course, were quick to point to the “Enumerated Powers” as the restraint against the federal government.We all know how that worked out, don’t we?. I doubt we could find a conservative today that doesn’t wish the founders had been more specific with those two clauses.

There was another concern that came up often in the papers I read. It was a reference to the well known political philosopher Montesquieu who believed that republics could only function in relatively small geographical areas with relatively small populations. The reason being that otherwise the connection between the people and their representatives would be lost. The Federalist argued that this had been addressed through the proportional representation in the House of Representatives. The constitution allowed that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand. Congress  regularly increased the size of the House to account for population growth until it fixed the number of voting House members at 435 in 1911. Today with a population of 330 million a House member represents on average about 759,000 people. Maybe the Anti-Federalist had a point.

In the end the Anti-Federalist lost, which explains why so few Americans are even aware that there were arguments against ratifying the constitution as it was written. But, even my cursory review of their concerns makes me think that they were quite prescient.

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

Original Post:  Conservatives on Fire

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Hamilton's Gamble, Jefferson's Fear, Our Challenge

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Alexander Hamilton is one of America’s first improbable success stories.  He was born out of wedlock in the West Indies which was still under British control.  Because the Church of England didn’t recognize the relationship between his mother and father, they wouldn’t allow him to attend the church’s school and forced him into tutoring.  His situation only got worse when his father abandoned the family and his mother’s ex-husband seized her estate.  He and his brother were eventually adopted by a cousin, Peter Lyon, who later committed suicide.  He was once again adopted, time separate from his brother, by a merchant named Thomas Stevens.

Hamilton became a clerk in order to make ends meet and took an interest in reading and writing.  Eventually he wrote an essay detailing the account of a hurricane that hit the area.  The Royal-Danish American Gazette published the essay which impressed the community leaders of his area.  Together they raised funds in order to have Hamilton educated in America.  Of course, we all know that Hamilton became one of the most influential people in American history, helping form and advise on the creation and expansion of our federal government.

Hamilton was many things, but nothing more notable than being President Washington’s closest and most trusted advisor.  If Washington was the head of the United States, Hamilton was the neck.  There were few interests and proposals of Hamilton that Washington didn’t promote or embrace.  Of course, the most prominent issue at that time was centered on the size and role of the new federal government.  Hamilton promoted his ideas on this issue through his newly established party – the Federalists.

Federalism was an important factor in early America.  Almost all agreed that the federal government needed to be strong in foreign affairs, but Hamilton took that a step further arguing that the federal government needed to give legitimacy to the nation’s finances.  He argued that we needed to create a national bank in order to pay off the states’ debts accumulated over the span of the Revolutionary War.  He met strong opposition from James Madison who had previously established the Republican Party.

The Republicans held to strict Constitutional principles and favored strong state governments.  They feared that centralized government was a road to monarchy or at best an aristocratic tyranny.  They were particularly alarmed with the idea of a federal government assuming the debts of the states.  Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia, for instance, had paid off the majority of its accumulated debt and felt that taxation on Virginians in order to pay off a combined debt was unfair.  Further, they felt the whole premise was unconstitutional.   The limited power of the federal government spelled out in the Constitution says nothing of creating banks or combining debts.

Madison and Jefferson lead a Republican campaign against the constitutionality of Hamilton’s proposals.  They both pulled quite a bit of weight in constitutional matters.  Madison was considered the “Father of the Constitution” and Jefferson was considered one of the most influential minds behind its creation, but Hamilton had some pull of his own.  The Federalists held the majority of the House and Senate, the Supreme Court, and perhaps more importantly, the news papers.   Hamilton’s greatest weapon was his pen and he put it to great use.

Hamilton argued that the federal government could create a bank to absorb the state debts through the “Necessary and Proper” clause.  “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States or in any Department or Officer thereof,” (Constitution Article I, Section VIII).  He deemed the absorption of these debts as being necessary and proper in order to carry out other powers of the federal government in the Constitution.  He further argued that there was nothing limiting the fed from this process.  Jefferson and Madison argued that this interpretation was too broad and could give an endless amount of power to those who could so easily justify it.  Further, they cite the enumerated powers and interpret the authority of the “Necessary and Proper” clause as authorizing expansion in only that which is tangentially-related to the enumerated powers.

In the end, Hamilton won and both a national bank and precedent were formed.  There is little doubt that Hamilton’s Federalists helped to establish a strong centralized government that helped us defend ourselves against strong outside forces and financial difficulties.  Few were fond of the confederation that struggled to stay coherent and aligned.  Federalism was the answer and thus the federation was created through the Constitution.

Federalism came with a price though.  The expansion that Jefferson feared has come true; the states’ powers have been reduced and too many have followed Hamilton’s lead in broad interpretations of the Constitution.  Today, Arizona is fighting their federal government to protect their borders, states are suing the fed because they’re being forced into a national health care, fiscally irresponsible states like California are getting federal dollars at the expense of those more responsible, and almost all of this is being justified by the broad interpretation of the “commerce clause”.  It’s all so Hamiltonian.

That’s the danger of government; it creates unintended consequences through policy.  Hamilton didn’t want a monarchy and he didn’t want a tyrannical federal government, but he was willing to creep toward that end for the purpose of what he felt was a greater good.  Allow me to rebut Hamilton over two hundred years later with the benefit of hindsight; the greater good is limited government.

I’m sure even Hamilton couldn’t have imagined the expansiveness of our current federal government.  In fact, I can’t get my mind wrapped around it.  It didn’t get this big over night. It took small, discreet steps to reach this point.  Each step was justified by some problem; many of which were created by some other form of government or bureaucracy.

It has become too common place to react to any problem with centralized answers.  Well intended people, like Hamilton, sit on both sides of the isle in Congress, ready to follow his lead in order to preserve our government in “necessary and proper” ways.  It is time we react as Jeffersonians and demand our states take back the power afforded to them in our Constitution and regulate the federal government’s powers as “few and defined”.

Original Post: The Sentry Journal

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