College of Political Knowledge
Subject: Early American History
Part 3 of my series on the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution…..my look at historical events that could have led to the inclusion of the 2nd into the Constitution……may I emphasize the words “historical events”? Try to leave your emotions and your ideology on the curb and think independently……..
When I was in grad school my studies were basically the era in American history, 1750-1815, this was a most fascinating time in the colonies…….and the Constitution…..I have attempted in some small way to get into the minds of our Founders…..we can read what they wrote but we cannot speak with them to see what they were thinking at the time……I looked at situations and issues and feelings of the time to try and explain why they felt it necessary to write parts of the Constitution……..this part is the examination of the term “a well armed militia” was placed into the document that set up the United States of America.
I have looked into the reason behind the 2nd amendment…….I have looked at the necessity for the inclusion and I have researched who thought it necessary……..and now I will write on the whole “militia” thing……..
The 2nd amendment states……..”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.” First what was the militia?
From Old English milite meaning soldiers (plural), militisc meaning military and also classical Latin milit-, miles meaning soldier.
The Modern English term militia dates to the year 1590, with the original meaning now obsolete: “the body of soldiers in the service of a sovereign or a state”. Subsequently, since approximately 1665 militia has taken the meaning “a military force raised from the civilian population of a country or region, especially to supplement a regular army in an emergency, frequently as distinguished from mercenaries or professional soldiers.”
For me, the term “a well regulated militia” is the key to the amendment…….more so than the right to keep and bear arms……..why? First, we look at the founding document the Articles of Confederation……..article 6 paragraph 4…..
No vessels of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any state, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the united states in congress assembled, for the defence of such state, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any state, in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgment of the united states, in congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such state; but every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.
This document was the set of governing laws during the war and was replaced by the Constitution in 1789 when it was ratified by 11 states……..keep in mind the the Bill of Rights, which includes the 2nd, was added to the Constitution in 1791…….in the original document in amendment 1 section 8 states……..
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
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, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress
During the debate for the new laws of the land a point was made in Federalist #29……….
If there should be an army to be made use of as the engine of despotism, what need of the militia? If there should be no army, whither would the militia, irritated by being called upon to undertake a distant and hopeless expedition, for the purpose of riveting the chains of slavery upon a part of their countrymen, direct their course, but to the seat of the tyrants, who had meditated so foolish as well as so wicked a project, to crush them in their imagined intrenchments of power, and to make them an example of the just vengeance of an abused and incensed people? Is this the way in which usurpers stride to dominion over a numerous and enlightened nation? Do they begin by exciting the detestation of the very instruments of their intended usurpations? Do they usually commence their career by wanton and disgustful acts of power, calculated to answer no end, but to draw upon themselves universal hatred and execration? Are suppositions of this sort the sober admonitions of discerning patriots to a discerning people? Or are they the inflammatory ravings of incendiaries or distempered enthusiasts? If we were even to suppose the national rulers actuated by the most ungovernable ambition, it is impossible to believe that they would employ such preposterous means to accomplish their designs.
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.
The Continental Army was disbanded in 1783 after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781……..the Constitution was ratified in 1789 and the United States had been without a standing army for 6 years…..that made the necessity for the different state militias to be used in the case of invasion, rebellion or war……..so a well regulated and armed militia would have been a dire necessity until the re-establishing of a standing army……….for the protection of the nation.
The facts and the events of history lead me to believe that the second was included into the Constitution to benefit the government/country……not necessarily for the people……
Once again I would like to remind the reader that this is a historical analysis….and is in NO way a pro or con look at the second amendment…..only a look at why it would be included in the Constitution…..what made the authors feel it necessary to include it…….if it cannot be read with an objective eye then I prefer that it not be read………