Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Well Regulated Militia

Time for Green Eagle to go on a tedious rant about the "original intent" of our founding fathers. This phrase drips from the lips of conservatives at the slightest provocation, positive as they are that only they know what this bunch of guys two and a half centuries ago had in mind.

So sure are our modern right wingers, in fact, that they feel they have no need to examine the most pertinent and readily available writings of the founding fathers themselves. Nowhere is this more true than in regard to the second amendment, which they insist was intended by the founding fathers to allow any lunatic to own cannons, flame throwers, assault weapons...anything. As long, of course, as those lunatics aren't Muslims, of course. Much of this endless outpouring of nonsense relies on the term "well regulated" which is found in the second amendment.

This might be a good point to quote what the second amendment says, so here it is:

"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."

Well, what was meant by the term "well regulated?" Conservatives violently object to the notion that it might be the job of the federal government to regulate the militias. Can we answer this question?

Well, maybe we can't, but I know of someone who can- a man named Alexander Hamilton. This gentleman, as you may remember, was actually one of the founding fathers, and was one of the writers of the Federalist Papers, which were intended to explain what the people who wrote the constitution had in mind.

Perhaps these great conservative experts on the intent of the founding fathers never heard of this document, or they might have encountered Federalist Paper No. 29, intriguingly titled "Concerning the Militia," which was written by the aforementioned Alexander Hamilton, and surprisingly deals with this exact question. Let's dive in, and see what he had to say, shall we? Green Eagle will help Mr. Hamilton out with a couple of observations, if he may be so forward:

"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."

"Superintending the common defense. And who do you think was supposed to do that, the Federal Government, or the Hutaree Militia and Timothy McVeigh?

"It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were called into service for the public defense."

Please ask yourself, who is supposed to ensure that there is "uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia" across the entire country?

"This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union "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."

Let me repeat this, because it is apparently so difficult to understand that all the conservatives in the country have missed what it says: "This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia"

The national authority. The Union. The regulation of the militia. Could this be any more clear? Well, just in case anyone still is confused, let's continue:

"If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security... If the federal government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force."

Well there it is, the well regulated militia is to be " under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security"- the federal government. Can there be any more clear statement of the intent of the founders that these militias be regulated by the government, and not by a bunch of violent armed lunatics in Michigan or Idaho or somewhere? Want More?

"What plan for the regulation of the militia may be pursued by the national government, is impossible to be foreseen."

"the regulation of the militia...pursued by the national government" I guess this wasn't plain enough for right wingers to figure it out. Or maybe what they are interested is not really the intent of the founding fathers, but rather their own deranged, violent intent.

There's more, if you care, but I think I've made my point, with the aid of Alexander Hamilton. If you want to read the rest, here it is.

Later in this particular Federalist Paper, Hamilton has this to say:

"In reading many of the publications against the Constitution, a man is apt to imagine that he is perusing some ill-written tale or romance, which instead of natural and agreeable images, exhibits to the mind nothing but frightful and distorted shapes "Gorgons, hydras, and chimeras dire"; discoloring and disfiguring whatever it represents, and transforming everything it touches into a monster."

Green Eagle couldn't have put it better himself.

5 comments:

Jean Valjean said...

Nice work, G.E.

tnlib said...

Brilliantly done. Now, if it could just be cross posted on some conservative blogs.

Derek said...

"Well, what was meant by the term "well regulated?" Conservatives violently object to the notion that it might be the job of the federal government to regulate the militias"

It means what well regulated meant back in the late 1700's: well organized and properly used. We even use the word "regulated" in the modern day not to mean government controlled rather to mean adjusted or in good order.

From Federalist 29: To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss.

He uses well regulated in the same sense as I stated. It means to be well prepared, ready, and organized.

"The regulation of the militia."

Aka organizing and training.

The militia was defined as every able bodied male citizen. A newer, less discriminatory version would be every able bodied citizen.

And I must ask, why did you say nothing on the second part of the amendment? The Supreme Court ruled last year in DC v Heller that the right to bear arms is an individual right. the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The people. Aka me and every other citizen.

McDonald v Chicago should be the case to enumerate the 2nd amendment to the states, that is, if the SC maintains its opinion.

Green Eagle said...

Derek, you are just ignoring the entire thrust of Hamilton's argument. The militias were intended to be trained and controlled by the Federal government, and to be available to it alone to use, specifically to put down insurrections, not to incite them. That is absolutely clear from Hamilton's unequivocal words.

And as to whatever our current activist Supreme Court decided, I would have thought that, as a conservative, you would demand that they defer to the original intent of the framers of the constitution, as stated explicitly by Hamilton.

But this is, of course, totally consistent with the entire history of the alleged conservative attachment to "original intent." It is nothing but a club they use to beat up on liberals, even when the conservative interpretation is totally contrary to the clear intent of the framers, as in this case. When the Supreme Court throws original intent and all stare decisis out the window to do what you want, you think it is a great thing.

Now, as to your contention that "The militia was defined as every able bodied male citizen," I want to point out to you Hamilton's statement in Federalist Paper 29:

"the scheme of disciplining the whole nation must be abandoned as mischievous or impracticable...The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed to the formation of a select corps of moderate extent..."

I know from your comments that you went and read this Federalist Paper. Apparently, you feel free to, not to beat around the bush, simply lie about what it said. It is this sort of thing which has made so many of my readers angry with you.

Derek said...

"That is absolutely clear from Hamilton's unequivocal words."

He says that the government should regulate it, which means precisely what I said it means seeing as how Hamilton says "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia". Aka train them. Most law professors refer to "A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state" as a preamble. It states an obvious need for the Federal Government to arm and train citizens for the security of the nation, aka raise armies.

None of what Hamilton has anything to do with "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." This is where the individual right is stated.

"you would demand that they defer to the original intent of the framers of the constitution, as stated explicitly by Hamilton."

Here are some Hamilton quotes:

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."

"In a single State, if the persons entrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair."

"but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights"

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense"

There is no doubt in my mind, nor any other sane person's, that Hamilton supported the private ownership of firearms. The other founders supported private ownership as well, as essentially all of them owned their own firearms. Note that the first gun control act wasn't until 1934. You'd think if Hamilton thought private citizens shouldn't own firearms he'd have done something when he was President.

"simply lie about what it said. It is this sort of thing which has made so many of my readers angry with you."

My point is that you are taking it out of context. Very much so. Hamilton is discussing standing armies in Federalist 29, and thus naturally he compares them to militias, the previous means of defense of the Confederacy. Many individuals feared a Federal standing army as opposed to multiple smaller militias from each State as it could be used by the central government to make a power grab. This is the primary discussion at hand. Federalist 29 has very little to do with private gun ownership other than the fact that it states reasons why the people should own guns (one of the quotes above is from Fed 29) and that the government, specifically the Federal government, should have guns too.

I'm not lying, I am merely spelling it out for you. Hamilton = pro private ownership of guns.

Sorry to break the news to you, but it is the truth. Again, the individual right of firearm ownership is the in the clause after the preamble: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". There is no denying this. How you can simply ignore half of an amendment in the Bill of Rights?