The Historical Context of the 2nd Amendment

I believe that it is necessary to understand our governing principles in light of original intent. As such this is primarily a history of understanding the intent of the protections affording in the assurance of our individual right to bear arms.  The final paragraphs are a summary of these points built upon the narrative of legal precedent when it comes to the Federal Governments authority to regulate firearms at all..

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.


Before I start this discussion I want this to be very clear, gun control is not about controlling guns it is about controlling the people.

Proponents of gun-control will often point to “well-regulated militia” in the second amendment to make the claim that the Constitution only protects the right of a National Guard or a Standing Army.  The only reason they can make this claim and deceive so many people is because we have stopped teaching the historical context of America and our Constitution.

The Progressives have worked very hard in making sure that they have separated the connections between the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.  They can never be separated.  The grievances listed in the Declaration help us to understand exactly what our founders intended to prevent from happening in the newly formed United States of America.  They have also endeavor to separate our founder’s writing from interpretation of our Constitution as well as to remove all real historical context.

Our right to protect our property does not originate with the Constitution.  An unalienable right would imply that the right has always existed.  Only a unjust government would seek to take from us something that rightfully belongs to us.  They have no more right to take away our right to bear arms as they would have the right to remove one of our limbs.  In attempting to do so they violate the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God and become an unjust and an immoral government.

The book of Exodus in our Scriptures states in Exodus 22: 2 “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed;”

The Talmud, which expanded Jewish law stated “If someone comes to kill you, arise quickly and kill him.”

Citing Thomas Aquinus (1225-1224) Roman Catholic Catechism claims “Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.”

Protestant teachings point to Jesus in Luke 22:36 when speaking to his disciples about being persecuted “But now, the person who has a wallet and a traveling bag should take them along. The person who doesn’t have a sword should sell his coat and buy one.”  LEX,REX published in 1644 by Samuel Rutherford, A Scottish Presbyterian Minister said that the “Individual has personal and unalienable right to self-defense, even against government. “ Rutherford would explain that in order for governments to be legitimate authorities, all governments must uphold man’s rights and do justice. Otherwise, the people owe a lawless and tyrannical ruler no allegiance at all.

Marcus Tullius Cicero declared that the right of self-defense in the protection of our property was essential to persevering our freedoms and liberties.  He carried this thinking into the realm of protection against a government who would destroy our liberties stating:

“A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly against the city. But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victim, and he wears their face and their garments and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the plague.”

John Locke was an essential influence over our founders and in his Second Treatise of Government defended the Sovereign right of the individual in the defense of their property against government.  John Locke explained that civil government properly exists to more effectively protect the rights that all individuals have in the “state of nature.” The individuals have the rights to life, liberty, and property. They give civil government the power over themselves only to the extent that it better protects those rights; that when a government attempts to take away these rights that government has no moral existence.

The unalienable right to freedom from violent harm, and the right to self-defense, both existed before and outside of secular government and certainly existed before the formation of our Constitution.  The Constitution does not exist to grant us a right to bear arms.  The 2nd Amendment was written to ensure the protection of the right to defend our property.

At the time of the writing of the 2nd amendments there was no such animal as The National Guard.  Standing Armies were often made up of volunteers who brought with them their own arms in defense of their property, their town and their colony.

From the earliest years of English settlement, colonists had depended on local groups of citizen soldiers to defend themselves from the Indians or at times to maintain law and order. By the time of the French and Indian War, American colonists had come to rely more on British troops and volunteer provincial units for protection, but even though the militia system had deteriorated, Americans held fast to their faith in the concept of the citizen soldier. Beginning with the Stamp Act crisis and extending throughout the Revolution, the Americans’ experience with the British Army only strengthened their hatred of standing armies as implements of monarchy and tyranny and a threat to civilian government.

The colony’s evolving militia system was refined, reorganized, and continually tested in combat. Forced to defend themselves with little or no outside help, the colonists had developed an effective and well organized militia system of citizens that by the 1670’s encompassed nearly all able-bodied, adult males. These individuals, as citizen soldiers, were not full-time standing armies in a government regulated military body.  They were citizens who formed in alliance to defend their land and other property.  Their training was limited by what available time there was as they attended to their regular duties as a citizen, through their business, farming or other occupation.  Yet, when a danger arouse they would seize their own arms and come to the defense of their land and property.

The battle that followed the assault on Lexington and Concord clearly exemplifies the role of the citizen soldier.  It is important to remember that the British Soldiers these Colonial Citizen Soldiers attacked as the British Army travelled from Concord back to Boston were soldiers of the Crown and the Crown was the Official Government of the colonies.  The citizen soldier was standing up to the tyranny of their own government.  The Centralized Government of the British Crown was attempting to regulate every aspect of the Colonies and, in particular, trying to regulate the lives of the people of Boston.  The British Government was, in the eyes of the colonists, interfering with the life, liberty and property of its citizens.

In September of 1776 George Washington pointed out the difference between the well-regulated militia that was made up of citizen-soldiers and the standing army of the colonists when he said “If I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole; I should subscribe to the latter.”  As a General of the Standing Armies, Washington inability to control the citizen soldiers as their commanding officer created conflicts and, as a General his negative view of the miltia is understandable.  Others in military leadership had similar sentiments about the militia but the people trusted their militia because they were their family, neighbors and their friends.  The mistrust of a Federal Governments authority over standing armies was realized by the British Occupation of colonial towns that many believed to be a violation of their rights.  The citizens demanded that our new government would have protections against abuses of power in Government through standing armies and they believed that the citizen soldier was part of that protection.

To the authors of the constitution the well-regulated militia had nothing to do with a government organized military force.  It was citizens who had armed themselves in the protection of their property who could be entrusted to stand even if it meant standing in opposition to their own government.

Before we had a Bill Of Rights attached to our Constitution our Constitution included Article I, Section 8, clauses 15 and 16 of the U.S. Constitution referring to Congress’s powers concerning the state militias. Clause 15 empowers Congress to “call forth” the state militias into national service for specific purposes. Clause 16 empowers Congress to organize, arm and discipline the state militias, and to govern the militias while they are in national service.

This caused a general alarm by citizens throughout the colonies who saw this as an attempt by the government to control the citizen soldiers who made up the militias.  There were other areas that raised concerns and a series of papers were written called the Anti-Federalist papers that questioned the intent of the Constitution.  These questions were answered in the Federalist Papers assuring the citizens of the actual intent and it is in these papers where we should primarily turn when attempting to understand Founder’s intent concerning our Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 28 “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted 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.”

He continued this discourse in Federalist 29 “Where in the name of common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens? What shadow of danger can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests? What reasonable cause of apprehension can be inferred from a power in the Union to prescribe regulations for the militia, and to command its services when necessary, while the particular States are to have the sole and exclusive appointment of the officers? If it were possible seriously to indulge a jealousy of the militia upon any conceivable establishment under the federal government, the circumstance of the officers being in the appointment of the States ought at once to extinguish it. There can be no doubt that this circumstance will always secure to them a preponderating influence over the militia.”

James Madison wrote in Federalist 46 “The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger. That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism. Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”

The effectiveness and usefulness of volunteer citizen soldiers was realized well into the American Civil War.  Here in Lebanon County on the north side of town a park, known as Monument Park, stands in recognition of the 93rd Volunteer Regiment.  A placard at the monument reads

These grounds are part of the site of “Camp Coleman,” where the 93rd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers trained during the autumn of 1861 for participation in the American Civil War.  The regiment was mustered into the service of the United States on October 28, 1861, with an enrollment of 1,020 officers and men.  The 93rd participated in 26 major battles of the Civil War, serving honorably with the Union Armies of the Potomac and Shenandoah, until mustering out on June 27, 1865.

This had nothing to do with a National Guard but is support of the right of the citizen to bear arms.  The structure of the 2nd Amendment is worth mentioning.  The principle clause in the statement is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  The preceding clause is the relationship of this right in the context of a federal Government; that, at times, it may be necessary to rally the citizen soldiers in defense of their country in order to maintain freedom.  It goes further.  The clause is the support of the individual right to bear arms even when bearing those arms is in the protection of the State from the Federal Government if that Federal Government seeks to deny the Free State.

The controlling authority of Government over our National Guard was established by the War Act of 1903 and was initiated by United States Secretary of War Elihu Root following the Spanish–American War of 1898. The act formulated the concept of the National Guard and also ensured that all state military forces were simultaneously dual reservists under the authority of the Army Reserve. This last measure was to prevent state governors from using National Guard forces as “private armies”, in many ways as had been done in the American Civil War and to ensure that the President could not, at any time, mobilize state military forces into the federal armed forces.

Further Federal control over the National Guard was established in 1948 as a joint bureau of the Departments of the Army and the Air Force by order of the Secretary of Defense, effective April 27, 1948, and by Joint Army and Air Force Adjustment Regulation 1-11-20, May 4, 1948, implementing provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 495), July 26, 1947. The chief of bureau is a general officer serving jointly on the Air Staff and the Army Special Staff. The National Security Act was signed into law the day after the Senate confirmed James Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense. His power was extremely limited and it was difficult for him to exercise the authority to make his office effective. This was later changed in the amendment to the act in 1949, creating what was to be the Department of Defense.

While the militia of citizen soldiers stands behind the tradition of the National Guard its evolution to today’s National Guard has made it an entirely different creature.  That is not to diminish the role of the National Guard simply to state the historical obvious.  The comparison of claiming that a well-regulated militia exists as our National Guard is to betray the intentions of the 2nd Amendment entirely.

Furthermore. the founders would never have referred to the Federal Government as The State as is often implied in those who think the Federal Government should regulate firearms.  To do so at this period of history before the dumbing down of our educational system would have been a death toll to the constitution and the Bill Of Rights for fear of a Centralized Government where the powers of the individual states would have been subjected to the Federal STATE!

Those who imply this means the National Guard are totally devoid of history.  While the National Guard evolved from the role of the militia in government the claim that the National Guard was the miltia is a distortion of history.  Certainly the state of the National Guard in being regulated through Federal Military Agencies during times of peace would have been unthinkable with our founders.

In spite of assurance by the Federalists, Anti-Federalists insisted upon a bill of Rights and won their case.  The Anti-Federalists persisted in favor of a Bill of Rights during the ratification debates, but also were against ratification, and consequently several of the state ratification conventions gave their assent with accompanying resolutions proposing amendments to be added. In 1788, the Virginia Ratifying Convention made this recommendation:

That those clauses which declare that Congress shall not exercise certain powers be not interpreted in any manner whatsoever to extend the powers of Congress. But that they may be construed either as making exceptions to the specified powers where this shall be the case, or otherwise as inserted merely for greater caution.

This proposal ultimately led to the Ninth Amendment.

In 1789, while introducing to the House of Representatives nineteen draft Amendments, James Madison addressed what would become the Ninth Amendment as follows:

It has been objected also against a Bill of Rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution.

The exceptions here or elsewhere in the constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people; or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.

This was an intermediate form of the Ninth Amendment that borrowed language from the Virginia proposal, while foreshadowing the final version.

The final text of the Ninth Amendment, like Madison’s draft, speaks of other rights than those enumerated in the Constitution. The character of those other rights was indicated by Madison in his speech introducing the Bill of Rights:

It has been said, by way of objection to a bill of rights….that in the Federal Government they are unnecessary, because the powers are enumerated, and it follows, that all that are not granted by the constitution are retained; that the constitution is a bill of powers, the great residuum being the rights of the people; and, therefore, a bill of rights cannot be so necessary as if the residuum was thrown into the hands of the Government. I admit that these arguments are not entirely without foundation, but they are not as conclusive to the extent it has been proposed. It is true the powers of the general government are circumscribed; they are directed to particular objects; but even if government keeps within those limits, it has certain discretionary powers with respect to the means, which may admit of abuse.

The First through Eighth Amendments address the means by which the federal government exercises its enumerated powers, while the Ninth Amendment addresses a “great residuum” of rights that have not been “thrown into the hands of the government,” as Madison put it. The Ninth Amendment became part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791 upon ratification by three-fourths of the states.  It states quite distinctly that:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This is followed by the 10th Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Tenth Amendment is similar to an earlier provision of the Articles of Confederation: “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.”

When he introduced the Tenth Amendment in Congress, James Madison explained that many states were eager to ratify this amendment, despite critics who deemed the amendment superfluous or unnecessary:

I find, from looking into the amendments proposed by the State conventions, that several are particularly anxious that it should be declared in the Constitution, that the powers not therein delegated should be reserved to the several States. Perhaps words which may define this more precisely than the whole of the instrument now does, may be considered as superfluous. I admit they may be deemed unnecessary: but there can be no harm in making such a declaration, if gentlemen will allow that the fact is as stated. I am sure I understand it so, and do therefore propose it.

Thank God for James Madison’s good sense.  The amendment rendered unambiguous what had previously been at most a mere suggestion or implication.

The phrase “…, or to the people.” was appended in handwriting as the Bill of Rights circulated between the two Houses of Congress.

The enumerated powers of Congress do not include the regulation of firearms or their usage.  The enumerated powers of the President also does not include this authority.

As the Constitution concerns the relationship between the people of the United States and their Federal Government the matters of the Constitution are related specifically to that role, not to intrusion, at every level,  in the affairs of the State and it’s Citizens. When the statement is made that right shall not be infringed it means exactly that and as such the regulation of an Individual’s right to a firearm is not within the enumerated powers of the Federal Government whatsoever.

By exaggerating the Interstate Commerce Clause and creating a General Welfare Clause (where none was intended) the Federal Government has done exactly what the Anti-Federalists warned us it would do if the powers of the Federal Government went unchecked.

The slow progress of turning and conditioning a public to view certain law-abiding citizens as criminals has destroyed the moral fabric of this nation.  The attempt to paint all law abiding citizen who possesses a firearm outside the purposes of sport as a threat to the National Security of the United States is ridiculous.  The only threat that these law-abiding citizens may possess is a threat to tyranny and tyrants always recognize that threat.  In order to control law-abiding citizens and place them under oppression the citizenry must be dis-armed.  The criminal, in this case is the government, not the people.

As our government had been formed for the protection of the rights of the people and was the first to openly embrace the right of the people to bear arms in the protection of their property we see the rapidity of the intent of this administration to undermine the very fundamentals of our form of government to replace it with a new form of government that will exert tyrannical oppression over those oppose them.  Not that previous administrations were without blame, but the accelerated course that this administration is undergoing is unprecedented in the history of the United States.

The 2nd amendment is nothing more than the assurance of the recognition that the right to protect and defend ourselves does not come from government and therefore can not be regulated by government ‘except in times of military conflict and engagement.  During these times the government still can not forbid individual rights to firearms but can regulate the bodies assembled in defense of the protection of our rights and liberties whether this be a standing army or bodies of citizen soldiers but the right of the individual citizen to bear arms shall not be infringed.

Any such infringement is a violation of the Constitution and as such is outside the jurisdiction of a government in the United States of America.  It is a force so Alien to the founding principles of this nation that it has no place.  To even entertain the notion of infringing the right of the people to bear arms is a criminal act.  When attempts are done so legislatively it is an act of treason against the Governing Principles of this nation and its citizens who legally abide herein.


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