Saturday, June 20, 2009

Root Causes of Never-ending Second Amendment Dispute - Part 24

Ignored Facts, Unfounded Assertions, and the Historians' Heller Amicus Brief

James Madison's Second Amendment related proposal with attached conscientious objector clause as presented to Congress in June, 1789:

"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; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person." [OSA, pp.654-655]

The historians make these three assertions regarding Madison's proposal:

Assertions #14, 15, and 16
"The final clause was derived from a similar provision recommended by the Maryland Convention. Id. at 181. Its presence confirms that the principal subject was the militia. That clause was also the sole subject of recorded House debate on the entire article." [pp.27-28]

Fact Checking of Assertion #14
Contrary to the historians' assertion, the Maryland Convention recommended no amendments to the Constitution. After ratification by a vote of 63 to 11, the Maryland Convention established a committee to consider possible amendments. This committee approved 13 and rejected 15 minority proposals. The conscientious objector clause was one of those rejected by the committee. The committee could not agree on a final course of action and failed to make any report of amendments. Without a report from the committee, the Convention took no action on any proposals of amendment, even those adopted by the committee. The source cited in the brief specified nothing about the provision being recommended by the Maryland Convention and indicated only that it was a minority proposal. [See The Origin of the Second Amendment, pp.356-361, for details from the Maryland minority about their amendment proposals.]

The Second Amendment clauses in Madison's proposal were clearly taken from the 17th provision in the Virginia Ratifying Convention's proposed Bill of Rights. The 19th provision of that same Bill of Rights was a conscientious objector clause. [FVRBA, p.192] To claim that Madison specifically based his proposal on what was actually a committee rejected proposition never adopted by the Maryland Convention, which recommended no amendments, while ignoring the proposal on the same subject in the Bill of Rights he promised to support and that he actually voted for in order to achieve ratification by Virginia is inane. One has to wonder whether the historians are just not very familiar with ratification era Bill of Rights sources or are simply trying to divert attention again to avoid mentioning that Madison's Second Amendment predecessor and its attached conscientious objector clause both came from Virginia's proposed Bill of Rights, which they have never mentioned the existence of.

Fact Checking of Assertion #15
In the historians' use of the term "militia," government authorization and control are a given, even in bill of rights provisions. Thus, their statement that the conscientious objector clause language Madison added to the Second Amendment clauses "confirms that the principal subject was the militia" completely ignores the purpose for bill of rights provisions - to protect specific rights against government abuse. Also, the term "militia" is not even found in Madison's conscientious objector clause. His objector clause was clearly intended as protection for individuals with religious convictions as an exception from government military power. The Second Amendment clauses were intended as protections for rights that were exceptions to government powers. All of the proposed protections later adopted in the first eight amendments, which were state bill of rights derivatives, protected rights against abuse of the powers given to government. The historians' implication of intended government military control over any of the protections Madison grouped together in this proposal are misplaced because neither the Second Amendment clauses nor the conscientious objector clause were intended to give any level of government power over the militia. Madison treated them only as protections for private rights against government power, and that is exactly how his contemporaries understood them also.

Fact Checking of Assertion #16
The final assertion that the conscientious objector clause was "the sole subject of recorded House debate on the entire article" is a fallacious argument that implies discussion about the objector clause can be taken as applying to the Second Amendment predecessor clauses. The objector clause was later deleted by the Senate after it had engendered numerous and contentious arguments in the House. And contrary to the historians assertion, there were statements made in the House that clearly related to the Second Amendment predecessor. Congressman Scott (PA) indicated that the conscientious objector clause would force the government to rely on a standing army, and that such reliance would eventually lead to violation of "another article" in the Constitution that specifically protected the people's "right of keeping arms." [FVRBA, p.194, OSA, p.703]

Congressman Benson (NY) wanted the conscientious objector clause deleted. He stated:
"It is extremely injudicious to intermix matters of doubt [the objector clause] with fundamentals." [OSA, p.697]
Obviously, he considered the Second Amendment predecessor among the fundamentals.

Conclusion - Assertions #14, 15, and 16 are all Erroneous
Contrary to the historians' assertions:

#14 - Madison could not have derived language for a conscientious objector clause from an amendment recommended by the Maryland Convention because that convention did not recommend any amendments to the Constitution, and a proposed conscientious objector clause was rejected in a committee.

#15 - Madison's conscientious objector clause tacked on to his Second Amendment predecessor did not confirm that the principal subject of either was the militia rather than protection of individual rights. It did not even mention the militia and was clearly a protection for private rights.

#16 - Discussion concerning the conscientious objector clause was not "the sole subject of recorded House debate on the entire article" claimed by the historians in their brief as demonstrated by Congressman Scott's comments on the right of the people to keep arms.

These errors of fact, taken along with a number previously addressed and documented, indicate that none of the signatories to the professional academic historians' Heller amicus brief are overly familiar with period Bill of Rights developmental sources. The cumulative effect of all these erroneous statements is to demonstrate that any statement in the brief regarding Second Amendment intent is unreliable and likely to be completely erroneous because it is founded on numerous errors of fact.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Root Causes of Never-ending Second Amendment Dispute - Part 23

Diversionary Arguments Abound in the Historians' Heller Amicus Brief

Completely ignoring the restrictive clause of the Second Amendment protecting "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" against infringement, the historians had this to say about Madison's version taken to Congress:

Assertion #13
"Taking the Virginia and New York recommendations as his model, Madison again made the militia the urgent question to confront." [p.25]

Fact Checking of Assertion #13
On the contrary, there was no reason for Madison to deal with militia powers that were already established in the Constitution exactly as the Federalists wanted them. As examined in the previous two posts, what Madison had every reason to do was satisfy the overwhelming Antifederalist demands for adding a bill of rights to the Constitution, the protections of which they took from those already found in the existing state bills of rights. The ratifying convention related proposals for a bill of rights invariably included protection for the right to keep arms. [OSA, pp.151, 260, 446, 459, 481, 505, 735] In the model Bill of Rights developed by George Mason, author of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, he combined his own original well regulated militia clause with protection for the right to keep and bear arms. [OSA, p.459] Both Mason and Madison understood the predecessor state bill of rights provisions as limits on the state legislatures, and that these same limits were now being placed in a federal bill of rights to protect the same rights against federal abuse of power.

What both the Second Amendment and James Madison's version were intended to do was to assure that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." This Madison restrictive language is exactly the same in both provisions. [OSA, pp.654, 716] It is also the language that the historians have consistently bent over backwards to ignore and divert attention away from whenever feasible throughout their brief. Readers are assured that the militia is what "Madison again made" the "urgent question to confront" while the right of the people to keep and bear arms is completely ignored once again in the brief. Where are the period historical sources indicating that Madison considered making the militia powers an urgent question for Congress to confront in relation to his Bill of Rights proposals? There is a reason such sources have not been cited in the brief, because they do not exist. If, as the historians assert, the question Madison was pushing as an amendment to Congress was the militia and it was "urgent", why didn't Madison even mention it in his speech to that body?

The historians presented a page-long straw man argument about what the various points in Madison's notes for his amendments speech to Congress meant. Attempting to divert all attention to the militia clause, they then emphasized that Madison "did not discuss the right to bear arms" in his speech. True, but he also did not discuss freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to petition, the right to counsel, protection against cruel and unusual punishments, and a very great number of other specific rights eventually protected in the U.S. Bill of Rights. Most of the rights he did "discuss," as the historians describe it, were simply mentioned, not discussed. Readers are informed that Madison wanted provisions for freedom of religion, the press, and criminal jury trials as protections against the states, also mentioned in his speech. But where is the "urgent" militia question mentioned in his speech or his notes? Apparently it is not as urgent as the historians purpose of diverting attention away from the right to keep and bear arms clause language.

All of these Madison notes and Congressional speech arguments are used by the historians to divert attention away from much more relevant and important information. In addition to guiding readers away from consideration of the restrictive right to keep and bear arms clause, these arguments divert attention away from the fact Madison stated that the American state bills of rights were intended to limit legislative power. This is a view that directly contradicts the historians' claim upon which this entire brief is founded. Madison stated in his speech to Congress that American bills of rights were intended "to raise barriers to power in all forms and departments of Government." This concept was repeated more than once and was a major point of Madison's Congressional speech introducing his Bill of Rights amendments. The historians are forced to ignore Madison's stated views in order to pursue their confused arguments that are founded on an accumulation of errors about Second Amendment intent. [See parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series for the historians' earliest erroneous statements regarding the intent of the state bills of rights, which contain the Second Amendment's predecessor language.]

Conclusion - Assertion #13 is Erroneous
The historians' assertion that the militia was what Madison considered as an "urgent question to confront" is without historical foundation and is used for entirely diversionary purposes in their brief. Madison never mentioned this "urgent" need for Congress to confront militia powers, and the period evidence clearly indicates, as shown in the previous post, that his concern was private rights in the case of all of the predecessors of the first eight amendments.

Root Causes of Never-ending Second Amendment Dispute - Part 22

More Error Based Confusion in the Historians Heller Amicus Brief

The historians claim that:

Assertion #12
"In drafting the amendments that evolved into the Bill of Rights, James Madison had no reason to place a private right to firearms on his agenda." [p.25]

Fact Checking of Assertion #12
The historians' claim that Madison was not intent on a Second Amendment predecessor relating to "a private right to firearms" completely ignores relevant period sources on Bill of Rights development. The Antifederalists who prepared Second Amendment predecessor language for a new federal bill of rights understood that it would protect the specified rights against the new government in exactly the same way that the state bill of rights predecessors it was based upon protected the same rights against abuse by the state governments, and Madison also understood the proposals this way (as examined in a number of prior parts of this series).

In effect, the historians are arguing that Madison did not have a clue about what he was doing with his own Second Amendment predecessor, although they do not openly state this. Instead, they do the equivalent by completely ignoring every piece of historical evidence about his efforts to organize, group related proposals, and insert these groups of related amendments into the Constitution. They also ignore the period comments by contemporaries indicating how they understood Madison's proposal. He did not intend to add a list of amendments at the end of the Constitution as ultimately occurred. Instead, Madison intended to insert amendments directly into the document at locations where related material was already located. Which provisions did Madison group the Second Amendment with and where did he plan to put it in the Constitution? Was it grouped and placed along with the Tenth Amendment that the historians have directly related its intent to? No. Was it to be placed among the militia powers that the historians have insisted all along it was related to? No.

Madison grouped the Second Amendment predecessor among a large collection of private rights protections. He wanted all of these inserted into the Constitution directly after clauses 2 and 3 of Article I, Section 9. These are the only provisions in the U.S. Constitution that protect specific private rights against violation by the new federal government. Exactly which rights did he group his Second Amendment related language with? - First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendment predecessors, private rights protecting provisions all. [OSA, pp.654-656]

Based on Madison's own actions, it is clear that the historians' assertion is completely off base. Further evidence of Madison's private rights understanding is found in the fact that contemporaries who commented on this proposal understood it just as he did - as protection for private arms rights.

Fisher Ames, a Massachusetts member of the House wrote this about Madison's proposals:

"The rights of conscience, of bearing arms, of changing the government, are declared to be inherent in the people. Freedom of the press, too." [OSA, p.668]

Tench Coxe's article explaining the purpose for every one of Madison's proposals treated the Second Amendment predecessor as assuring that "the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms." For what purposes? To prevent tyranny by the government itself or by government raised military forces. [OSA, p.671]

Conclusion - Assertion #12 is Erroneous
The period evidence directly contradicts the historians on this matter. Madison had every reason to pursue a Bill of Rights provision protecting the private right to keep and bear of arms. Madison's actions regarding the Second Amendment are no different than those relating to the other private rights protections in the first eight amendments.

Readers of the professional historians' Heller amicus brief have two choices. They can choose to ignore the period evidence indicating the Second Amendment was intended to protect private rights, just as the historians have done. The alternative is to give the Founders a little credit for understanding exactly what they were doing and saying exactly what they meant by recognizing that the historians have founded their brief on an accumulation of errors that undermine every claim they make about the intent of the Second Amendment and its predecessors.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Root Causes of Never-ending Second Amendment Dispute - Part 21

Error Based Confusion Reigns In Historians' Heller Amicus Brief

Professor Rakove's brief presented historical material in proper
chronological order with one exception. That exception was
presentations of subsequently adopted right to keep arms proposals
from Virginia and New York that were followed in the brief by
discussion of three earlier proposals protecting the same right. (See
parts 14, 15, and 16 of this series where the Pennsylvania minority,
Massachusetts minority, and New Hampshire Convention proposals
protecting the keeping of arms are examined in proper chronological

This relocation of discussion between the Virginia and Madison's
arms proposals about earlier protections for the right to keep arms
serves two purposes in the brief. Grouping the undeniably private
right protecting earlier proposals together at this point and
distinguishing them from the Virginia/New York proposals, which
combined the right to keep arms with a well regulated militia
reference, helps deemphasize the included right to keep arms
protection while advancing the militia powers only related view of
the historians. A second reason for using the earlier protections as
transition material separating the Virginia proposal from Madison's
version that was based directly upon it is to divert attention away
from the complete inconsistency between Madison's actual language
and the "reserved power of the states" argument that the historians
insist on reading into it.

This is James Madison's Second Amendment predecessor:

“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;” [OSA, p.654]

Here is one of the historians' interesting claims about Madison and
his proposal's intent:

Assertion #11
"But as the eventual Tenth Amendment demonstrates, Madison also
intended to rebut Anti-federalist charges of "consolidation" by
affirming the reserved powers of the states and the people, in a
manner akin to the Second Amendment." [p.25]

Fact Checking of Assertion #11
There is more than one factual historical problem buried within this
assertion. First, Madison's Second Amendment predecessor did not
even mention the "states" or "powers". Thus, it is quite clear that
Madison was not using his version of the Second Amendment
with any intention of protecting "reserved powers of the states"
relating to the militia.

Second, James Madison was a Federalist leader and one of the
Framers most responsible for taking powers away from the states
and giving paramount authority over them to a new federal
government in the U.S. Constitution. The historians' bold implication
that somehow Madison had changed his mind and for some strange
reason now intended to assure "reserved powers of the states"
relating to arming the militia is nothing short of preposterous.
What is most interesting is how the historians attribute Madison's
intent to Congressional Second Amendment language not found
anywhere in Madison's actual proposal. He changed Virginia's
"free state" reference to "free country" because his version was
intended to protect against the country's new government while
the language it was taken directly from originally protected against
Virginia's new state government.

The attempt to tie the Tenth Amendment to the Second Amendment
in the brief is without historical foundation because the two
amendments came from such completely different sources. The
Tenth Amendment predecessor was included in Virginia's list of
"other" amendments specifically because it was not developed from
the existing state bills of rights protections. It related to the division
of powers between the federal and state governments and the
people. It did not relate to any specific rights. The contrary was
true for Madison's Second Amendment predecessor. It and the
other protections later incorporated into the first eight
amendments were all included in a “bill of rights” that was
developed from state bill of rights provisions that Madison
understood as protecting rights of the people against abuse by
state governments.

The Second Amendment's well regulated militia reference was, for
example, developed directly from the 1776 Virginia Declaration of
Rights language because that was the verbatim source for the 1788
Virginia Ratifying Convention's proposed Bill of Rights clause.
Madison promised to support those Bill of Rights provisions in
order to achieve ratification of the U.S. Constitution by Virginia.
It was not the historians' proffered militia powers dispute that
brought about the Second Amendment. Instead, it was clearly the
Bill of Rights dispute that resulted in addition, not only of the Second
Amendment, but of the other first eight amendments to the
Constitution as well. [See OSA pp.457-462 for Virginia's proposed
bill of rights and list of other amendments.]

The powers reserved to the states in the Tenth Amendment include
those that are, specifically, "not delegated to the United States by
the Constitution". But power to provide for arming the militia was
delegated to the United States by the Constitution. Thus, if the Tenth
Amendment is anything like the Second Amendment as the historians
claim, neither amendment protects "reserved powers of the states"
over arming the militia because it is not a reserved power of the
states, and there is no period evidence that Madison intended to
make it one.

The Constitution itself does reserve certain militia powers to the
states - specifically officering and training of the militia. The Second
Amendment has nothing more to do with these actual "reserved
powers of the states" over the militia than it does with the powers
not reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment, such as
arming the militia. It is also clear that the Federalists, who had
super-majorities in both houses of Congress had no reason
whatsoever to alter any of the Article I, Section 8 powers they had
previously partitioned between the federal and state governments
just as they wanted them.

Conclusion - Assertion #11 is Erroneous
Madison had no intention of protecting "reserved powers of the
states" in his Second Amendment predecessor because no such
terminology is found in his proposal. Also, there is nothing similar
about the Second and Tenth Amendments. Their sources and
purposes are separate and distinct. The Second relates to a specific
right that was developed from limitations on state authority
found in the existing state bills of rights, just like the other
provisions in the first eight amendments. The Tenth Amendment
relates to proper construction of the division of powers between
the state and federal governments and the people who gave power
to both. The historians' argument about "reserved powers of the
states" being a purpose of the Second Amendment is just another
clever manifestation of the collective rights argument, which
apparently has a thousand lives and emanations in the hands of gun
control supporters.