Contradictions and Errors in the Pennsylvania History McDonald Amicus from Professional Historians
Continuing with ratification era related arguments, the historians make this assertion:
"Federalists also argued that the ability to amend the Constitution negated any necessity for armed revolt and made obsolete any right of revolution." [pp.23-24]
There is a very good reason why not a single statement by a Federalist is presented to back up this bold assertion from the historians. It is false. Federalists were just as aware as the Antifederalists that tyranny was possible, although they thought it a much more remote possibility under the proposed Constitution than their Antifederalist opponents, who considered it very likely. This is why it was the Antifederalists who supported, developed, and politically forced Federalists to accept the Bill of Rights. Both parties had much to say about the people possessing their own arms in the future. The Antifederalists feared that the people would be disarmed. Their opposition often stated a Federalist Mantra, which in its simplest form indicated that tyranny was impossible under the new Consitution because the people were armed, exactly the opposite sentiment claimed by the historians. [See The Founders View of the Right to Bear Arms, pp.93-94, 105-110, for information on the Federalist Mantra.] Here are just four of many examples of the arms related Federalist Mantra:
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States." [Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Oct. 10, 1787, OSA, p.40]
"It was a chimerical idea to suppose that a country like this could ever be enslaved. How is an army for that purpose to be obtained from the freemen of the United States? They certainly, said he, will know to what object it is to be applied. Is it possible, he asked, that an army could be raised for the purpose of enslaving themselves and their brethren? or, if raised, whether they could subdue a nation of freemen, who know how to prize liberty, and who have arms in their hands?" [Theodore Sedgwick, Debate in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, Jan. 24, 1788, OSA. pp.230-231]
"[T]o the citizens of America . . . .
The power of the sword, say the minority of Pennsylvania is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, is is not so, for THE POWERS OF THE SWORD ARE IN THE HANDS OF THE YEOMANRY OF AMERICA FROM SIXTEEN TO SIXTY. . . . Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. What clause in the state or foederal constitution hath given away that important right. . . .the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands if either the foederal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." [Tench Coxe, Newspaper Article, Feb. 20, 1788, OSA, pp.275-276, emphasis in original]
"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them." [Zachariah Johnson, Debate in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 25, 1788, OSA, p.452]
Johnson's above comments appear in the middle of a speech in which he explains why it is impossible for an establishment of religion to be made by the government under the new Constitution. The fact is that one of the main Federalist arguments in favor of the U.S. Constitution, which had no bill of rights, was that the people could prevent tyranny because they not only possessed and knew how to use arms but they also understood their rights.
Antifederalists did not want to engage in future arguments about what those rights of the people were, or have to fight their government to retain them. Instead, they insisted that the protections limiting the state governments found in the existing American state bills of rights be added to the Constitution as a Federal Bill of Rights. Thus, their rights would be part of the law of the land, and every government official would have to take an oath to uphold them. Violations by the government of the rights of the people would be plain to all and would authorize the people to defend their rights by defending the supreme law of the land against the officials who were actually violating it.
The historians assertion that Federalists argued the right of revolution against tyranny was obsolete is false. This claim in their brief suggests that these historians are completely unfamiliar with ratification era sources, and that their opinions about how the Founders viewed the Second Amendment and an armed populace are completely unreliable.