Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Second Amendment History Online - Noah Webster's Federalist Arms Mantra

 Before a Standing Army can Rule, the People must be Disarmed
Updated January 25, 2013
[Noah Webster, of later dictionary fame, was a strong Federalist who wrote an early pamphlet, An Examination Into The Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (October 10, 1787), under the pseudonym A Citizen of America. This was published only three weeks after the Constitution was made public. Webster's purpose was to defend the proposed Constitution and argue for its ratification without amendment. His view on an armed populace is not based on any stated protection for such a concept in the Constitution. There was no constitutional assurance for the armed population that Webster so clearly described as the source of power and the check on possible government tyranny. This specific problem, the Constitution's failure to assure the people's control over the government they were being asked to ratify, was emphasized in period Antifederalist arms mantras, which will be presented in future posts of this series.]
   "But what is tyranny? Or how can a free people be deprived of their liberties? Tyranny is the exercise of some power over a man, which is not warranted by law, or necessary for the public safety. A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state. . . .
   Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any other force that exists among the people, or which they can command: for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in American 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 pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive." [The Origin of the Second Amendment, p.40]

[The Origin of the Second Amendment is the documentary source for the Second Amendment History Online series. This document collection was cited over 100 times in the U.S. v Emerson decision, cited in the Parker v District of Columbia decision, as well as several times in Justice Scalia's Heller decision. The reason for the extensive citations relative to Second Amendment intent in those decisions was because Origin reprints nearly 800 pages of documents (newspaper articles, letters, broadsides, notes, convention debates, speeches, etc.) from the Ratification Era relating to the need for the Federal Bill of Rights, the necessity of an armed populace, and militia related discussion, all emphasizing the limited nature of the Federal Government's intended powers.]

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