Friday, January 25, 2013
Second Amendment History Online - Zachariah Johnson's Federalist Arms Mantra
The People are Not to be Disarmed of Their Weapons
[Zachariah Johnson was a Federalist member of the 1788 Virginia Ratifying Convention, which adopted a proposed bill of rights and list of other amendments to the Constitution after its ratification. Antifederalists, led by George Mason, had actually prepared the bill of rights and list of other amendments. Virginia Federalists managed to achieve ratification of the Constitution by agreeing to send all of the proposals on to the new Federal Congress for consideration and promising to support the bill of rights protections. Johnson's Federalist Arms Mantra was part of a speech to convention delegates on June 25, 1788. On the previous day, Patrick Henry had introduced what became the model for the U.S. Bill of Rights that contained the original two-clause Second Amendment predecessor.
In this particular instance, the armed populace argument was deployed by Johnson to counteract fears that the Federal Government would have power to make a religious establishment. Note also, as in all period arms mantras, the people's weapons that Johnson referred to included the common single shot flintlock arms and bayonets of the period, exactly what soldiers employed by the government would be armed with.]
"The diversity of opinions and variety of sects in the United States have justly been reckoned a great security with respect to religious liberty. The difficulty of establishing a uniformity of religion in this country is immense. The extent of the country is very great. The multiplicity of sects is very great likewise. The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them. The government is administered by the representatives of the people voluntarily and freely chosen.
Under these circumstances, should any one attempt to establish their own system, in prejudice of the rest, they would be universally detested and opposed, and easily frustrated. This is a principle which secures religious liberty most firmly. The government will depend on the assistance of the people in the day of distress. This is the case in all governments. It never was otherwise." [The Origin of the Second Amendment, p. 452]