Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Second Amendment History Online - George Mason's Antifederalist Arms Mantra

The Militia May Be Here Destroyed...By Rendering Them Useless - By Disarming Them
[George Mason employed the Antifederalist arms mantra in a speech to delegates of the Virginia Ratifying Convention on June 14, 1788 in support of an amendment of Article 1, Section 8 militia powers. At the end of this speech he stated the specific amendment sought and the fact that it was the only one needed for this part of the Constitution. Mason clearly equated the militia and the people, and it is evident that he thought an armed populace was the proper defense of liberty against government raised military force. Excerpts from this speech have often been used by modern control advocates to link militia powers amendment discussion with Second Amendment development and intent, even though the subject under discussion was not adding Bill of Rights protection, which preexisted the writing of the Constitution, but alteration of a specific power that did not exist until the Constitution was written. The amendment Mason specified was not the Second Amendment's predecessor. Further information on this point can be found in Error as Foundation for the Mother of All Ideological Divides.] 
"There are various ways of destroying the militia. A standing army may be perpetually established in their stead. I abominate and detest the idea of a government, where there is a standing army. The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practised in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless - by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has an exclusive right to arm them, &c. . . Should the national government wish to render the militia useless, they may neglect them, and let them perish, in order to have a pretence of establishing a standing army. . . .

But when once a standing army is established in any country, the people lose their liberty. When, against a regular and disciplined army, yeomanry are the only defence, - yeomanry, unskilful and unarmed, - what chance is there for preserving freedom? Give me leave to recur to the page of history, to warn you of your present danger. . . Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man [Sir William Keith], who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia. . . Why should we not provide against the danger of having our militia, our real and natural strength, destroyed? . . .I wish that, in case the general government should neglect to arm and discipline the militia, there should be an express declaration that the state governments might arm and discipline them. With this single exception, I would agree to this part, as I am conscious the government ought to have the power." [The Origin of the SecondAmendment, pp.401-402]

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