Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The District of Columbia vs Heller Dissent - Part 2

Justice Stevens' Sidelined
American History 
[Updated May 26, 2015]
Part 1  documented Justice Stevens' Heller dissent Second Amendment intent argument is founded on a conflation error because it directly conflicts with the statements of George Mason, the Ratification Era framer of its two-clause language. The dissent also linked the intent of Mason's Virginia Ratifying Convention Second Amendment proposal to those of North Carolina and New York, extensions of the conflation error to those sources.
     The Second Amendment proposals of all three states were based on the original two-clause Second Amendment version in George Mason's U.S. Bill of Rights model. The Virginia convention's sole alteration of Mason's language was dropping the word “to” before “bear arms” in its first clause. [1] North Carolina adopted Virginia's proposals verbatim and refused to ratify the Constitution until they were added. [2]
1 [See Part 1 for Virginia's version and below for Mason's original.]
2 [The Origin of the Second Amendment, pp.503-506]
     New York's Second Amendment predecessor, found in its ratification declaration of rights, was very similar to the other two states. It was based directly on Mason's original model. This resulted from George Mason providing New York's Antifederalist leaders a complete copy of his model for the U.S. Bill of Rights developed early in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, which met from June 2 through June 27, 1788. 
     The documents addressed below consist of Mason's U.S. Bill of Rights model [3], a partially developed list of Mason's "other" amendments [4], and letters from Patrick Henry, William Grayson, and George Mason, Virginia Convention Antifederalist leaders, to John Lamb, Antifederalist leader in New York City. These sources independently confirm the conflation error Justice Stevens' Heller dissent is founded upon.
3 [The Origin of the Second Amendment, pp.388-390]
4 [Mason Papers, Vol. III, pp.1055-1057]
     John Lamb sent letters to Mason, Henry, and Grayson seeking cooperation on a bill of rights and other amendments to the U.S. Constitution between Antifederalists in the New York and Virginia conventions. These were delivered on June 7, 1788, and all three Virginians responded affirmatively to Lamb on June 9. Mason, chairman of the amendments committee, included the complete model Bill of Rights and partial list of the amendments then under development with his letter. These letters and documents were transmitted to Lamb by Eleazer Oswald, the same special courier Lamb employed to hand deliver his requests regarding cooperation to the Virginians.
[For historical facts not specifically cited in this part, see the history and citations regarding Virginia-New York Ratifying Convention amendment cooperation found in The Founders' View of the Right to Bear Arms, pp.131-147]
     Patrick Henry's letter described the documents sent to Lamb as follows: 
"We have concluded to send you by Colo. Oswald a copy of the Bill of Rights & of the particular Amendments we intend to propose in our Convention". 
[Mason Papers, Vol. III, p.1071 note]
     The Bill of Rights was finalized and consisted entirely of provisions taken from existing state declarations of rights. The particular amendments list was still under development and related to alterations of specific parts of the proposed U.S. Constitution.
     William Grayson emphasized the incomplete nature of the particular amendments list:
"some of our proposed amendments are finished in the Committee; the others will be forwarded as soon as agreed on". 
[Mason Papers, Vol. III, p.1071 note]
     The particular or "other" amendments list sent to Lamb consisted of thirteen unnumbered provisions, five of which were not even included in the final twenty article version Patrick Henry introduced in Virginia on June 24. The amendments sent on June 9 were very much in a developmental state because analyzing, discussing and agreeing upon possible amendments to particular Constitutional provisions took considerable time and continued throughout Virginia's month long convention.
     That the Bill of Rights was completed very early in Virginia's convention, probably the first day or two, is not surprising because Mason himself had described the speed with which one could be developed the previous year in the Federal Convention:
He wished the plan had been prefaced with a bill of rights, and would second a motion, if made for the purpose. It would give great quiet to the people, and, with the aid of the state declarations, a bill of rights might be prepared in a few hours". 
[The Origin of the Second Amendment, p.12]
     Mason's 1788 Bill of Rights sent to Lamb fit this description exactly as it was essentially a copy of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights with some added provisions from other state declarations.
     The Bill of Rights model's original two-clause Second Amendment predecessor sent to John Lamb on June 9 read: 
17. That the People have a Right to keep & to bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to Arms, is the proper natural and safe Defence of a free State;” 
[The Origin of the Second Amendment, p.390]
     Mason's June 9 letter to Lamb mentioned several parts of the Constitution to be addressed by his amendments committee in the future. This information, just as that in Part 1, establishes the direct conflict between the Founders' understanding and the Heller dissent argument regarding Second Amendment intent due to conflation.
"The Judiciary, the exclusive Legislative Power over the ten Miles Square, and the Militia, are Subjects to which our Attention will next be turned, and we shall communicate the Result of our Deliberations with all possible Dispatch." 
[Mason Papers III, p.1058]
     Mason and the amendments committee members understood they had addressed no amendments of the Constitution's militia powers as of June 9, and that none were included among the documents sent to John Lamb. The fact that the original two-clause Second Amendment predecessor was sent to Lamb as part of the model Bill of Rights on that date clearly indicates it was not understood by its framers as relating to amending the militia powers, which is the erroneous view advanced in Justice Stevens' dissent. These facts document and further exemplify the direct conflict between the founders' view of the Second Amendment and that advanced by the dissenting Heller justices.
     The period evidence presented here is entirely consistent with that in Part 1, and it independently verifies the conflation error the Heller dissent is based upon. As a result of this erroneous historical foundation, the dissenting Heller justices treat all period historical sources with well regulated militia language as support for their argument.
     Every Revolutionary and Ratification Era bill of rights predecessor of the Second Amendment with well regulated militia language is presented somewhere in the Heller dissent as supporting its opinion of intent. Since the dissent view of period well regulated militia language is based on erroneous conflation, use of closely related historical examples results in repeated conflation errors. The only evidence offered to verify the dissenting justices assertions regarding intent are appeals to their own authority, another type of fallacious argument. The Heller dissent view of Second Amendment intent is an interwoven series of fallacious appeals to its own authority based on error of fact due to conflation. The end result is a circular argument in which the very language at the heart of Second Amendment dispute, historical well regulated militia sources, are repeatedly offered as proof the dissent is factually correct.
     The Second Amendment intent argument in Justice Stevens' Heller dissent is entirely undermined by relevant period historical sources, which demonstrate it is founded on factual error.
[In Part 3, the understanding of Second Amendment framer George Mason regarding well regulated militia language will be examined, further documenting the sidelined American history nature of Justice Stevens' Heller dissent.]

Monday, February 10, 2014

The District of Columbia vs Heller Dissent - Part 1

Justice Stevens' Train Wreck
of American History

     The Supreme Court's 2008 District of Columbia vs Heller case resulted in a 5-4 split decision. Justice Scalia, writing the majority opinion, held that the Second Amendment was intended to protect the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. Justice Stevens penned a historically related dissent supported by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter arguing it protected something entirely different, the militia institutions of the states. Justice Breyer, commenting on the Heller dissent in December of 2010, stated that "historically, the dissenters were right. And I think more of the historians were with us." [1] This last September, Justice Ginsburg, referencing the dissent indicated that her "view of the Second Amendment is one based on history." [2] The problem for the dissenting Heller justices is that the historical sources they quote not only fail to support their arguments, but instead directly contradict and prove them to be completely wrong.

   To begin unraveling the Heller dissenters strongly held views, the first point to determine is what specific period sources Justice Stevens and colleagues provide demonstrating the Founders understood the Second Amendment's purpose as they do? The sole period historical link in the dissent between the Second Amendment and any founder's understanding that it was intended to protect state militia authority is a quote of George Mason speaking in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on June 14, 1788. As Mason was chairman of the convention's Antifederalist amendments committee, he was the perfect choice for determining such understanding. [3] He developed the Bill of Rights and list of twenty "other" proposed amendments that were proposed by Patrick Henry and adopted by the Virginia Ratifying Convention.[4] North Carolina adopted the language of the Virginia proposals verbatim, [5] and New York included very similar declaration of rights provisions within its ratification based directly on Mason's proposals.[6] Thus, George Mason was author of the state ratifying convention model for the U.S. Bill of Rights - the ideal founder to quote regarding the intent of its provisions.
[4] The Origin of the Second Amendment, pp.450, 456-462]
[5] Origin, pp.503-508]
[6] Origin, pp.480-483; The Founders' View, pp.149-153]
     The subject under discussion by the Virginia Convention delegates on June 14 was the Constitution's Article 1, Section 8 powers - in this specific case, the militia powers. In order to link its understanding of the Second Amendment to that of Mason, the Heller dissent presents this selection from his speech warning that the states could be deprived of power to arm the militia under the new U.S. Constitution: 
“The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practiced 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 the exclusive right to arm them.” 
[Heller Dissent, p.20]
     Following this quote, the dissent discusses the two-clause Second Amendment predecessors from the last three state ratifying conventions of 1788 as if they relate to the militia powers subject Mason was discussing: 
"But a number of States did propose to the first Federal Congress amendments reflecting a desire to ensure that the institution of the militia would remain protected under the new Government. The proposed amendments sent by the States of Virginia, North Carolina,and New York focused on the importance of preserving the state militias and reiterated the dangers posed by standing armies." 
[Heller Dissent, p.20]
     The next quote appearing in the dissent is Virginia's proposed Bill of Rights Second Amendment predecessor, described thus in the dissent: 
"The relevant proposals sent by the Virginia Ratifying Convention read as follows: “17th, That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated Militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free State.""
[Heller Dissent, p.21]
     Members of Congress developed the Second Amendment's clauses directly from this 1788 predecessor language. The dissenting justices clearly believe their Mason quote directly related to it. However, the dissenters' Mason quote actually contradicts their views. Why? Because the dissent ignores the fact that Mason did not propose the Second Amendment predecessor in his June 14th speech. In fact, he never mentioned any Second Amendment related predecessor or language in relation to the militia powers subject under discussion that day. He did, however, propose an entirely different amendment directly addressing the subject of his speech that the dissent simply ignored.
     This is the militia powers amendment Mason proposed on June 14: 
"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"
[The Origin of the Second Amendment, p.402. Mason's entire June 14 speech on this subject can be found on pp.400-402 in The Origin of the Second Amendment.]
     The dissenting justices not only overlooked Mason's actual proposal from June 14, above, they also completely ignored Article 11 in Mason's list of "other" amendments adopted by the Virginia Ratifying Convention that directly related to his militia powers proposal and speech: 
"11th. That each state respectively shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining its own militia, whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same."
[The Origin of the Second Amendment, p.460]
     George Mason's June 14, 1788 speech not only fails to support the dissent view of Second Amendment's intent, it proves the Heller dissent to be completely wrong about its intent. Mason's state militia power proposal of that date directly related to Article 11 of the "other" amendments proposed by Virginia, not to the Second Amendment predecessor. Since Mason prepared all of Virginia's amendments, and because he indicated the Article 11 related protection was the only change needed to the militia arming powers, it is clear the Second Amendment proposal from Virginia was not understood by him as protecting state militia authority. In an erroneous attempt to demonstrate Mason's view matched those of the dissenting Heller justices, the dissent simply appropriated the clear intent of Virginia's Article 11 militia powers amendment and reassigned it to the entirely separate and distinct Second Amendment predecessor found in Virginia's list of Bill of Rights protections. Mason's speech makes no such connection and, in fact, contradicts any such link.
     Mason's quote in the Heller dissent is its sole piece of period evidence indicating the Founders and dissent share the same view of Second Amendment intent. The dissenting justices' misinterpretation of their Mason speech snippet conclusively demonstrates that the dissent view of Second Amendment intent is founded on an erroneous conflation of intent with an entirely different amendment. Mason's complete comments on June 14, 1788, demonstrate the Heller dissent historical arguments to be based on a foundation of factual error.
[The next post will examine and document an entirely separate series of historical sources from George Mason's activities in the Virginia Ratifying Convention that further document Justice Stevens' Heller dissent to be a train wreck of American history.]