Monday, April 6, 2009

Root Causes of Never-ending Second Amendment Dispute - Part 15

Historians Consistently Ignore Second Amendment's Bill of Rights History

The professional historians' made this claim in their Heller amicus brief:

"Had Anti-federalists continued to want to push for the constitutional protection of firearms, ample time remained to muster support in the nine states yet to act on the Constitution. . . . If the Pennsylvania dissenters tried to place the question of a private right to arms before the body politic, their fellow Americans declined their summons." [p.24]

There is no doubt that the Antifederalist Pennsylvania minority placed their "bill of rights" including a private right to arms before the American body politic because their Dissent was one of the most widely reprinted of all ratification era political texts. They were trying to protect rights already found in their own state's declaration of rights. Directly contrary to the historians' claim, Americans did respond to the minority's demands for a bill of rights containing private right to arms protection. This occurred through the votes of delegates in six subsequent state ratifying conventions, five of which adopted such bills of rights.

The first convention to follow Pennsylvania's with a bill of rights vote was Massachusetts, where Samuel Adams attempted to add protection for freedom of the press, religion, petition, the right of peaceable citizens to keep arms, against unnecessary standing armies, and prohibiting unreasonable searches, all protections found in his own state's declaration of rights. Adams' bill of rights motion was defeated by the Federalists.

Federalist Jeremy Belknap was present during the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention debates. His period commentary regarding Adams' bill of rights protections follows:

"It was matter of speculation how Mr. Adams came to propose such amendments. . . . In a week or two afterward came along a protest of the Pennsylvania minority, in which these very things are objected to the Constitution which he [Adams] proposed to guard against by his motion. It is said the copies of these protests were purposely detained on the road; but it is supposed Adams had a copy in a letter before the Convention was dissolved." [The Origin of the Second Amendment, p.263 n4, emphasis in original]

Belknap was not the only period actor to link the Pennsylvania Minority's arms protecting bill of rights to later bill of rights proposals. Frederick Muhlenberg, speaker of the House of Representatives, linked the bill of rights proposals of the Pennsylvania minority's 1787 Dissent to the future U.S. Bill of Rights provisions under consideration in Congress in 1789 as follows:

"tomorrow we shall take up the Report & probably agree to the Amendments proposed, & which are nearly the same as the special Com[m]itte[e] of eleven had reported them. . . .it takes in the principal Amendments which our [Pennsylvania] Minority had so much at Heart. . ." [The Origin of the Second Amendment, p.799]

It turns out that Samuel Adams' bill of rights arms proposal, which the historians themselves recognized as relating to the "private ownership of firearms" (see Part 14), was also understood by the Boston Independent Chronicle and the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer as specifically included within the House Bill of Rights predecessors that Speaker Muhlenberg wrote about above. This means constitutional protection for the "private ownership of firearms" was widely understood as included in the Second Amendment's House predecessor. Here is the excerpt from these newspapers:

"It may well be remembered that the following "amendments" to the new constitution for these United States, were introduced to the convention of this commonwealth [Massachusetts] by . . . Samuel Adams. . . .every one of the intended alterations, but one, have been already reported by the committee of the house of Representatives in Congress, and most probably will be adopted by the federal legislature."

This is Sam Adams' amendment relating to the private ownership of firearms:

"And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress. . . to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms;" [The Origin of the Second Amendment, pp.701-702]

All of Samuel Adams intended alterations but one about standing armies were actually added to the U.S. Constitution by amendment. Those added were protection for freedom of the press, religion, petition, the right of the people to keep arms, and protection against unreasonable searches. These are all protections for private rights.

Even though the historians recognized both the Pennsylvania minority and Samuel Adams arms protections as relating to "private ownership of firearms," they refused to recognize their bill of rights context and the fact that these protections were already found in their respective state's declaration of rights. Ignorance of the fact that the Heller amicus brief argument from fifteen academic historians is internally inconsistent historically and directly controverted by the most relevant period sources is a root cause of never-ending Second Amendment dispute.