Saturday, June 20, 2009

Root Causes of Never-ending Second Amendment Dispute - Part 24

Ignored Facts, Unfounded Assertions, and the Historians' Heller Amicus Brief

James Madison's Second Amendment related proposal with attached conscientious objector clause as presented to Congress in June, 1789:

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person." [OSA, pp.654-655]

The historians make these three assertions regarding Madison's proposal:

Assertions #14, 15, and 16
"The final clause was derived from a similar provision recommended by the Maryland Convention. Id. at 181. Its presence confirms that the principal subject was the militia. That clause was also the sole subject of recorded House debate on the entire article." [pp.27-28]

Fact Checking of Assertion #14
Contrary to the historians' assertion, the Maryland Convention recommended no amendments to the Constitution. After ratification by a vote of 63 to 11, the Maryland Convention established a committee to consider possible amendments. This committee approved 13 and rejected 15 minority proposals. The conscientious objector clause was one of those rejected by the committee. The committee could not agree on a final course of action and failed to make any report of amendments. Without a report from the committee, the Convention took no action on any proposals of amendment, even those adopted by the committee. The source cited in the brief specified nothing about the provision being recommended by the Maryland Convention and indicated only that it was a minority proposal. [See The Origin of the Second Amendment, pp.356-361, for details from the Maryland minority about their amendment proposals.]

The Second Amendment clauses in Madison's proposal were clearly taken from the 17th provision in the Virginia Ratifying Convention's proposed Bill of Rights. The 19th provision of that same Bill of Rights was a conscientious objector clause. [FVRBA, p.192] To claim that Madison specifically based his proposal on what was actually a committee rejected proposition never adopted by the Maryland Convention, which recommended no amendments, while ignoring the proposal on the same subject in the Bill of Rights he promised to support and that he actually voted for in order to achieve ratification by Virginia is inane. One has to wonder whether the historians are just not very familiar with ratification era Bill of Rights sources or are simply trying to divert attention again to avoid mentioning that Madison's Second Amendment predecessor and its attached conscientious objector clause both came from Virginia's proposed Bill of Rights, which they have never mentioned the existence of.

Fact Checking of Assertion #15
In the historians' use of the term "militia," government authorization and control are a given, even in bill of rights provisions. Thus, their statement that the conscientious objector clause language Madison added to the Second Amendment clauses "confirms that the principal subject was the militia" completely ignores the purpose for bill of rights provisions - to protect specific rights against government abuse. Also, the term "militia" is not even found in Madison's conscientious objector clause. His objector clause was clearly intended as protection for individuals with religious convictions as an exception from government military power. The Second Amendment clauses were intended as protections for rights that were exceptions to government powers. All of the proposed protections later adopted in the first eight amendments, which were state bill of rights derivatives, protected rights against abuse of the powers given to government. The historians' implication of intended government military control over any of the protections Madison grouped together in this proposal are misplaced because neither the Second Amendment clauses nor the conscientious objector clause were intended to give any level of government power over the militia. Madison treated them only as protections for private rights against government power, and that is exactly how his contemporaries understood them also.

Fact Checking of Assertion #16
The final assertion that the conscientious objector clause was "the sole subject of recorded House debate on the entire article" is a fallacious argument that implies discussion about the objector clause can be taken as applying to the Second Amendment predecessor clauses. The objector clause was later deleted by the Senate after it had engendered numerous and contentious arguments in the House. And contrary to the historians assertion, there were statements made in the House that clearly related to the Second Amendment predecessor. Congressman Scott (PA) indicated that the conscientious objector clause would force the government to rely on a standing army, and that such reliance would eventually lead to violation of "another article" in the Constitution that specifically protected the people's "right of keeping arms." [FVRBA, p.194, OSA, p.703]

Congressman Benson (NY) wanted the conscientious objector clause deleted. He stated:
"It is extremely injudicious to intermix matters of doubt [the objector clause] with fundamentals." [OSA, p.697]
Obviously, he considered the Second Amendment predecessor among the fundamentals.

Conclusion - Assertions #14, 15, and 16 are all Erroneous
Contrary to the historians' assertions:

#14 - Madison could not have derived language for a conscientious objector clause from an amendment recommended by the Maryland Convention because that convention did not recommend any amendments to the Constitution, and a proposed conscientious objector clause was rejected in a committee.

#15 - Madison's conscientious objector clause tacked on to his Second Amendment predecessor did not confirm that the principal subject of either was the militia rather than protection of individual rights. It did not even mention the militia and was clearly a protection for private rights.

#16 - Discussion concerning the conscientious objector clause was not "the sole subject of recorded House debate on the entire article" claimed by the historians in their brief as demonstrated by Congressman Scott's comments on the right of the people to keep arms.

These errors of fact, taken along with a number previously addressed and documented, indicate that none of the signatories to the professional academic historians' Heller amicus brief are overly familiar with period Bill of Rights developmental sources. The cumulative effect of all these erroneous statements is to demonstrate that any statement in the brief regarding Second Amendment intent is unreliable and likely to be completely erroneous because it is founded on numerous errors of fact.

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