Thursday, June 27, 2024

The Origin of the Second Amendment - Early Sources On America's Armed Civil Population, Part 3

The Freemen Of Boston Recommend That Inhabitants Obtain Arms

As noted in Part 2, Britain began treating Americans as conquered in 1763. The hated Stamp Act, adopted in 1765, had been successfully defeated by Americans associating to boycott British goods in an organized manner resulting in the Act's repeal in 1766. Along with repeal came the Declaratory Act claiming unlimited authority for Parliament over the American Colonies - a right to "bind" Americans "in all cases whatsoever". Most Americans rejected this concept outright.

On June 15, 1768, due to some rioting in Boston relating to the new Townshend Acts including a duty on tea, a request was made that British troops be sent there to protect British customs officials in the performance of their duties.

At a Boston Town meeting held September 12/13 of 1768, the freemen of Boston passed a resolution recommending that the inhabitants who did not possess arms should provide themselves at that time. The resolution noted the English Bill of Rights protecting arms for protestants, and also Massachusetts militia law that required all males 16 to 60 to possess arms and a considerable quantity of ammunition. It cited a possible war with France as the reason for passage, but it was obvious to all as being directed against British threats of armed force. A British fleet with troops arrived at Boston a few weeks thereafter.

Why would there need to be any such vote on this subject if the law was still in effect? Because after the conquest of Canada, British officials were not enforcing existing militia laws that were intended to assure all able bodied males possessed their own arms and ammunition. Instead, they wanted taxes from America to support an army to guard British possessions, help pay for the previous war, and keep the unruly colonials in line. They wanted compliance to their decrees. Parliament referred to Boston's 1768 vote as "illegal and unconstitutional", in spite of the freemen noting the English Bill of Rights and existing law in their resolution.

Based upon the vote described above and the Tea Party information from Part 2, it appears that arms possession by the male population (those who fight for defense and vote on matters relating thereto) was common, and was also understood as a right.

British troops were later involved, on March 5, 1770, in the Boston Massacre, a demonstration that turned into a deadly riot. A number of Americans were killed, and the soldiers involved faced criminal trails for those deaths.

In Part 4, writings of the two patriot lawyers who defended British soldiers involved in the 1770 Boston Massacre will be identified, and their involvement in development of Second Amendment related concepts and language regarding the armed civil population will be examined.

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