Comment of the Day: The Federalist Papers on Arms and Tyranny

Our good friend Ed Lyons has stated recently that an armed populace to protect against a tyrannical government is not what the Second Amendment is about.  He did so in this comment today.

I am totally for the second amendment. As a student of 18th-century American history, I am aware that the men who wrote the constitution and amended it sometimes brought guns to the proceedings! It is laughable that the second amendment is as small as Democrats think.

However, I do support some gun control. I think that since we now have more guns in America than we do adults who can fire them, that we probably have enough now.

I also think that many weapons that are legal now have no civilian use (hunting, home defense, etc). I am for limiting their use.

Of course, I have many GOP friends who think guns are about resisting tyranny, as if having a Bushmaster in the basement is going to matter when President Obama sends Seal Team Six to your house. 🙂

In fact the Second Amendment is to protect against tyranny.  As ElectricStrawberry makes abundantly clear, in the comment of the day.

this is a prime example of the purposeful MISeducation of the People.

“We have enough guns now” is now the dumbest thing I’ve heard from ANYONE on this subject.  Really?  The Amendment does not have a limit of “well, there are more guns than adults capable of firing them, so no more can be manufactured, bought, or sold.”  I have the right to own a friggin’ 100 million guns if I so choose.  Not 1, 2, 3, 4000 or any other arbitrary number some government weenie deems is “enough.”

Even MENTIONING “hunting” shows you’ve lost the argument to the libs.  The 2nd Amendment is not there to protect hunting rights.  Demand a refund for your 18th century American history classes….you’ve been miseducated.  Guess they forgot to teach you Federalist #46:

   Were it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular State, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty. On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

   But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm. Every government would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would animate and conduct the whole. The same combinations, in short, would result from an apprehension of the federal, as was produced by the dread of a foreign, yoke; and unless the projected innovations should be voluntarily renounced, the same appeal to a trial of force would be made in the one case as was made in the other. But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity. In the contest with Great Britain, one part of the empire was employed against the other. The more numerous part invaded the rights of the less numerous part. The attempt was unjust and unwise; but it was not in speculation absolutely chimerical. But what would be the contest in the case we are supposing? Who would be the parties? A few representatives of the people would be opposed to the people themselves; or rather one set of representatives would be contending against thirteen sets of representatives, with the whole body of their common constituents on the side of the latter.

   The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger. That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism. Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it

Guns are about protecting ourselves from a government slide to tyranny.  Not about hunting.

About Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno

  • edfactor

    I am glad to now be such a threat to the far-right wing of the party that I am worth of a front-page assault. Good! It is working. 🙂

    When the founding fathers enshrined our right to keep and bear arms, they did imagine that it was a defense against tyranny. Were I alive at that time, I would have agreed, especially based on the way governments had operated up until that time. In fact, the amendment against testifying against yourself was not about taking the witness stand, but it was about the rack, and the screw!

    But like a lot of things, times have changed since 1789.

    In 1789, most armies, including the many militias of the day were just armed citizens with rifles. The average person could get a gun that was roughly as capable as what the military had. In fact, many military units had people in them that brought their own weapons.

    Alas, times have changed.

    Yes, the average person can buy a huge variety of single-shot and semi-automatic weapons. Some can easily be converted into fully-automatic weapons, though that is illegal.

    However, the incredible, scary capability of the federal government has changed. The federal government – that you are supposed to be able to control through the purchase of an assault rifle – unlike 1789 – now has a scary array of weapons.

    I spent almost three years at the Pentagon designing nuclear submarines. I had many friends who designed weapons for the government. You would not believe the scary *!&$ that the government has.

    So while Rob and his ilk fantasize about leaning over the kitchen counter firing off rounds against a tyrannical government, the military can just vaporize your house with space-based lasers. We also can throw heavy rocks, asteroid-style – and vaporize your entire neighborhood. Or we can hit you with special lasers that will blind you instantly – so you can’t fire your guns through the windows anymore. Or maybe they will use sonic cannons that won’t just deafen you, but crush your skeleton.

    Or maybe they will use chemical or biological weapons. (But don’t worry! You have lots of magazine clips, right?) I’m sure you’re ready for that.

    Let’s just say that they are lazy, and decide to send actual people to your house. So, when Seal Team Six arrives in the middle of the night, Rob – they will have used scary surveillance to know when you are asleep – and they crash through your window – what exactly is your plan?

    Realistically,  you and your guns could hold off your local police department for several hours.

    But if you think you’re going to hold off a tyrannical federal government, you’re living in a gun-nut fantasy.

  • I now realize after all this time the Confederacy was just exercising their constitutional rights against tyranny.

    Does the Second Amendment extend down to the local level? Just wondering if people are authorized to defend themselves against the tyranny in local police forces.

    One other note. Madison, the author, later switched sides in the whole Federalist debate. How do we know that after he wrote this he didn’t change his mind on what he wrote here?

    As far as I understand it the Federalist Papers are not enshrined as Gospel, and probably aren’t good reference points in a debate. If they are, then I think then Jefferson’s writings on the inferiority of non-Caucasians should be referenced in future discussions. There is a whole host of writing from that era that one should be circumspect about.

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