State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

The Second Amendment

Yesterday we looked at how our Federal Government has grown from a minimal institution, set up to represent the states internationally, to a near monster that affects almost all aspects of our life. We hear people on TV and on the radio who think this expansion is great and want more of it, and others who warn of complete tyranny. What safeguards did the founding fathers put up against a quick fall into tyranny? While the debate on gun control focuses largely on modern interpretations of wording in the Second Amendment, emotional appeals about accidents, and the logic of what is needed for hunting, James Madison revealed the real reason for the Second Amendment in Federalist #46. He states:

“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 hundreth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth of the nuber 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.”

Here Madison argued that allowing the people to be armed keeps an extra check and balance on the Federal Government. Should it try to fall quickly into tyranny, the people could (and he assumes would) rise up against it and re-establish their liberties. In yesterday’s posting, we looked at Quigley’s three foundations of political democracy. The first was that men are relatively equal in factual power. He explains:

“In a period of specialist weapons the minority who have such weapons can usually force the majority who lack them to obey; thus a period of specialist weapons tends to give rise to a period of minority rule and authoritarian government. But a period of amateur weapons is a period in which all men are roughly equal in military power, a majority can compel a minority to yield, and majority rule or even democratic rule tends to rise.” (Tragedy & Hope, page 34)

Clearly we are now in a period of specialist weapons. No one has anything that can compare to what the military has in weapons. At the same time, the Second Amendment is still important. Modern guns, though hardly capable of defeating bombs and other specialist weapons, do still have the ability to kill. They still provide somewhat of a check against a quick fall into tyranny because they can still resist on the micro level.

I disagree with the people who want to organize militias or who stock up on all kinds of weapons in fear of the government, but we must recognize that the existence of firearms and the second amendment has effectively forced anyone with ambitions of tyranny in our Country to resort to slow progress through propaganda and legislative procedure. This being the case, now is a time to fight the battle for liberty in ideas and words. Understanding what freedom is and standing for those principles will preserve our freedom more than any other action. While we fight an idealogical battle, just keep in mind that it is the Second Amendment, which guarantees our right to bear arms, that insures our civil liberties to allow us to do so.

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