Do We Need The Second Amendment?

God forbid, if ever the need shall arise to "refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants" in the words of Thomas Jefferson, I hope the American people will have a fighting chance to save their Republic.

This question can easily and simplistically be answered in a single word: Yes.

The United States of America was founded on the sentiment of being skeptical of powerful government: no one expected the colonies to have a successful rebellion against the British Crown. The British had the best training, military, muskets and artillery, and economy to fund their seemingly unconquerable army, and even had money leftover to hire private armies to wage war in the colonies. The few advantages the colonists sparingly had against the Crown was their innate and intimate knowledge of local terrain, their use of unconventional guerrilla tactics, and their use of rifles. Whereas the British Redcoats would line up and fire their muskets in an organized fashion (which was typical for European military tacticians), the American militias were scattered, fired upon the enemy sporadically and unexpectedly, and retreated. Chris Kyle noted the use of these tactics at the Battle of Saratoga in his book American Gun.

“Colonel [Daniel] Morgan’s unit specialized in picking off British officers while they mustered their men on the battlefield. The idea was pretty simple: cut off the enemy’s head and he floundered. The massed firing tactics that were so favorable to muskets depended on good coordination, which could generally only be provided by the officers in the field” (American Gun, pages 9-10).

It is easy to point to the Second Amendment and say, “That’s all I need to say. My argument is finished.” Utilizing this method substantially weakens your argument, since you are providing no information of substance, and are simply being redundant.

Critics of the Second Amendment often point to a certain phrase contained within the amendment to weaken proponents’ arguments. They’ll interject with something similar to, “The Founders were talking about well regulated (government) militias, not civilians.” However, if one reads the words of the Founders in other documents, it is easy to realize that this particular argument is invalid.

“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? They consist now of the whole people… with the exception of a few public officials.”- George Mason (Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention)

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”- Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to William Smith)

“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense..”- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Papers No. 28)

“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” – Samuel Adams (Massachusetts Ratifying Convention)

“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined…”- George Washington (First Annual Address to both Houses of Congress on January 8, 1790)

Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” once stated in one of her monologues that, “[…] The argument here is that the Second Amendment exists so Americans can overthrow the government. That is a view. That is a radical view.”

She acts as though the view of rebellion is ludicrous and insane, as if there has never been an instance in history where Americans have risen up against their government because they believed their rights had been infringed. To Ms. Maddow’s dismay, there have been plenty of instances.

In 1786 (two years before the Constitution was written), Daniel Shays, an American Revolutionary war veteran, along with other veterans and economically downtrodden Americans, got together to rebel against local and state tax collectors or other officials who were handing down judgments for lack of paying taxes. Although eventually beaten by the Massachusetts state militia under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln, the insurrection did send a signal to the American government, and the feeble and ineffective Articles of Confederation were later scrapped and replaced with the Constitution.

In 1794, Americans in western Pennsylvania took up arms when a new tax was put on distilling whiskey, which many small, local distilleries could not afford (many states in the union were in debt in the decades following the Revolution). The rebellion had to be quashed by President Washington himself. The outcome showed the power of the Federalists and the support of the states behind the federal government.

In 1832, the settlers in the new state of Illinois were caught between Federal troops and an army under the command of Chief Black Hawk. Many settlers were caught in the crossfire and became causalities of native attacks, as well as many Native American noncombatants being attacked by American forces. These series of conflicts in Illinois evolved into a war known as the Black Hawk war. Other more numerous conflicts with native inhabitants later became known as the American Indian wars, and revealed the struggle between Native peoples and the American military.

Perhaps one of the most notable instances of rebellion against an institution is John Brown’s raid on the armory at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859. John Brown, a staunch abolitionist, got a small band of fellow abolitionists (namely his sons and a few friends) and proceeded to attack the U.S. weapons cache at Harper’s Ferry, hoping to start a slave uprising. It ultimately failed, being stopped by Colonel Robert E. Lee, who led a contingent of US Marines to cease the rebellion. Brown was later executed for his insurrection, but “His soul keeps marching on,” with the Civil War starting two years later and slavery being abolished in all states after the Union’s victory over the Confederacy in 1865.

Even after all of these instances of the government being threatened by its constituents, even before it was written in a government document, even after the Civil War threatened a future with the Mason Dixon line being our Southern border instead of the Rio Grande River, the American government continued to respect the God-given right to keep and bear arms. God forbid, if ever the need shall arise to, “refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” in the words of Thomas Jefferson, I hope the American people will have a fighting chance to save their Republic.


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