Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The best question for "Individual Rights Scholars"

What about the issue of standing armies? Wasn't that a significant aspect of the debates surrounding the adoption of the Constitution?

The Anti-Federalist who called himself "Centinel" wrote a series of letters that appeared in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer in late 1787 and early 1788. He referred to standing armies in his second letter as "that grand engine of oppression."

The "Federal Farmer" wrote a series of letters that were published in the Poughkeepsie Country Journal in late 1787 and early 1788. In his third letter, he lamented that under the new Constitution Congress "will have unlimited power to raise armies, and to engage officers and men for any number of years." He then voiced his objection to standing armies:
I see so many men in American fond of a standing army, and especially among those who probably will have a large share in administering the federal system; it is very evident to me, that we shall have a large standing army as soon as the monies to support them can be possibly found. An army is not a very agreeable place of employment for the young gentlemen of many families.
He also stated in his thirteenth letter that "we all agree, that a large standing army has a strong tendency to depress and inslave the people."

Those in the Pennsylvania ratification convention who objected to the proposed Constitution published their views in the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser on December 18, 1787, as The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania to Their Constituents. In their address, these Pennsylvania delegates remarked that one of the helps to Congress completing "the system of despotism" is "when a numerous standing army shall render opposition vain." The delegates in the minority also stated that in case the new government "must be executed by force," the framers of the Constitution "have therefore made a provision for this purpose in a permanent STANDING ARMY, and a MILITIA that may be subjected to as strict discipline and government." They objected to a standing army because:
A standing army in the hands of a government placed so independent of the people, may be made a fatal instrument to overturn the public liberties; it may be employed to enforce the collection of the most oppressive taxes, and to carry into execution the most arbitrary measures. An ambitious man who may have the army at his devotion, may step up into the throne, and seize upon absolute power.
The Anti-Federalist who signed his 1788 essays in the Baltimore Maryland Gazette "A Farmer" gave historical examples in his second essay to show that "both political and civil liberty have long since ceased to exist in almost all the countries that now employ standing troops, and that their slavery has in every instance been effected and maintained by the instrumentality and invariable obedience of these living machines to their chief." He mentions not only that in England "a standing army is declared to be contrary to their constitution, and a militia the only natural and safe defense of a free people," but also that in America "the constitutions of all the States positively forbid any standing troops at all, much less laws for them." For example:
Massachusetts: "And as in times of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature."

Pennsylvania & North Carolina: "And as standing armies in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up."

Maryland & Delaware: "That standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised or kept without consent of the legislature."
"A Farmer" also mused in this essay: "I was persuaded that the grave would have closed on my bones, before this question would be publicly proposed in America. — Are we then to look up to a standing army for the defence of this soil from foreign invasion?" In his sixth essay, he included as a "great and manifest" defect in the proposed government "the manifest danger to public liberty from a standing army, without limitation of number, in time of peace."

If you read the literature, you find the issue was standing armies: in particular, a Federal Standing Army--not personal weapons.


  1. And what makes a state militia practical? The author here opposed the idea of central power. Presumably, that would include taxation. How is a state to maintain a militia, if the personal weapons of the members are to be issued at need by the state? It fits better into the spirit of the times that the members of the militia--male citizens of the appropriate age, in that period--would have their own weapons that they would bring with them when called up. That's a lot more like Switzerland than the modern day National Guard, especially since we now use the National Guard as a kind of extra branch of the regular military.

    But we have a choice today as to how to apply the Second Amendment in a modern context. The argument of those who favor the living document interpretation of the Constitution is that we have to adapt our reading of the text according to the times. I agree with that idea, so long as we maintain the core principle of individual liberty. And that's how I see the Second Amendment being brought into the modern age.

  2. Greg, when a student demonstrates that they have not read the material they have been given and/or lack an understanding of that material--A good teaacher fails the student.

    You have mentioned Article I, Section 8, Clause 16--what are the powers given to congress under that clause? Aren't those powers over the militia plenary?

    Your question about the state maintaining a militia demonstrate that you lack understanding of this topic.

    Additionally, your comment that militia members "would have their own weapons" demonstrates an ignorance of militia history. Many militia members lacked weapons during the early period as militia censuses from the period demonstrate.

    Furthermore, this comment demonstrates a lack of understanding of the American constitutional process.

    If one wants a new right to arms--then one goes through the process of amending the Constitution.

    I am curious, and you never ansswer my question--do you pass students who make poor arguments, use logical fallacies, do not back up their arguments with facts, fail to read the material, and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the material?

    I know you want an "independent opinion", but objectively, Greg, you come off as being pretty stupid.

  3. The problem is Greg, especially if you are going to invoke the Swiss, is that this right has very little "individual liberty".

    The Swiss have to fulfill a military obligation as was originally expected under the Second Amendment right.

    It was quite clear that the militia needs to be properly trained and organised according to the literature of the day.

    Marchamont Nedham's The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth (1656) to vindicate a militia of all the people:

    "That the people be continually trained up in the exercise of arms, and the militia lodged only in the people's hands, or that part of them which are most firm to the interest of liberty, that so the power may rest fully in the disposition of their supreme assemblies."

    Virginia's proposed Amendment — SEVENTEENTH, That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated Militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free State. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the Community will admit; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the Civil power.

    Elbridge Gerry from DEBATE ON THE MILITIA AND RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR IN THE HOUSE. The Congressional Register, 17 August 1789

    — Objected to the first part of the clause, on account of the uncertainty with which it is expressed: a well-regulated militia being the best security of a free state, admitted an idea that a standing army was a secondary one. It ought to read "a well regulated militia, trained to arms," in which case it would become the duty of the government to provide this security, and furnish a greater certainty of its being done.

    Training is an infringement upon your "individual liberty" since it's not just target practise, but drill in order to be effective in the use of arms.

    Greg, you want the right without the responsibilities.

  4. Which is it--the text of the Constitution has to interpret itself, or we can use other sources to understand it? Which is it--state constitutions have no bearing on the U.S. Constitution's meaning, or they do?

  5. Greg, you are so clueless as to what is going on.

    Do you understand comparing language in different texts to notice the wording? Can you notice that they language used is different in the different consitutions and that they cover different topics?

    Do you understand giving examples to make a point and back up my argument? Do you understand that I am showing that the concern at the time of the adoption of the Constitution was the conflict between State Militias and the Federal standing armies--not personal arms?

    I am providing evidence for my argument. You do understand that concept--don't you, Greg?

    I thought you taught English, but you seem rather clueless as to what I am trying to do here.

  6. The legislative history of the Second Amendment confirms that it protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.

    Like most of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment provoked little controversy because it simply made explicit what the Federalists had plausibly insisted was already obvious: the federal government had been given no power to infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms, just as the federal government had been given no power to abridge the freedom of speech or to prohibit the free exercise of religion.

    The drafting history of the Second Amendment, and the limited debate about it in the First Congress, confirm that the right to keep and bear arms is a right possessed by individuals. James Madison, who offered the initial proposal for a Bill of Rights, memorialized his understanding that these constitutional amendments would protect "private rights." (21) This understanding was particularly plain with respect to the right to arms because Madison initially proposed that the guarantee be inserted into Article I, section 9, immediately after the Bill of Attainder and Ex Post Facto Clauses, not into Article I, section 8, where the Militia Clauses are located. (22)

    While Madison's intent was plain, the language he initially proposed was slightly ambiguous. While Madison's first draft might have been misinterpreted to suggest that the right to keep and bear arms is tied to actual military service, any such suggestion was removed by revisions made during the subsequent congressional process. Madison's first proposal was worded as follows:

    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. (23)

    The House of Representatives revised Madison's proposal, and adopted the following version:

    A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed; but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person. (24)

    The Senate made additional revisions, and adopted the wording that became part of the Constitution:

    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. (25)

  7. Really, anonymous--can you back up that assertion with facts?

    I think you will find that a reading of the debates proves I am correct and you are telling fairy tales.

    In fact, I can tell that you didn't read what you posted, as it backs up my statement--despite the fact that it is the usual half-truths spouted by "individual right" proponents.

    "but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person."

    That demonstrates that the term bear arms related to military service--since those who are "religiously scrupulous of bearing arms" would have no problem with non-military uses of arms (e.g., hunting).

    Anonymous, it really helps if you actually read and understand the things you post, rather than just posting items where you think you understand what they say.

  8. It was so important that Congress was given the authority to regulate the militias of the various states, and citizens were obligated by law to report for an annual muster. In the course of setting out these requirements, there was a debate about conscientious objectors. A frequently-used term was "the religiously scrupulous," designating who were exempted from both the muster and a financial levy toward the common defense. After some discussion, the Founders wisely recognized that protecting the free exercise of religion preempts the need for a well-regulated militia.

    In short, religiously scrupulous refers to a person having moral integrity: acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper and bearing arms would go against his or her strong beliefs.

    By the way, if you go into the debates relating to the "religiously scrupulous" language--you further buttress my argument:

    Mr. Gerry.--This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government; if we could suppose that, in all cases, the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous, and prevent them from bearing arms.

    What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.
    Now, it must be evident, that, under this provision, together with their other powers, Congress could take such measures with respect to a militia, as to make a standing army necessary. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. This was actually done by Great Britain at the commencement of the late revolution. They used every means in their power to prevent the establishment of an effective militia to the eastward. The Assembly of Massachusetts, seeing the rapid progress that administration were making to divest them of their inherent privileges, endeavored to counteract them by the organization of the militia; but they were always defeated by the influence of the Crown.

    As I said, if anonymous knew what he was talking about--he wouldn't go about posting items that help prove my point!

  9. BTW, anonymous, the Gerry quote can be found at House of Representatives, Amendments to the Constitution: 17 Aug 1789, Annals 1:749--52.

    Can you back up your statements with an actual fact that when scrutinised doesn't prove me right--as you did with your last piece of bullshit?

    In fact, it's really funny that you keep proving that I am correct, anonymous.

  10. For me it gets very simple. There is no individual right; there is no right, unless you mean as citizens of a free country we have the right to own a microwave or we have the right to own a car. In the same way we have the right to own a gun, nothing more than that.

  11. Nelson Lund shouldn't write things that are not supported by facts.

    As with most people making the individual right claim, Lund misstates the debate.

    Elbridge Gerry prove him wrong--the issue was the militia v. standing army.

  12. Mikeb302000,

    Yes, you have a right to a microwave and a car and a gun. As long as you don't hurt innocent people with those, you have the right to them. That's the principle that I've been advocating for as long as I've visited here. We have the right to own and to do whatever does not hurt some innocent person. Those things cannot be taken away from us, unless we do wrong with them. It's that simple.

    Laci the Dog,

    So when I use outside sources to discuss what "arms" meant in answer to your question about nuclear weapons, that's not acceptable, but when you use outside sources to support your argument, it's clearly within the rules? Why don't you explain the difference?

  13. greg, your comments on arms would be valid if they truly related to the subject and were based in fact, not your opinion.

    I've already shown that you have confused the English Bill of Rights with the US one by saying that the arms were those carried by a gentleman. that could be the only source for that statement.

    Then you came up with arms that could be operated by an individual.

    On the other hand, the term arms relates to military weapons. If you are arguing that they are that type of weapon and its direct ancestor--then you have to admit that guided missiles are covered since they are the descendant of the congreve rocket ("while rocket's red glare").

    The problem, Greg, is that you are not knowledgable on this topic. Additionally, you don't quite get how law works.

    As I said, there are rules of interpreation which you obviously do not understand.

    Additionally, you have made it quite clear you have no how one backs up an argument with relevant facts, Greg.

    That is a poor sign for someone who claims he teaches this subject!

    We have the right to own and to do whatever does not hurt some innocent person.

    greg, are you saying innocent people are not killed by guns? What about Nicole Dufresne? Did she deserve to be killed?

    Unfortunately, too many innocent people are killed with guns.

  14. Short answwer, greg, you are making it pretty clear you have no idea what is going on here: do you?

  15. Laci the Dog,

    Are you suggesting that the English Bill of Rights had no influence on ours? The Founders were aware of that document, and ours adapts its ideas to our context. We don't have a class system, so "suitable to their conditions" doesn't apply, but the notion presented about "arms" fits into what was written in our Second Amendment. We also dropped the "as allowed by law" line. Good for us.

    Since the Constitution doesn't come with footnotes, we can only find parallels in similar documents that show influence.

    And no, a Congreve rocket isn't what was meant.

    By the way, did you notice that I said that one's rights to firearms is dependent on being a good citizen? If I commit a felony, I lose that right. You want to take away rights before a person commits a crime.

  16. Greg,when I think you couldn't make more of an idiot than you already have--you ask questions such as that!

    While it had an influence upon the Second Amendment--that is where it's utility ends.

    First off,someone who teaches English should notice that the two texts differ vastly in style and verbiage.

    That tells you they are two different documents and not helpful for a direct understanding of the other.

    Additionally, you demonstrate that you don't quite get the concept of statutory construction and how one uses it in the law.

    Of course,even with the two documents put together,you don't quite understand the meaning of the second amendment--and no you can't imply the things from the English Bill of Rights since they are not mentioned in the Second Amendment.

    Expressio unius est exclusio alterius

    Why wouldn't a congreve rocket be considered under the term "arms"? That was a military weapon from this period.

    Militia arms included firearms and artillery. Rockets are part of the arms used by the military.

    Ejusdem generis.

    Of course,things like that don't matter to you.

    one's rights to firearms is dependent on being a good citizen

    Does the Second Amendment make any mention of good citizens? Or does it talk about the militia?

    Your answer lies in that conundrum, Greg.

    I look forward to your demonstrating that you are not just stupid, Greg,but that you are really stupid.

  17. Greg, which is more likely to give you an idea of what something is about:
    a) Something where people are directly discussing the topic in question.
    b) where people are something similar, but not directly related to the topic in question.
    c) something totally unrelated, but it just sounds good.

    Which is more persuasive:
    a) well-supported facts that relate to the topic.
    b) half-truths and inaccuracies.
    c) unsupported opinion.

    I would hope that someone who claims to have your qualifications can answer those questions.