Debate Magazine

Quote of the Day

Posted on the 23 April 2014 by Mikeb302000
Or further proof that the Second Amendment is about the militia: not private arms.
In the Virginia Constitutional  Ratification debates (MONDAY, June 16, 1788.) Right after Patrick Henry makes a comment about:
the clause which gives Congress the power of raising armies, and proceeded as follows: To me this appears a very alarming power, when unlimited. They are not only to raise, but to support, armies; and this support is to go to the utmost abilities of the United States. If Congress shall say that the general welfare requires it, they may keep armies continually on foot. There is no control on Congress in raising or stationing them. They may billet them on the people at pleasure. This unlimited authority is a most dangerous power: its principles are despotic. If it be unbounded, it must lead to despotism; for the power of a people in a free government is supposed to be paramount to the existing power.
We shall be told that, in England, the king, lords, and commons, have this power; that armies can be raised by the prince alone, without the consent of the people. How does this apply here? Is this government to place us in the situation of the English? Should we suppose this government to resemble king, lords, and commons, we of this state {411} should be like an English county. An English county Cannot control the government. Virginia cannot control the government of Congress any more than the county of Kent can control that of England. Advert to the power thoroughly. One of our first complaints, under the former government, was the quartering of troops upon us. This was one of the principal reasons for dissolving the connection with Great Britain. Here we may have troops in time of peace. They may be billeted in any manner — to tyrannize, oppress, and crush us.
James Madison says:
 "There never was a government without force. What is the meaning of government? An institution to make people do their duty. A government leaving it to a man to do his duty, or not, as he pleases, would be a new species of government, or rather no government at all."
Or in more detail:
He says that one ground of complaint, at the beginning of the revolution, was, that a standing army was quartered upon us. This was not the whole complaint. We complained because it was done without the local authority of this country — without the consent of the people of America. As to the exclusion of standing armies in the bill of rights of the states, we shall find that though, in one or two of them, there is something like a prohibition, yet, in most of them, it is only provided that no armies shall be kept without the legislative authority; that is, without the consent of the community itself. Where is the impropriety of saying that we shall have all army, if necessary? Does not the notoriety of this constitute security? If inimical nations were to fall upon us when defenceless, what would be the consequence? Would it be wise to say, that we should have no defence? Give me leave to say, that the only possible way to provide against standing armies is to make them unnecessary.
The way to do this is to organize and discipline our militia, so as to render them capable of defending the country against external invasions and internal insurrections. But it is urged that abuses may happen. How is it possible to answer objections against the possibility of abuses? It must strike every logical reasoner, that these cannot be entirely provided against. I really thought that the objection in the militia was at an end. Was there ever a constitution, in which if authority was vested, it must not have been executed by force, if resisted? Was it not in the contemplation of this state, when contemptuous proceedings were expected, to recur to something of this kind? How is it possible to have a more proper resource than this? That the laws of every country ought to be executed, cannot be denied. That force must be used if necessary, cannot be denied. Can any government be established, that will answer any put, pose whatever, unless force be provided for executing its {414} laws? The Constitution does not say that a standing army shall be called out to execute the laws. Is not this a more proper way? The militia ought to be called forth to suppress smugglers. Will this be denied? The case actually happened at Alexandria. There were a number of smugglers, who were too formidable for the civil power to overcome. The military quelled the sailors, who otherwise would have perpetrated their intentions. Should a number of smugglers have a number of ships, the militia ought to be called forth to quell them. We do not know but what there may be a combination of smugglers in Virginia hereafter. We all know the use made of the Isle of Man. It was a general depository of contraband goods. The Parliament found the evil so great, as to render it necessary to wrest it out of the hands of its possessor.
The honorable gentleman says that it is a government of force. If he means military force, the clause under consideration proves the contrary. There never was a government without force. What is the meaning of government? An institution to make people do their duty. A government leaving it to a man to do his duty or not, as he pleases, would be a new species of government, or rather no government at all. The ingenuity of the gentleman is remarkable in introducing the riot act of Great Britain. That act has no connection, or analogy, to any regulation of the militia; nor is there any thing in the Constitution to warrant the general government to make such an act. It never was a complaint, in Great Britain, that the militia could be called forth. If riots should happen, the militia are proper to quell it, to prevent a resort to another mode. As to the infliction of ignominious punishments, we have no ground of alarm, if we consider the circumstances of the people at large. There will be no punishments so ignominious as have been inflicted already. The militia law of every state to the north of Maryland is less rigorous than the particular law of this state. If a change be necessary to be made by the general government, it will be in our favor. I think that the people of those states would not agree to be subjected to a more harsh punishment than their own militia laws inflict. An observation fell from a gentleman, on the same side with myself, which deserves to be attended to. If we be dissatisfied with the national government, if we should choose to renounce {415} it, this is an additional safeguard to our defence. I conceive that we are peculiarly interested in giving the general government as extensive means as possible to protect us. If there be a particular discrimination between places in America, the Southern States are, from their situation and circumstances, most interested in giving the national government the power of protecting its members.
This can be found here:
My point is the usual one I make that if one actually goes to the effort of reading the primary sources, they will find that the Second Amendment has been taken completely out of context.  There is far more evidence out there that the issue is civilian control of the military, rather than private ownership of firearms.
And the proposition that the Second Amendment in anyway sanctions rebellion is risable.

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