Monday, December 08, 2008

'Speculation' Unto The Second Amendment

The encroachment on the right to bear arms goes far beyond the urges of the media per se--although, the role of the media may be seen as a supplement to time tested means of control. Rifles and pistols were a necessary staple in American life even before the colonies were liberated in 1783. However, the infringement of the Second Amendment's pledge took hold centuries ago in the nascent days of the republic far in advance of the advent of what we've come to categorize and recognize as the "media" came to full maturation.

Left: Captain Daniel Shays (1747-1825) became identified as the leader of a movement some would call a rebellion against capital.

The irony of Shays' rebellion is that while many citizens who had risked their lives defeating the British were struggling under the weight of high taxes and the demand for cash currency as payment for goods and services. These ostensibly, newly free citizens in a new nation argued that they were being subjected to the same conditions the Revolution was fought to overturn. One of those disenchanted veterans was Daniel Shays, a Massachusetts farmer and former Continental Army captain. Facing the loss of his own farm, Shays organized a rebel army of several thousand followers, which stormed a Springfield debtors court and arsenal, determined to attack and overthrow the government in Boston. Debtor courts had the authority to imprison as well as other measures to those found guilty.

Again, here as with many other sources of strife throughout recent history the foundation of these incidents of brother killing brother were the bankers and their class of political servants who insisted on payment with interest despite the fact that farmers were away, sometimes for many years fighting in the revolutiionary war. In the meantime, as the economy depressed in the couse of war coupled with their absence from the upkeep of their farms, naturally the liabillities of their properties grew in kind. These patriots had earned the right by blood and limb to be protected from usurious debt and decline. The governmemt had a duty and obligation to provide these heroes with protection from this predatory and unpatriotic encroachment on their livelihoodsin light of their great service to freedom and the nation.

The Shays Rebellion was a pivotal chapter in post-Revolutionary America taking place just 3 years after the establishment of the nation a little known but critical turning point in United States history. Though the rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, it had profound results that changed America forever. In the wake of the Shays’ rebellion, the states moved quickly to hold a Constitutional Convention that eventually led to the drafting of the Constitution and later, the Bill of Rights. The elite reacted and sought to guard their privileges in systemic adjustments reflected in law and structure of government. The Bill of Rights represents appeasement to the elite and was offered to Americans in lieu of an overreaching federal centralization. This barter encapsulated in the Bill of Rights makes its pledges the more sacred.

In many ways, it was Shays Rebellion that saw General George Washington, who had retired after the war, to return to politics and accept the crucial role of the nation’s first president. Wherefore a suspicion of an armed citizenry has long roots in this nation. It can be said that the particular governmental configuration of the nation itself was a means to control some of these plebeian urges.

Left: Scene from Shays Rebellion 1786-1787

These were unsettled times of economic hardship and unfair laws. Ruinous property taxes, poll taxes that prevented poorer citizens from voting, unjust procedures of the Court of Common Pleas, costly law suits, and an unstable monetary system made day-to-day life more difficult than it had been before independence. The popular demand for the government issue of paper money was ignored by the state government. With Federalization the edifice became the law of the land. The bankers' siege on the common people of America won the day.

The Regulators, as the rebels called themselves, sought to correct government and courts ridden with arbitrary and oppressive laws and excessive salaries for officials. Mobbing the court buildings in Concord, Worcester, Northampton, Great Barrington, and Springfield, they halted most court action.

The August 29, 1786, storming of the Northampton courthouse successfully stopped the trial and imprisonment of many debtors. A month later, about 600 armed rebels stormed the Springfield courthouse. Massachusetts's Governor, James Bowdoin, quickly raised an army by private subscription of 4,400 militiamen under General Benjamin Lincoln to restore the courts and to protect the property rights of the elite embodied in the state.

Captain Shays and several thousand veterans, along with about a thousand more men led by Luke Day of West Springfield, next targeted the Continental Arsenal at Springfield. A mix up, however, prevented Day and his regiment from joining Shays. Day's message to Shays was intercepted by government militia.

Left: The Black Volunteers of the Civil War. (Authentic photograph)

The Civil War would evoke some of the same tensions and unsurprising monetary relationships, which ultimately led to brothers shedding the blood of their cousins. This suspicion of popular armaments was further entrenched following the enactment of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth Amemdments. The freed slaves after all could not be allowed to become a group of armed men. The viable fears of the people were tapped in order to prey upon the culture and right to bear arms. The regime of arms control in this country continues to follow this blueprint. Social forces are marshalled in order to dismantle the pillars of our social fabric and fortitude of our most sacred documents.

The precursor to our infamous Patriot Act was hatchedby Samuel Adams of the Federalist Party with a long view on dissent and reining in the Republican oppositionin the promulgation of the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts during his administrationsimilarly undertaken in a manufactured environment of fear, war and patriotism. Samuel Adams, then President of the Massachusetts Senate, in the aftemath of the Shays Rebellion in 1787, expressed his sentiment as such: “Rebellion against a king may be pardoned, or lightly punished, but the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death." Thus the stage had been set while puppets served as featured actors in the implementation of a reign of capital over this nation.

Left: Many will try to burn the "Bill of Rights" in order to save their version of the flag.

The series of laws featured four pieces of legislation. The last of the laws, the Sedition Act, passed on July 14 declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of "any false, scandalous and malicious writing," was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. By virtue of this legislation twenty-five men, most of them editors of Republican newspapers, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down.

One of the men arrested was Benjamin Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, editor of the Philadelphia Democrat-Republican Aurora. Charged with libeling President Adams, Bache's arrest erupted in a public outcry against all of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Many Americans questioned the constitutionality of these laws. Indeed, public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great that they were in part responsible for the election of Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, to the presidency in 1800. Once in office, Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act, while Congress restored all fines paid with interest.

The assail upon the right to keep and bear arms has been framed as whether the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes. Anti-gun circles do not see the pledge in the Constitutional promise nor the inalienability of this right. Instead they argue that: “the mere presence of or access to firearms increases fatality rates;” firearms are “most likely to kill innocent people;” “handguns are not an effective means of self defense;” “handguns pose a particular public health risk;” and, “handguns in the home pose a unique danger to children and youth,” thus, regardless of what the Second Amendment says, the nation's Courts must uphold gun laws. The aim is to wrest the right from the citizenry and rest it in the government.

Left: The right to bear arms does not inhere bare arms

With the Second Amendment, men moved by liberty sought to guarantee all citizens the means to defend themselves and loved ones from dangers and to protect their country from tyranny. Moreover, the sanctity of that right retains its essence in the same way as the Founding Fathers viewed its necessity. The ramification of the Second Amendment's rights are neither quaint anachronisms nor a mere historical artifact; instead, it is a key component of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights and a deeply imbued ingredient of the cultural heritage of the American way of life. Finally, it is a right that is both individual and fundamental.

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.


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