Thursday, June 25, 2015

Firearms and the Founders

The Articles of Confederation don't get no respect. In general histories, they get only a line or two, explaining that they were cumbersome, or perhaps that they failed because they allowed the federal government no taxing power.

Perhaps, though, we should treat the Articles more respectfully. They were not the first voluntary compact intended to create a republic. The seven northern provinces of the Netherlands did that. But there is a lot of interesting stuff in there.

In the context of gun nuttery, there is this, Article VI:

. . . every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutred, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipment.
Nothing there about individuals maintaining personal arsenals.

The men who wrote that clause -- perhaps we could call them Founding Uncles -- were immediately aware of, and some involved in, actual fighting. The articles were voted on in November 1777, just weeks after the Battle of Saratoga, which was the first significant victory of the rebels.

Clearly the Uncles thought of force and violence as something that was the province of the government, not of an undisciplined rabble, of which they had recently observed the useless expenditure of blood often enough. They had no love for a standing army but equally no illusions about the effectiveness of "embattled farmers."

War and bloodshed were serious business to them. 

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