Comment by Don Kates
Kates is recognized as one of the to Second Amendment authorities
My friend Jim Wolfe has written me asking my opinion of an article by someone named Thom Hartmann who thinks the Second Amendment was invented by Southern slave- holders to allow them to arm militias to suppress slave revolts.
Google informs me that Mr. Hartmann’s historical expertise consists in his being a radio talk show host. His comments on the Second Amendment represent a new apex in historical ignorance. Our Founding Fathers believed in the importance of everyone having access to arms because that was a mainstay of liberal political philosophy in the 18th Century. The Founders views on the value of the right to arms began with Aristotle whom they revered as the font of liberal political thought. [For instance, Aristotle, POLITICS 218 (J. Sinclair trans., 1962): free government exalts an armed people, but oligarchies and tyrants “mistrust the people and therefore deprive them of their arms.”] It is perhaps necessary to inform Mr. Hartmann that Aristotle was not an 18th Century American southerner.
The same view was enunciated by Englishmen up to and including Sir Walter Raleigh who asserted that a tyrant acts “To unarm his people, and store up their weapons, under pretense of keeping them safe….” [8 W. Raleigh, THE WORKS OF SIR WALTER RALEIGH, KT., NOW FIRST COLLECTED 22 (Oxford, 1829).] For Mr. Hartmann’s benefit, let me point out that Raleigh’s comments pre-dated American slavery. Indeed they predated English settlements in America.
A modern historian notes that “Renaissance theorists as dissimilar as Nicholas Macchiavelli and Sir Thomas Moore, Thomas Hobbes and James Harrington [shared] a consensus that only men willing and able to defend themselves could possibly preserve their liberties.”; [and that] the theme of arms possession as both the hallmark and the ultimate guarantee of personal liberty appears equally in the writings of Cicero, Locke and Trenchard.”
Statements lauding the right to arms and popular possession of arms as basic to free government were common to the liberal political philosophers known to the Founders e.g., Grotius, Locke, Montesquieu, Blackstone, DeLolme and Beccaria, among many others. For Mr. Hartmann’s benefit I should point out that none of these European philosophers were slave-holders – or Southerners or even Americans. Grotius was a 17th Century Dutchman, Locke was a 17th-18th Century Englishman, Montesquieu and DeLolme were 18th Century Frenchman, Blackstone was an 18th Century Englishman and Beccaria was an 18th Century Italian. None of their pronouncements were focused on America nor did they have any interest in defending slavery in America or elsewhere. What they said about the importance of everyone having access to arms were virtual truisms to the liberal philosophers of their era.
Now lets talk about American advocates of the right to arms. For the Founding Fathers and the philosophers they revered, the right of ordinary people to arms was a precept of liberal political thought. A comment by an anonymous late 18th Century American expresses what appears to have been a well nigh universal 18th Century American view: In free governments “there is not the slightest difficulty or jealousy about putting arms into the hands of every man in the country.”
A recently published 300+ page volume offers scores of such quotes from statesmen of every important segment of late 18th Century American opinion – from North and South alike. [Stephen Halbrook, THE FOUNDERS’ SECOND AMENDMENT: ORIGINS OF THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS] A few examples:
JOEL BARLOW a late 18th Century American poet and diplomat from Connecticut published a pamphlet which was among the earliest works arguing for abolition of slavery. He also wrote a pamphlet lecturing Europeans on how and why a free society like America encouraged its people to be armed.
THOMAS JEFFERSON’s model for a state constitution guaranteed: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” Of course he was a Southern slave holder, but if that was a factor in Jefferson’s advocacy of an armed society he forgot to mention it.
ROGER SHERMAN endorsed “the privilege of every citizen, and one of his most essential rights, to bear arms, and to resist every attack on his liberty and property, by whomsoever made.” Sherman, who was not a slaveholder, was from Connecticut which he represented in the Senate until his death in 1791.
JAMES MADISON, assured Americans that they could not be tyrannized by the new federal government “because of the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” Madison was a Southerner but his endorsement of an armed people was a truism among 18th Century American whether slave-holders or not.
SAM ADAMS proposed an alternative guarantee of the right to arms: “the said constitution [shall] be never construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” Adams, who was not a slaveholder, was from Massachusetts.
THOMAS PAINE asserted that “arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world…. Horrid mischief would ensue were [the good] deprived of the use of them… the weak will become a prey to the strong.” Paine, who was not a slaveholder, was an English immigrant who settled in Pennsylvania and later in N.Y.
JOSEPH STORY summarized the views of late 18th Century Americans like himself: “one of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purpose without resistance is, by disarming the people and making it an offense to keep arms.” Story, who was not a slaveholder, was from Massachusetts.
NOAH WEBSTER, who also expressed such sentiments was neither a slaveholder nor a southerner. He was from Connecticut.
TENCH COXE who expressed such sentiment, was not a slaveholder. He was from Pennsylvania.
I did a search on Thom Hartmann, and found his “progressive” radio show – and by “progressive,” I mean “lying, entitled, Marxist twatwaffle.”
This is a guy who claims Republicans rigged the last election, and that’s the only reason they retained control of the House.
This is a guy who lauded New York’s moronic new gun control (which apparently forgot to exempt the police from its draconian policies – oops!)
And, of course, he claims the GOP’s refusal to capitulate to liberal bullying by raising the debt ceiling is “economic terrorism.”
Etc. Etc. Etc.
In other words, he’s a thinner, equally-obnoxious prog-nazi version of *insert leftarded asshat’s name here* – MSNBC standard fare.
Glad Kates bitchslapped this moron. He deserves it.
He’s also an ignorant liar,