Origins of Our Right to Bear Arms
The US Constitution and Bill of Rights was a landmark document that defined a new era of ruling by the governed. The Second Amendment was clearly motivated by clear and present danger to the ideals that caused emigrants to come to the Colonies, and it was not just written, it evolved through the events of the times and many discussions and refinements by the Founders. This Blog will be a discussion of the events, motivations and thoughts that resulted in adoption of our Second Amendment. I am not a Historian, but a student of History. Many of the references were taken from “The Founders of the Second Amendment-Origins of the Right to Bear Arms” by Stephen P Halbrook, which I highly recommend for much more supporting details.
Chapter 1- The Early Years 1768-1773
The years leading up to The American Revolution were a tumultuous time with many pressures being inflicted on the Colonial settlors, with the root cause being unfair taxation. The ever increasing frustration over taxes by Britain changed radically in September 1768, when a dire warning appeared in the Boston Gazette by a Patriot identified only as “A.B.C.”that reported that 3 things had been commanded from the Ministry.
1) The Inhabitants of this Province are to be disarmed
2) The Province would be governed by Martial Law and
3) Gentlemen who have exerted themselves in the Cause of their Country are to be seized and sent to Great-Britain.
The Boston Gazette was one of the most influential patriotic newspapers in the Colonies, and included authors such as Samuel Adams, James Otis, Josiah Quincy, and John Adams. The declaration from Britain foreshadowed what would eventually come to pass in a few years, but patriots became worried that the commands would take place immediately.
In response to the publication, General Francis Bernard met with the populace at Fanueil Hall, where he atttempted to reassure people that he had not received any communications about the disarming and generally denied all the assertions in the article. The Assembly gathered there began to claim that “by an Act of Parliament, that Subjects that were Protestants, may have arms for their Defense, and that these Declarations were founded in Nature, Reason, and sound Policy.” This assertion by James Otis was supported by the English Bill of Rights of 1689 which declared certain “true, ancient, and indubitable rights included the right that they may have Arms for their Defense suitable to their condition.” This important speech was certainly is one of the founding moments in the protection of the right to bear arms in our Country.
As far back as 1645 Massachusetts law had provided that inhabitants must have arms in their houses fit for service, so this proposed reversal was not on a newly formed Colony, but one that had the right and responsibility of bearing arms for well over a century.
The Boston Assembly decided it was important to invite Selectmen from other towns to a Convention to be held at Fanueil Hall, which was attended by delegates from nearly 200 towns. When they arrived for the meeting, Governor Bernard ordered them to disperse immediately. The Selectmen continued their convention and addressed many other rights they believed were being taken away including trail by your peers, right of petition to redress grievances, protection against searches and seizures without a warrant, taxation without representation, and whether a standing army would be allowed to be quartered with residents.
Discontent of the American colonists continued to fester primarily along taxation issues. Boston merchants agreed that they would not important any tea, paper, glass or painter’s colors during the next year unless duties on these articles were repealed. These actions caused the British to augment and reinforce their troop positions in preparation for a coming conflict. Stories about acts of violence by soldiers or other aggressions began to hit the news, some of which were true and some fabricated. Nevertheless, fans of discord expanded from Boston to the neighboring towns and colonies. This was met with further British deployment of troops, including attempts to quarter them with residents.
The dispersed troops quickly learned that the Militia they were overlooking was becoming ever more powerful, and testified to the expertise with firearms. Britain’s demands escalated, and they refused to consider any grievances until the Americans submitted.
The Americans equated disarmament as typical of the world’s worst despots such as Turkey. In an attempt to convince colonists of the danger posed by firearms, The British began circulating stories about all the mishaps or accidents caused by firearms…highlighting tragic accidents and of course making it seem like they were an everyday occurrence. Meanwhile, more troops and war ships gathered in Boston Harbor in a show of force.
Demands from the Colonists to bear arms for defense not only for one’s self, but also to collective resistance to oppression. These cries became one of the main threats to liberty. Attacks by British soldiers on the colonists were reported more frequently, some of which were fabricated, but a good portion were real.
In 1769, the Pitt Packet was boarded by British troops and tax collectors, and when a British officer fired his pistol at Michael Corbet, he missed, but Corbet grabbed a harpoon and killed the Officer. In Corbet’s trial, he was denied a trial by jury. With the fear of a massive riot as a result, the court acquitted all of the defendants on the basis that the tax collectors did not have a warranty, and that the killing was justifiable homicide in self defense. Attacks and retaliations became more frequent, along with many high profile trials. Then in 1770 the Townshend Act was repealed, and things became quieter for a few years.
Fast forward to 1773 when the Tea Act was passed, and things began with renewed vigor…