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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/13/19

How Fears of Abolition Shaped the Second Amendment

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From Common Dreams

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Little did Madison, Jefferson, or Henry realize that one day in the future, weapons-manufacturing corporations, newly defined as "persons" by a dysfunctional Supreme Court, would use his slave-patrol militia amendment to protect their "right" to manufacture and sell guns to individuals who would use them to murder schoolchildren

Slavery can exist only in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.
Slavery can exist only in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.
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"Give me liberty or give me death." Patrick Henry

Article 1, Section 8, of the proposed Constitution had southern slave owners concerned about the future of their economy.

Slavery can exist only in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

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If the antislavery folks in the North could figure out a way to disband those southern militias -- or even just to move the militias out of the states -- the police state of the South would collapse. And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery -- and the southern economic and social systems -- altogether.

These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned more than 300 slaves), and the southern Christian evangelical Patrick Henry (the largest slaveholder in the state of Virginia).

Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8, of the newly proposed Constitution -- which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia -- could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.

This was not an imagined threat. Famously, 12 years earlier, during the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, Lord Dunmore offered freedom to slaves who could escape the American South and join his forces. "Liberty to Slaves" was stitched onto the pocket flaps of the escapees' jackets. During the war, British General Henry Clinton extended the practice in 1779. And numerous freed slaves served in General Washington's army.

Thus, southern legislators and plantation owners lived not just in fear of their own slaves rebelling, but also in fear that their slaves could be emancipated through military service.

At the ratifying convention in Virginia in 1788, Patrick Henry laid it out: "Let me here call your attention to that part [Article 1, Section 8, of the proposed Constitution] which gives the Congress power 'to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States.' ...

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"By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defense is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither -- this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory."

George Mason expressed a similar fear: "The [slave patrol] militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practiced in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless, by disarming them. Under various pretenses, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has an exclusive right to arm them [under this proposed Constitution]."

Henry then bluntly laid it out: "If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress. ... Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia."

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War (more...)
 
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