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The Right To Bear Arms And Self-Government

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Timothy Birdnow (Bio and Archives) Saturday, February 2, 2013

Canada Free Press

One of the problems in our modern society is a little knowledge. We know just enough to foul things up, not enough to actually understand what it is that we are supposed to be doing.

The Second Amendment is a case in point; most people know only that it says something about a right to keep and bear arms, and to a proportion of low-information voters that means they have the right to go into a fancy restaurant wearing a muscle t-shirt showing their shoulder tattoo. Americans do not even know the wording of the original source document, much less the historical context of it.

The Second Amendment did not come out of a vacuum.

First, the right to keep and bear arms comes out of English law. Henry II commanded in the Assize of Arms in 1181:

“Let every holder of a knight’s fee have a hauberk, a helmet, a shield and a lance. And let every knight have as many hauberks, helmets, shields and lances, as he has knight’s fees in his demesne. Also, let every free layman, who holds chattels of rent to the value of 16 marks, have a hauberk, a helmet, a shield and a lance. Also, let every free layman who holds chattels or rent worth 10 marks have an ‘aubergel’ and a headpiece of iron, and a lance.”

This likewise did not come out of a vacuum; the old Anglo-Saxon kingdom did not have a standing army, but was protected by a militia. England fell to the Normans partly because Harold Godwinson had to dismiss his militia so they could return home for harvest at the precise time that dual invasions occurred (Harold Hardrada, the Norse king, invaded in northern England and was squashed by Godwinson, but then William struck at Hastings.) Possession of weapons was not just a right but a duty.

Later, King Charles I sought to impose arms control, which precipitated the English Civil War in no small part. (Link)

This came out of the feudal order; when the Roman Empire could no longer act to protect her citizenry the job fell to the wealthier citizens, to local governments, and to the People themselves. Lords were those who could afford to build defensible fortresses, and knights were men-at-arms who maintained their own arsenals. Even the peasantry was armed albeit not well. Your chance of surviving a Viking raid, or retaining your freedom at least, was slim without weapons.

None of this was lost on America’s Founding Fathers.

The first government of the United States was not under the Constitution, but rather under another document, one that governed the land for a six years prior. Here is what it says about armaments:


Reposted with permission by Canada Free Press.

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