Insurrectionist Quote of the Day

I’ve never really wrapped my head around why the Coalition to Stop Gun Ownership Violence feels the need to create a warped and ahistorical version of the Founding Fathers, and then try to pass themselves off as the true guardians of the Founders’ vision. The typical reaction from lefties is why we should pay any heed to what 18th century slaveholders had to say about anything, and is perhaps a more defensible position intellectually than making up your own history. I’ve always liked this quote from Thomas Jefferson, in a 1787 letter to James Madison:

Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one. 3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

Note the Latin phrase “Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.” which translates into “I’d rather have a perilous liberty, than a peaceful servitude.” Now, you’d think if CSGV’s vision of the Founders were correct, Madison would have scolded Jefferson’s insurrectionist ideas, but he never did. That’s the real intellectual problem with CSGV’s, quite frankly insane ramblings on history. You have all these founding fathers writing about ideas that were supposedly, in their world, an anathema, yet you never see them arguing with each about it. In CSGV’s world, our Founders overthrew the British crown, and then renounced insurrectionism. Unfortunately for them, the historical record just does not back up their assertions. I will do a series of these quotes, since gun news is slow, laying out the fact that our Founding Fathers were, in fact, most concerned with preserving the right of their people to free themselves from the yoke of tyrannical government.

CSGV often asserts that never in the Constitutional debates did the Founders mention individual self-defense as the core of the right. This is true. The core of the right, from their point of view, was that an armed population would act as a check on the power of the central government. If this version of the Second Amendment were adopted by the Courts, it would have implications that CSGV would no doubt be appalled by, such as protections for machine guns and man-portable weapons like rockets, and anti-tank missiles.

20 Responses to “Insurrectionist Quote of the Day”

  1. Andy says:

    You are correct, any sane reading of the second amendment requires that militarily useful weapons like guided missiles and artillery be available to the citizens for private purchase with some reasonable level of regulation such as no firing in residential neighborhoods without cause and you have to store the ammunition so if it blows up the neighbors are OK.

    • Patrick H says:

      I agree. Of course, then people would take it to the NBC extreme. However, I think you can argue that they AREN’T military weapons under the 2nd and have been pretty much banned from warfare anyway.

      In any case, I think most of us would be happy with just machine guns and suppressors without the NFA regulations.

      • Alpheus says:

        It’s also good to keep in mind that the usual red herrings–tanks, artillary, flame throwers, and even nuclear weapons–are either already legal, or are so expensive that anyone who is interested in doing nefarious things with these things, and has the financial means to obtain these kinds of things, will be able to evil, regardless of what laws are put in place to stop such people!

    • Arnie says:

      Yes! I agree Andy. This IS the true meaning of the 2A (self-defense covered primarily under the Ninth Amendment) and I am frankly shocked that our adversaries acknowledge that. Unfortunately, as Sebastian stated, they would never agree to the allowances granted free citizens by that meaning. *sigh*

    • Zermoid says:

      I have said for years that the 2nd Amendment should specifically protect Military Arms for civilian ownership due to the inclusion of the Militia in it.

  2. Sigivald says:

    CSGV often asserts that never in the Constitutional debates did the Founders mention individual self-defense as the core of the right.

    True (and very much for the reasons you articulate).

    On the other hand, I think they also didn’t mention it because they thought it so bloody obvious.

    After all, even at his worst, George III didn’t try to render the Colonists unable to defend themselves. I think the Founders might have been shocked at the very idea of a representative government trying to outlaw self-defense, to the point where the idea didn’t even appear as something needing to be guarded against.

    (The State wanting to prevent uprisings or insurrections? Definitely, and thus the Second Amendment we got.

    But even the Kings of Europe, with their tyrannous monarchies, never (in my understanding of medieval and Renaissance legal history, which while not that of an expert is better than average) tried to claim that self defense against other citizens [rather than against the State’s officers or up the chain of Feudal linkage] was unlawful.

    If even the Kings of Europe respected that right, it surprises me not in the least that the Founders wouldn’t have thought it something under threat.)

  3. Andy B. says:

    “. . .our Founders overthrew the British crown, and then renounced insurrectionism.”

    Not trying to defend CSVG, certainly, nor to be argumentative, but the Founders put down the Whiskey Rebellion pretty smartly in 1794, with both objective and circumstantial evidence indicating Washington, et al, intended to “make an example” of the rebels — who had a very rational and legitimate beef. I believe it was 13,000 members of militias (mostly from New Jersey, I think?) who fell all over themselves to be federalized, and get a chance to crush the western Pennsylvania farmers. One might think that rebellion sounded like a much better idea to them in abstract, than as fact.

    Admittedly, once the 5,000 or so rebels were allowed to melt into the mountains, and only 17 of them were marched on a circuitous route across the state in the snow, in December, in chains, with signs pinned on them with sentiments like “This is what happens to insurgents,” to arrive in Philadelphia (coincidentally, I’m sure) on Christmas Day, only one was convicted, and he was soon released, too. But that way it was gone about certainly suggests a spirited desire to suppress any insurgent mentality lingering in the Revolutionary population.

    • Alpheus says:

      This is a fair point; indeed, L Neil Smith’s “The Probability Broach”, illustrates an alternate reality where the Whiskey Rebellion succeeded.

      I would simply counter that the Founders probably had mixed feelings about rebellion. Sometimes it was needed, but you had better make sure that you exhausted all your options before you resorted to it.

      I believe this sentiment is expressed in the Declaration of Independence itself.

      • Andy B. says:

        “I would simply counter that the Founders probably had mixed feelings about rebellion.”

        I think the mixed feelings were the timeless ones; things seem like a good idea when they’re abstract and aimed at someone else; but they’re never acceptable when it leads to your own ox being gored.

    • Arnie says:

      Fascinating! Absolutely fascinating!! I’d read about this major incident, but never the detailed sentiments behind it. Wonderful! Thank you, Andy B!

  4. asdf says:

    To be fair, the Second Amendment was not originally intended as a restraint against state governments. A complete ban on pistols (for example) within a state would have been perfectly constitutional at the time, provided that state’s constitution didn’t stand in the way.

  5. Alpheus says:

    I’m amused to see that Jefferson has reached the same conclusion that I have: anarcho-capitalism is probably the best government, but fat chance convincing others to accept it! Just imagine what the world would look like today if the anarcho-capitalists of the day had risen up and tried to establish their form of government!

    All three of them would probably have been ignored.

    Having said that, this is where I tend to part ways from a lot of anarcho-capitalists: Where others see a supplanting of the Articles of Confederation, I’m not entirely convinced that the Articles would have been enough to cement an ethos of liberty among Americans. Between the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, we now have a national dialogue that helps us talk about rights on both a federal and a state level!

    • asdf says:

      A quick reading of the preamble to the BOR makes it abundantly clear that its intent was to prevent a misconstruction of powers delegated to the federal government. This preamble is mysteriously missing from both the Heritage Foundation and the ACLU’s pocket constitutions, among others, but it leaves little room for doubt as to its original intent – which does not include placing restraint on the states. The 14thb amendment is the only obstacle to gun control laws at the state level.

      • Alpheus says:

        While it’s true that the Bill of Rights was only a limit on the Federal Government–something that even Jefferson accepted–having the Bill of Rights opened the door to the 14th Amendment, and, for that matter, for having similar rights recognized at the State level.

        I cannot remember how many States had official religions when the First Amendment was passed–I think it was six or so–but it’s my understanding that over time, those States that had official religions gradually came more in line with the 1st Amendment on their own.

        I’m inclined to think that, had it not been for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that those states may have kept their State religions, and may have even “doubled down” on other things as well…

        On the other hand, we’re talking about “what if” scenarios that can be fun to think about, but we may be completely off base as well, looking back on things. (That’s the danger of speculation: you never know when you get things wrong! :-)

        • Arnie says:

          You are essentially correct, Alphaeus! Nearly every State had an establishment of some vestige of Christianity written right in their very Constitutions at the time of the American Revolution. Although they nearly all have changed at the present day, none were changed by the adoption of the First Amendment.

          Indeed, supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in the 1820s that the 1st Amendment protected State religious establishments from federal intervention!!!

          This link will give the key excerpts from those State Constitutions. Rhode Island’s is the most restrictive. You all might be interested in Pennsylvania’s.

          I think Story’s quote is at the bottom of that thread. If not, his quote and Thomas Jefferson’s quote of the same nature are found here:

          Although I agree with the secularists that the United States was never a “Christian nation,” I am forced by these historical facts to believe it was indisputably a Union of 13 Christian nations. And the First Amendment never changed that!

          Respectfully, Arnie

        • asdf says:

          @Alpheus: (quote)”While it’s true that the Bill of Rights was only a limit on the Federal Government–something that even Jefferson accepted–”

          Jefferson did not begrudgingly accept the notion that the Bill of Rights was intended as a restraint on the central government only. He embraced the idea. Read his Kentucky resolve and then tell me otherwise! He was one of the leading voices of decentralization at the time, and was much more in line with the ideas that would later form the southern confederacy than those of a modern progressive or even “conservative” as we know them today.

  6. Arnie says:

    Thank you, gentlemen, especially Andy B and asdf, but yes all of you for the intricate history lessons! I love them! Truly I do!!!!

    Outstanding post, Sebastian, thank you!

    Sincerely, Arnie

    • Andy B. says:


    • Andy B. says:

      I just need to mention, in the spirit of repeating my Old Stories, that in 1994, the Whiskey Rebellion Bicentennial year, I tried to promote the idea of re-enacting the march of the Whiskey Rebel prisoners from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, but no one “official” had any enthusiasm for the idea; it was pretty plain that to the extent that the event was to be memorialized at all, it was going to be cast as a cute and somewhat eccentric aberration, rather than as something that pointed to some interesting historical questions regarding the evolution of our national philosophy.

      Of course it could have been organized privately, but within my own limited circles there weren’t many people up for walking 300 miles in the winter. I’m not sure I could have managed it myself.

      • Arnie says:

        A noble attempt, nevertheless! I appreciate your efforts to be a thorn in the side of political complacency. Well done, sir!