Quote of the Day: Federal Farmer Edition

From our favorite Brady Board member:

What the heck does “Federal Farmer #18” have to do with modern day America? […] So, are we to believe that these letters are the foundation for our country? No. They are written by an anonymous person who did not like the provisions of the Constitution nor the idea of a strong federal government. They are not the law of the land. They are letters written more than 200 years ago by a private citizen. Do you actually believe this stuff?

They are extremely relevant to modern day America because we are still engaged in some of the very same debates, arguments between federal powers, state powers, and powers retained by the people. In fact, we’ve been arguing about that topic since the country was founded. So it’s difficult for me to see why someone would suggest they have no relevance in today’s world. I think the debates are still highly relevant, for instance, Federal Farmer 18 is fairly important for understanding the context of the militia in 18th century America. The Second Amendment begins with “A well-regulated militia,” so if you’re going to set out to interpret what could have been meant by that, Federal Farmer 18 is certainly among the sources:

A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves, and render regular troops in a great measure unnecessary. The powers to form and arm the militia, to appoint their officers, and to command their services, are very important; nor ought they in a confederated republic to be lodged, solely, in any one member of the government. First, the constitution ought to secure a genuine and guard against a select militia, by providing that the militia shall always be kept well organized, armed, and disciplined, and include, according to the past and general usuage of the states, all men capable of bearing arms; and that all regulations tending to render this general militia useless and defenceless, by establishing select corps of militia, or distinct bodies of military men, not having permanent interests and attachments in the community to be avoided.

The debates surrounding the distribution of military power, that were hashed out in the Constitution, are not serious debates today. The federalists not only won on that count, but we’ve largely abandoned the militia system as the cornerstone of our national defense. Very few people seriously advocate replacing the US Army and Air Force with a citizen militia. Our military institutions are well-respected by most people on our side of the issue, and we do not fear them. But we are still having a debate on the meaning of the Second Amendment, and that’s where these documents are relevant.

The problem is, our opponents do not wish to debate the Second Amendment. They do not even wish to debate. While their lack of real grassroots is prime cause for the downfall of their movement, failing to build a serious, intellectual case for their cause within the contexts of American constitutional law and traditions, has also been a major factor.

It is certainly possible to make such arguments, but they would not be as emotionally satisfying to proponents. The modern gun control movement largely emerged from xenophobic and racial anxieties that arose as we moved from a more agrarian, rural economy, to a more urban and industrial economy, fueled heavily by immigrant labor, and from blacks migrating to the North from the South. The history on this is fairly unassailable, but our opponents have largely taken the ostrich approach to dealing with these facts, and learning and understanding the subtle nuances of folk and constitutional traditions surrounding gun ownership.

Make no mistake, I don’t believe modern gun control advocates are fueled by racists and xenophobic fears, I think they are largely afraid of anyone with a firearm, but they have continually denied history, and denied its relevance. This has been a great advantage to our side in this debate, as it allows us to have one. The reason our opponents don’t want to debate, is because they can’t. They can’t because they’ve had no serious intellectual challenge to the case we’ve built against them. They aren’t going to accomplish that with the leadership of any of the current gun control advocacy groups, save perhaps MAIG and Joyce. MAIG is probably too political an organization, and Joyce wastes and has wasted a great deal of money on people and organizations who are far too light weight to get the job done. While MAIG is close, I still don’t think we’ve seen what will replace the modern gun control movement once it sinks into oblivion. But something will replace it.

UPDATE: More from japete, in response to jdege:

Most people are just not interested in your version of history and gun use in days gone by.

Funny, our traffic numbers say otherwise, and that’s not even counting blogs that aren’t politically centered, like The Firearm Blog, which I’m pretty sure draws about 8x the traffic this one does. Plus, we don’t need most people to be interested. Most people aren’t interested in golf either, but that doesn’t matter. As long as there are more of us than there are of you, we’ll be the ones that have more political relevance.

8 thoughts on “Quote of the Day: Federal Farmer Edition”

  1. Thanks for my monthly dose of crazy. I read through her comments and I am reminded of all the times I said that japete was certifiable. She’s a loon. Any reputable organization would make sure that she was given comfortable accomodations at a secure facility that was staffed with kind faced people wearing white coats and carrying lots of pills. Lots of pills.

    This only reinforces my decision to avoid her place like the plague. I’ve been much happier since I haven’t been subjected to her particular brand of crazy. Which is odd, since I started blogging specifically because I was irritated with her comment moderation.

  2. I can confirm that people still are interested in guns :)

    They are also interested in the history of guns. The industry probably sells more muzzleloaders today than they ever did back when muzzleloaders were considered modern. Also note the return of older style guns such as coach shotguns and western-style revolver carbines:



    While laws may have been better, and machine guns and suppressors easier to come by, it is still a pretty good time in history to be a gun nut :)

  3. Has someone pointed out to japete that Federal law as it sits now (the Militia Act) in fact very much embraces Federal Farmer 18’s definition of the Militia, “according to the past and general usuage of the states, all men capable of bearing arms”?

    We are the militia.

    Hell, under modern interpretations, she is too – the specification of men alone would never stand up to an equal protection challenge.

    It’s true that Federal Farmer (and the Federalist Papers, and the Anti-Federalist as well) is not the law of the land.

    But by golly, it sure seems to have had some sort of influence, or at least correctly identified what the “general usage of the states” was in that area, hasn’t it?

  4. @Sigivald: oh, yes! When we did, she went nuts. She did everything but stick her fingers in her ears and scream “la la la la.”

    It was hilarious.

    And sad.

  5. japete said… “You have no point here or no facts. I’m sure most people believe in defense of themselves if attacked, but, as you say, not by guns since only a little over 30% of homes even have guns in them.”

    The Washington post who is not friend to the gun movement seems to disagree with its vary old stats from 2001

    If you remove Guam, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands which aren’t even states

    The National average is 35%
    Many states are over 40%


  6. She isn’t worth my time! She gets more activity from this PR on this site and she loves it.
    Her movement is dead, we are not winning anymore, we have won! Now it’s just how much of our God given freedom we can negotiate back with the government!

  7. Before Googling, I’m testing my memory….

    Melancton Smith was thought to be the Federal Farmer, if I remember correctly.

    And it’s true, you shouldn’t use what opponents of a measure say about its effects as a guide to original intent, as they tend to make hysterical claims. However, many of the points laid out in the Federalist would never have been raised if not to answer concerns brought forward by Anti-Federalists. And it IS proper to use as a rule of construction what was said by the proponents of a measure.

Comments are closed.