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Alexander Hamilton on Gun Control: The Federalist - (Howard Nemerov, authority on 2nd Amend.issues)

Posted on 01/11/2005 1:36:49 PM PST by CHARLITE

Under the “collective right” view, the Second Amendment is a federalism provision that provides to States a prerogative to establish and maintain armed and organized militia units akin to the National Guard, and only States may assert this prerogative. (1)

There is Always a Kernel of Truth in Any Good Propaganda Today’s “progressive” interpretation of the Second Amendment contends that the militia was intended by the Founders to mean organized state armies. For clarification, let us examine the writings of Alexander Hamilton, one of the leaders of the Federalist movement during the debates that created our Constitution. In his writings, which became codified as The Federalist Papers, Hamilton discussed the need for military regulation and organization:

The power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents to the duties of superintending the common defense, and of watching over the internal peace of the Confederacy.

It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects… This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union “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, RESERVING TO THE STATES RESPECTIVELY THE APPOINTMENT OF THE OFFICERS, AND THE AUTHORITY OF TRAINING THE MILITIA ACCORDING TO THE DISCIPLINE PRESCRIBED BY CONGRESS. (2)

If one stopped reading at this point, one could misinterpret Hamilton’s vision of the militia to mean a government-organized force under the command of state-selected officers, somewhat similar to today’s National Guard. However, he continues:

If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia, in the same body ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force. (3)

Only The Whole Truth Will Make You Free

Hamilton suddenly seems to veer from his supposed discussion about the National Guard and standing armies. Beyond differentiating between standing armies and militia, he defines the militia as an active safeguard against forced tyranny. He continues to differentiate between professional military and militia, even specifying that limits of power must be enforced upon professional troops:

It is observed that select corps may be formed, composed of the young and ardent, who may be rendered subservient to the views of arbitrary power. (4)

With the focus that qualified him to be the first Treasury Secretary, Hamilton declares that the militia is indeed the people by describing the economic damage wrought if this militia were expected to train and remain at arms like a standing army:

To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss.

To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent, would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year. (5)

He concludes his discussion and differentiation of the two forces in the form of a repeated warning against tyranny, and the ability of the militia to protect against it:

This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. (6)


Thus we have the foundation for the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights:

A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

The militia, being regulated sufficiently to answer the call to arms in times of security threat, serves a second purpose as well: to protect against the threat of a power-hungry government using a standing army for its own ends.

Hamilton delineates his vision not only of a free people bearing arms for the common defense, but also for the protection of liberty. It was intended by the framers of our Constitution that a free people be armed. Therefore, it follows that those who wish the people disarmed also wish them enslaved.


(1) Whether the Second Amendment Secures an Individual Right, U.S. Department of Justice Memorandum, August 24, 2004, Introduction.

(2) The Federalist Papers, page 178, edited by Clinton Rossiter, copyright 1961.

(3) Ibid, pages 178-179.

(4) Ibid, page 180.

(5) Ibid, page 180.

(6) Ibid, page 181.

A copy of the Federalist Papers is online at The Federalist Patriot:,/a>

About the Writer: Howard Nemerov is a Bay Area freelance writer who has a special interest in the preservation of the Second Amendment. Howard receives e-mail at

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2ndamendment; alexanderhamilton; banglist; beararms; federalistpapers; rightto; usconstitution
Comment from writer, Justin Darr - contributor to many online web journals, including Daley Times-Post, The Rant and

Why Liberals Love Gun Control.

"If there is one thing liberals love more than banning Christianity from public schools it is creating ineffective gun control laws. Despite centuries of evidence that gun control laws do not lower crime, stop violence, or make society safer in any way, liberals keep plugging away at our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

I am not going to weary you with a regurgitation of all the well known statistics showing how strict gun control laws are followed by sharp spikes in violent crime rates or with arguments asking the left to explain its intellectual consistency behind their view that the only remedy to a failed gun control law is the creation of another gun control law just like it. The real question in the gun control debate is not the statistics or the nuances of the law but why in the first place liberals are so preoccupied with making it harder for law abiding citizens to carry a gun.

Gun control laws are as old as America, stretching far back into the early Colonial period. As far as the United States as a political entity is concerned, the first gun control law came less than one year after the ratification of the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights with the “Uniform Militia Act of 1792.” In the Act, every “able bodied white male citizen” between the ages of 18 and 45 was to be enrolled in the state militia and was required to “provide himself with a musket or firelock, a bayonet, and ammunition.” In early America, it was not a question of “if” you had the right to bear arms, but whether or not you would be “required” to own a gun. This Act is significant for two reasons. First it shows the intent of the Framers was that every citizen was considered part of the militia, therefore, no citizen could have their right to bear arms curtailed by the government. Second, with the Act designating “white males” as citizens and part of the militia, it effectively deigned slaves and even free African-Americans their newly declared Constitutional rights.

It is quite obvious that there were many in early America who did not want slaves, or those sympathizing with their suffering, from having access to guns. Why? Well, it is pretty simple. If slaves had guns, then they would not have been slaves for much longer. Firearms would be used by slaves as a tool to overthrow their oppressors just as the American Colonists had done against the British and demand their full rights and dignity as citizens. The “Uniform Militia Act of 1792” opened a door that was used by many states to pass follow up legislation that made it illegal not just for African-Americans to carry or own a gun, but to even use one unless under orders from their “master.” From its inception, gun control was a vehicle to deny basic rights, prevent self defense, and oppress citizens.

Gun control laws still disproportionately regulate the African-American community, but now our benign liberal leaders want to spread the oppression about a bit more fairly. But the goal is the same. Gun control does nothing but oppress a population, deny them basic rights, make them subservient to the government, and prevent them from changing their collective conditions at the time of their choosing, rather than at the sanction of the State. Liberals do not want you making your own decisions anymore than they did the slaves. That is their job. How can they possibly restructure society so a Republican is never elected President again if people are running around not doing what they are told? Liberals love gun control for the simple fact that it directly impacts the most independent, self reliant, and free thinking of us as demonstrated by our refusal to proxy our personal protection out to an unaccountable government.

The goal of gun control is not to actually control guns and make the world a safer place, but to control people. It is not as important for you can pass a criminal background check so much as it is that you feel obligated to ask the state for permission to buy a gun. Liberals know gun control laws will not stop criminals, but it will erode the sense of independence and self reliance of regular people until they feel that they can do nothing that does not meet government approval.

Gun owners choose to protect themselves, thank you very much. They do not need government protection anymore than any of the other ill conceived plans of the left. And that is why the liberals want to control their guns. It is the only means they have to directly control the lives of those who would otherwise go on ignoring them."

Justin Darr

1 posted on 01/11/2005 1:36:49 PM PST by CHARLITE
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" . . . that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens."

NOTE WELL that this predicates possession by the citizens of military style weaponry.

(On a minor style point: it is a misnomer to say that the Federalist Papers were "codified". That would have required for their contents to be enacted into a government code somewhere.)

2 posted on 01/11/2005 1:45:46 PM PST by BenLurkin (Big government is still a big problem.)
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3 posted on 01/11/2005 2:20:37 PM PST by Yasotay
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Actually Arron Burr had better on gun control

4 posted on 01/11/2005 2:21:43 PM PST by SF Republican
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"Collective right" is an oxymoron - for example all editions Soviet Constitution were simple packed with "collective rights".
5 posted on 01/11/2005 2:23:03 PM PST by alex
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Saved for later reading. Thanks!

6 posted on 01/11/2005 8:15:25 PM PST by DaveLoneRanger (Dibs on Condi for the Inaugural Ball!)
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The Preamble to the Bill of Rights

Effective December 15, 1791
Articles in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.

7 posted on 01/12/2005 5:43:18 AM PST by vannrox (The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
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