Monday, August 18, 2008

Alexander Hamilton on the Second Amendment

Hamilton's Federalist No. 29 is about the issue of regulating militias. On the one hand, it was necessary to form a "well regulated" militia in order to reduce the need for a standing army. Thus, an armed population was necessary in order to form a militia. As well, Hamilton argued that a select corps of militia ought to be formed, and that in order to eliminate the threat that the militia might pose to freedom, it was necessary for the public to be able to stop any attempt of the government to suppress freedom and therefore important that the public at large should hold firearms. This argument is clear in the Federalist 29. Those who argue just one half of the equation, that the arms were necessary to form the militia and deny that they were necessary to defend against the potential for a government assault on freedom are simply uninformed about the history of Federalism and the liberal spirit in which the United States was founded. Arguably the public can and ought to, in the view of the founders, confront attempts to suppress the ownership of firearms. A Supreme Court that adjudicates in favor of the suppression of the right to bear arms has completely lost touch with the Constitution and is no longer a constitutional body.

Hamilton writes in Federalist 29:

"The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed to the formation of a select corps of moderate size, upon such principles as will really fit it for service in case of need. By thus circumscribing the plan, it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require 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. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist."

Those historians and political scientists who argue against American exceptionalism would do well to consider that few other major polities have respected the individual sufficiently to consider private ownership of firearms a bulwark against tyranny. In nations like Russia, France, Germany and Italy, guns are routinely regulated. Backward-thinking mercantilists who have cheered Hitler and Stalin, now advocate for a botched interpretation of the Second Amendment that would enhance their own power and the power of government that represents economic elites to suppress freedom.


E. David Quammen said...

Excellent sir. Mr. Hamilton had spelled it out quite clearly earlier on:

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government . . . The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms..."

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #28.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Thank you!