Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - 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."

Preservation and Proposition

Our mission is to document the pivotal Second Amendment events that occurred in Frontier Mercersburg, and its environs, and to heighten awareness of the importance of these events in the founding of our Nation.

We are dedicated to the preservation of the place where the Second Amendment was "born" and to the proposition that the Second Amendment (the "right to bear arms") is the keystone of our Liberty and the Republic.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mercersburg - Birthplace and Rebellion (Part III )

By Tim McCown

Why the Smith House is the Birthplace of the Second Amendment . . .

The Sideling Hill incident on March 6, 1765, which was the first armed resistance against British Military rule began in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania . . . It is for this reason that it is the birthplace of the Second Amendment.

In 1776 when Pennsylvania ratified its first constitution, it was the first of the thirteen colonies to have a "right to bear arms" clause. James Smith, a former leader of the Black Boy's, was a member of the Westmoreland County delegation to this constitutional convention. . . It is for this reason that it is the birthplace of the Second Amendment.

In 1765 Justice William Smith conferred legal standing on the actions at Sideling Hill of James Smith and the Black Boys to secure firearms that were illegally confiscated, it is claimed, by soldiers of the Crown. . . It is for this reason that it is the birthplace of the Second Amendment.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Life, Liberty, and Property - Lost

"The Enoch Brown Massacre"  by Kevin Rice. 

"The Enoch Brown Massacre".  A well know and shocking story (even by today's standards) of the 1764 massacre of 10 school children during the "French and Indian War" is the 6th painting in a series of historical paintings by the artist Kevin Rice of the Conococheague.  Rice chooses (for our sake) not to graphically illustrate the grizzly mayhem described in the history books, but, the terrible reality of that day in frontier Pennsylvania, cannot be mistaken.  There is no doubt that this massacre was a defining event, confirming in Pennsylvanians' minds the need for the Colony and the Crown to finally take action to secure their Life, Liberty, and Property.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unimaginable Atrocity

Although there were numerous incursions by the Indians in the late 1750's and early 1760's (in and around the settlement now know as Mercersburg), one that was particularly heinous was the Enoch Brown School House Massacre on July 26, 1764. Heinous because it involved the killing of 10 school children. This event signified the ever increasing need for residents on the frontier to protect themselves and led to the call for the formation of private militias like - James Smith and the Black Boys.  In the following account Glen Cump, Secretary Enoch Brown Park Association, explains some of the events leading up to this dreadful act. - - JW Ross

Enoch Brown Incident

By Glen L. Cump, Secretary Enoch Brown Park Association (Edited for publication)

Between the years of 1664 to 1764, several hundred thousand emigrants came to America. Many of those sturdy German and Irish pioneers settled in the Cumberland Valley. However because of the civil unrest and Indian attacks, by August 14, 1763, 750 families had abandoned their homes in the county which, at that time, included the Juniata Valley.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

John F Kennedy - On the Right to Bear Arms

By JW Ross

"By calling attention to 'a well regulated militia', the 'security' of the nation, and the right of each citizen 'to keep and bear arms', our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important."

Sen. John F. Kennedy's statement, Know Your Lawmakers, Guns, April 1960, p. 4 (1960)

Crafting the 2nd Amendment

By JW Ross (source Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School)

Legislation in a Republic is a process. The Bill of Rights was no different. Each amendment (each word) created by the Founders was discussed with the individual states (whose ratification was necessary) and some of the states "wording" was incorporated into the final amendment. Here are some of the contemporaneous suggestions . . .

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wild, Wild Mercersburg

By JW Ross

It is hard to imagine that for over 30 years (between the 1750's and 1770's), frontier Mercersburg was a wild and very dangerous place. Although we are entirely familiar with the stories associated with the phrase, "Wild, Wild, West!", one might be surprised to know that the experiences of the inhabitants of frontier Mercersburg, PA and its environs were very similar.

Like much of the newly settled West, cultural tensions were high, alcohol readily available, firearms were at hand, and "lawmen" were few and far between. In spite of this, the British government and the Penn Quakers attempted to reign in both settler and Indian actions and expectations.  Sadly, disagreements more often than not led to horrific conflicts, and responses to provocations, innocent or aggravated, were quick and deadly.

Mercersburg - Birthplace and Rebellion (Part II)

By Tim McCown

Lost in the debate about collective or individual rights is the fact that this is a right that goes back before our ancestors even got around to thinking about it. David T. Hardy in his article, "Historical Basis of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms", notes that it is almost impossible to find any document that dates an actual beginning. I have chosen for this discussion to note Henry II and the "1181 Assize of Arms", as the starting point.

In this document all British citizens between 15 and 40 were required to purchase and keep arms. What you were required to purchase was dependent upon your station in life. Even the poorest citizens were required to have leather armor, helmet and lance. Twice a year all citizens were required to be inspected by the king's officials to insure that everyone possessed the necessary arms. In addition the king was expected to depend exclusively upon his armed freemen.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mercersburg - Birthplace and Rebellion (Part I)

By Tim McCown

Justice William Smith one of the leaders of Smith's or the Black Boys Rebellion, so called because of painting their faces black to disguise their identity, was a magistrate for Cumberland County Pennsylvania. According to Phillip E. Pendleton in an article in Pennsylvania Magazine vol. XXII #3- Summer 1996, entitled, "Conrad Weiser Homestead: Finding a light into the Forest", the role of a magistrate is as follows," Justice of the Peace was one of the most powerful offices in local or county governmental system of colonial Pennsylvania. Operating independently in their loosely defined districts, these magistrates excercised a wide variety of functions. The justices directed the activities of other county officers such as the elected sheriff and county commissioners and acting as judges heard civil suits and criminal misdemeanor cases. Chosen by the Governor from among individuals of local standing and prosperity, justices made money by charging fees for issuing licenses, certifying deeds and performing marriages."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why We Are Armed

By JW Ross

In the Federalist Papers Noah Webster argued that the proposed Constitution provided adequate guarantees to check the dangers of any standing army. His reasoning acknowledged checks and balances, but did not rely on them. Rather, Webster argued:

"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every Kingdom of Europe. The Supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States."

Friday, July 16, 2010

...About Well Regulated Militias?

By Tim McCown

I'm not sure why we do not do a better job of reading and understanding our history. Those who favor more restrictive legislation regulating gun ownership continue to emphasize that the Second Amendment is a collective right not an individual one. That would be interesting considering that the rest of our Bill of Rights is about individual rights as is the history of how this came to be part of our Constitution.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Gun that Started the Revolution

By JW Ross

In 2009 the Pennsylvania House of Representatives signed a resolution recognizing the significance of the Pennsylvania-made long rifle, to the history of industry and fine art in America.

The "Official Firearm of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania", the long rifle, was the gun of choice of James Smith and the Black Boys. Vastly superior to the arms of the British infantry, usually a musket, the long rifle in the hands of experienced woodsmen was deadly to traditional British fighting formations. Accurate to between 200 and 300 yards, the long rifle was sleek, light, and reliable, making it the ideal weapon to use for hunting and in fighting irregular warfare. Frontiersmen learned their "trade" from the Indians who quickly figured out that "hit and run" attacks were more effective than frontal assaults.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The History of Guns and God

By Tim McCown

During the 2008 Election campaign Obama made a statement about Pennsylvanians and others clinging to their guns and God. Would that he and most of America only knew how far this history goes back. The original right to bear arms that our ancestors, if you are Scotch Irish, English, Scotch or Irish, brought over to this nation began as part of the 1688 Declaration of Rights that William III signed and would go on to become article 7 of the English Bill of Rights. This document was the model for our own Bill of Rights.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Individual Right to Bear Arms Asserted and Proved

By Tim McCown

In 1765, the frontier in Pennsylvania is the living breathing embodiment of philosopher John Locke's State of Nature an area where there are no rules or laws. The non stop Indian wars, The Penn's lax and often incompetent government and a British Military Authority that is suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of their task now that they must administer all of the new lands ceded to them as a result of the Treaty of Paris ending the French and Indian war, creates a governmental and administrative power vacuum. The government is failing in its obligations to provide safety and security and to provide for the common good, which will be exploited by those hoping to make a huge profit from the uncertainty that exists. To those settlers who live on the frontier, they are completely on their own.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Smith's Rebellion - McDonald v. Chicago and The Right to Bear Arms

By Tim McCown

The closing arguments in this landmark Second Amendment case were begun on March 6, 1765 when James Smith and 10 of the Black Boys, so called because of painting their faces black to hide their identity, stopped the pack train carrying illegal trade goods to Fort Pitt and burned the contraband. Here was the first assertion of the American Revolution of John Locke's ideas of self defense when government no longer successfully met its main objective to promote Life, Liberty and property.

Revolution and "Riffraff"!

By JW Ross

Individuals of Irish descent know too well the term, "No Irish Need Apply", and its meaning. Although not commonly used until the mid - 1800's, the sentiment was the same in the 1750's when boat loads of Irish (and Scot) immigrants landed in the colonies. Anti-Irish sentiment was pervasive and residents of Philadelphia, for example, couldn't wait to see the "backside" of them.

Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts . . . Absolutely

By JW Ross

Once again the Supreme Court (by a narrow margin) has affirmed the right of individual citizens to bear arms - this time in all 50 states. Many argue, and rightfully so, that of all the rights in the "Bill of Rights" the right to bear arms is not the most important. Why then does the 2nd Amendment draw such disproportionate scrutiny and polarity of opinion? It has always been so. In fact, the ink wasn't dry on the "Bill" before a number of signers to and writers of had second thoughts. After all, where in civilized history has a legitimate government guaranteed to its subjects the means and right (almost obligation) to, if dissatisfied with that government, secure its destruction by force. Never.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Frontier -- Then and Now

By JW Ross

Arizona has passed a law enforcing the federal law which makes it a crime for non-citizens to be in the US without "papers" (green card, visa, etc). Most interesting is the fact that the state of AZ felt compelled to "act" because our government has effectively refused to secure the borders from illegal intrusion.

In the 1750's the settlement now know as Mercersburg was on the western "border" of what is now Pennsylvania.

As a British colony the British government was committed to protect settlements like Mercersburg and its citizens who were in fact British subjects. That said, on a regular basis friendly and not so friendly Indians crossed over the "border" - to trade and to terrorize.