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 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.

Most of us today can not even imagine a state of total anarchy but that is what settlers in the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania endured every day. Both the French and Indian War and Pontiac's War right on the heels of that had brought a brutal non stop war for survival to this part of the colonial frontier. Because the Penn's proprietary government was incompetent and The British Military Authority was overwhelmed with administering all the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River there was a power vacuum with no one in charge.

The frontier settlers discovered this when they wrote their Remonstrance to Governor Penn in March of 1765. They complained bitterly about trading goods such as gun powder, lead, scalping knives and tomahawks with Indians who only a short while ago had been involved tomahawking, and scalping men , women and children all along the Pennsylvania frontier. Many had witnessed the brutal killing of family members. They ask what good does it do us to be rid of the French only to have our fellow citizens effectively rearm the Indians who have been attacking us? Finally they implore Governor Penn to protect them from this because that is what his government should have been doing.

But Pennsylvania was the only colony without a standing militia so their was no one to send. In essence when William and James Smith organized the Black Boys they immediately became the Civil Law. Local magistrate William Smith gave the Black boys and their actions something that few rebellions really have. He gave them a legal standing and in essence this formed the basis of his right of self defense. He pointed out that the Indian Trade Act of 1763 was still in effect that made the trading of goods with the Indians that could be used to make war illegal. Smith asserted that his men had legal standing to stop the pack trains because the traders were breaking the law.

When British Military authority confiscates 9 rifles Smith alleges that confiscation and detention of these fire arms is illegal because they were taken from men who were upholding the law. Ultimately Smith would all but write his own declaration of Independence when he tells Lt Charles Grant commanding Fort Loudoun that the British and their military passes are no good and carry no weight. He tells Grant he is the civil authority and traders need a pass from him. Ultimately he will attempt to enforce the Civil Law by attempting to arrest several members of the British military including Lt. Grant for various crimes.

James Smith, William Smith's cousin and coleader of Smith's Rebellion goes on to become a Constitutional convention delegate from Westmoreland County in 1776 when Pa. writes its state constitution. This constitution codifies the right to bear arms when it declares that" The people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state. Since they had no standing militia it is clear from this that it was intended to be an individual right. It is Pa. history that both sides used to argue this case.

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