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.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A History Lesson

By Tim McCown

A number of America's best historians and authors are coming to new conclusions about the colonial frontier and the American Revolution based on new primary source documentary evidence - Terry Bouton's, "Taming Democracy", Patrick Griffen's, "American Leviathan", Marjoleine Kars's, "Breaking Loose Together" (about the North Carolina Regulator Movement), and Kevin Kenny's book, "Peaceable Kingdom Lost", (about The Paxton Boys), all point to the fact that Lexington and Concord were not the beginning, but the culmination of a process that began on the frontier . . . the revolution began, not in Boston or Philadelphia, but on the frontier in places such as today's - Mercersburg, Pa.
In fact, Patrick Griffen states in, "American Leviathan", that the beginning of the end for British Rule in North America was Sideling Hill, in Pennsylvania. Sideling Hill was the beginning of what is know as Smith's rebellion. This was where James Smith and ten, some sources say eleven Black Boys (so called because they painted their faces black to avoid identification), burned sixty three of eighty one pack horse loads of trade goods bound for Fort Pitt. These sixty three pack horses were considered illegal as they were carrying "war materials" (tomahawks, scalping knives, powder, lead and rum). These goods were part of a larger scheme concocted by George Croghan, deputy Superintendant of Indian Affairs under Sir William Johnson, to get the jump on other Indian traders and to use the goods as a bribe to gain huge tracts of land for speculative land ventures that Croghan, Philadelphia merchants (Baynton, Wharton and Morgan), and even Ben Franklin and George Washington were part of.

This event led to two sieges of Fort Loudoun and a shoot out near the fort at a log cabin known as the "Widdow Barr's place". This, in fact, was the first armed resistance against British military authority. Smith's Rebelion ended when General Thomas Gage was forced to withdraw the 42nd of Foot Royal Highland Regiment, "The Black Watch" out of Fort Loudoun in November of 1765. The fort was never again garrisoned.

Smith's Rebellion was a much more radical assertion of ideas, that would eventually become part of the Declaration of Independence, than anything thought of in Boston for ten more years. Forced to gather as citizens to defend themselves, because the state of Pennsylvania had no standing militia, they essentially assert ideas contained in John Locke's Second Treatise about the right of self defense. It is the right of self defense that is behind many people's conception of the individual right to bear arms and the Second Amendment.

Locke believed that all men are created equal because in a state of nature, (anarchy) which places such as the 1765 Pennsylvania frontier were, everyone had the same rights. It is to escape the complete insecurity of this state of absolute lawlessness that causes people to create government. The primary role of government according to Locke was to promote each and every individual's right to Life, Liberty and Property, changed to Pursuit of Happiness in our Constitution. When government fails in its primary duty to protect each citizens rights, the people have the moral obligation to revolt against and replace the government, thus our electoral process in this country.

The essence of the individual right to bear arms is based on a conception of self defense as a natural right stemming from one's survival instinct. Without a standing militia, Pennsylvanians were on their own when it came to self defense. In the case of Pennsylvania if you didn't own a firearm and you lived on the frontier you probably weren't going to live long. The history of frontier settlements is one long brutal battle of inhumanity replete with scalping, burning people alive, and torture.

Their concern is evidenced in March of 1765 when the Inhabitants of the Cumberland Valley wrote a "remonstrance" to Governor John Penn listing the hardships they had born in two Indian Wars. In the remonstrance they state that the trade goods on there way were forbidden by the Proclamation of 1763 and they ask for Penn's protection from these illegal traders. It was a rhetorical request, as they knew that no help would be forth coming and that they intended to defend themselves.

The settlers of the Conococheague were mainly Scots Irish Presbyterians. And as first or second generation immigrants they were very familiar with attempts to disarm the people, having been victims of Catholic attempts to disarm their ancestors with the Militia Act of 1662. It is for this reason that in 1689 the English Bill of Rights, the model for our own Bill of Rights contains a right to bear arms as article 7.

In this country the Pennsylvania Constitution in 1776, that ended John Penn's governorship because of the American Revolution, was the first Constitution to contain a right to bear arms which states quite literally that it is for self defense of the individual and the state. This stems from Smith's Rebellion and the lack of a standing militia in this state. In addition, James Smith who was one of the leaders of the Black Boys with his cousin William Smith, was a delegate to the 1776 state constitutional convention that wrote the state right to bear arms.

Smith's Rebellion was the first armed resistance against British military authority anywhere in America. This rebellion is the first time that anyone in America begins to conceive of being independent of British authority. In this rebellion Justice William Smith asserts that weapons confiscation is illegal for the first time in America and the continued holding of the illegally confiscated weapons is even more so. Pennsylvania is the first state to have a right to bear arms as part of their constitution. The Pennsylvania state Constitution was the model for the 1790 Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution along with Virginas which gave us the militia piece of that legislation.

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