So often do individuals of all political backgrounds use what they believe would be the founders’ opinion regarding modern issues and events to justify their own beliefs. The fact of the matter is that these men have been dead for over 250 years and no, they did not have machine guns or the internet back then. Therefore, we cannot and ought not subject their opinions to our own to justify our political beliefs.
Here, I will only present quotes by and pose the question of what do you think George Washington and Alexander Hamilton would think of the state of politics in New York today. These quotes and questions are not to justify or persuade, only to ask questions and let the readers decide for themselves.
When it became apparent that the Articles of Confederation were no longer working out in the new nation, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and John Jay circulated the Federalist Papers from New York in arguing for the ratification of the new Constitution.
In them, Hamilton states, "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed." Later, he argues that the people, making up state militias should stand against a tyranny of the federal government saying, “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.”
Times have changed. State militias still exist and are under the control of the governor but some, like the National Guard, can still be federalized. There are such things as private militias (made up of private citizens who swear no allegiance to any elected official) that have garnered a reputation for being secretive and considered “extremist”. Many white power organizations have used the cover of a private militia to justify a legitimate existence. That is not to say that all private militias are “extremist” or hate groups. In fact, most private militias swear allegiance to the Constitution and their communities first and volunteer to take part in disaster relief and community service but do stand against most government attempts to restrict their rights and liberties, namely in regards to the Second Amendment.
In the founding days of America to post-World War II, there was no significant standing military in the United States. Instead, when a crisis arose, civilians would be recruited and later drafted to fight. What the founders meant by militia was every able-bodied man. The men of the entire country would be called upon and expected to defend themselves with their firearms against enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Washington once stated, “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.”
Does this statement still hold true? Now, we have a well-regulated police force and a National Guard. Still, firearms are necessary for self-defense because when seconds matter, the police are only minutes away. Militias were meant to be called upon by the governor of the state in rebellion to a tyranny of the federal government. Today, that concept is so foreign to New Yorkers it is hard to believe that New York almost did not join the union until the language that became the Second Amendment was incorporated into the Constitution before the state would ratify it. Are well-regulated, private militias still necessary? Is the only real practical use for a firearm for sport, hunting and home defense?
Continue to Part II here