FOCUS | Rise of the (Armed) Conservative Revolutionaries

 

Sirota’s call to attention comes none too soon. Right Wing revisionists continue to posit the idea that the Framers of our government adopted the 2nd Amendment as an insurrectionist provision. Not so. The 2nd Amendment responded to fear of a standing army, to be sure; as a protective measure ensuring the ability of individuals to assemble and form militias to protect their states; an appeasement to extremism, but as a means to overthrow the government? Most certainly not. Their goal was peaceful, democratic order arising from the disordered chaos and imminent dissolution caused by the Articles of Confederation. Let’s not forget the quelling of Shay’s Rebellion just prior to the Philadelphia Convention. Washington fully endorsed the hastily organized, ad hoc Massachusetts militia which put down the Western uprising, and his personal correspondence reveals his desperate concern over internal rebellion due to a weak or “shrinking” government. Disunity and laxity of governance invited British re-invasion. Washington knew it and so did every delegate who hammered out the contours of the new United States. The reality is neither the general government nor the states possessed the strength to protect citizens from foreign incursion. The crumbling confederacy certainly hadn’t the resources to confront multitudinous rebellions. The 2nd Amendment’s awkwardness reflects a number of things, the most essential being that it would not threaten the vital federalized structure of the new government. The most prudent function of a quick-forming militia was quelling resistance from within, not encouraging it. The Whiskey Rebellion prompted the Militia Acts enacted by the Second Congress. Washington himself led a combined militia force to put down the revolt. Let’s also not forget that replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution of the United States included the criminalization of revolt against the government; see Article IV, Section 4 and Article III, Section III of the Constitution. For reference, here’s the reminder:

 

Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses of the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person Attainted.

 

Article IV, Section 4:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

 

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