During last week's Senate confirmation hearings, Senator Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) laid into President Bush's Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft about his strong support for the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment. Kennedy demanded that Ashcroft apologize to the American people. For what did Senator Kennedy think John Ashcroft should apologize? In a speech, Ashcroft said that the reason why the Framers demanded a constitutional protection for "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" was to provide a measure of protection against tyranny in government.
Senator Kennedy demonstrated gross ignorance about the founding of our nation. To throw such an intemperate, public, hissy-fit, he must have counted on, and correctly so, the ignorance of his senatorial colleagues, the news media and most Americans. Ashcroft didn't bother to defend himself. He might have figured that Kennedy and his colleagues were uneducable, and possibly feared that producing facts would have brought on even greater ire. Let's you and I look at the Framers' words to see whether they gave us the Second Amendment so we could go deer and duck hunting or, as Ashcroft said, to protect against tyranny in government.
Thomas Jefferson said, "No man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." Thomas Jefferson made himself even more explicit when he said, "And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. . . . The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Writing in the Federalist Paper No.46, James Madison said, "The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation . . .[where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." In Federalist Paper No. 28, Alexander Hamilton said, "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all forms of positive government."
Richard Henry Lee said, "To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them." Tench Coxe said, "Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Theirs words, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American . . . the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." Noah Webster said, "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 band of regular troops." George Washington said, "Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence." George Mason settled the question of militia by asking and answering, "Who are the militia? They consist of the whole people, except a few public officers."
When the history of the twentieth century is finally writ ten, one of its key features will be the wanton slaughter of more than 170 million people, not in war, but by their own government. The governments that led in this slaughter are the former USSR (65 million) and the Peoples Republic of China (35-40 million).
The point to remember is that these governments were the idols of America's leftists. Part of reason for these and other tyrannical successes was because the people were first disarmed.
Walter E. Williams
January 22, 2001
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