Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Thom Hartmann — The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the framers knew the difference -- see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason and James Madison were totally clear on that... and we all should be too.…
Hartmann delves into the history and historical documents.

Truthout | News Analysis (5 January 2013)
The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery
Thom Hartmann

See also
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad [R] said Monday that he doesn't agree with the decision by U.S. Rep. Steve King [R] to display a Confederate flag on his congressional office desk.

Sioux City television station KCAU ran a Thursday news report on a bill that King supports. The footage showed King's desk with several flags, including a Confederate flag, which southern states used during the Civil War.

The flag has been a source of pride for some Southerners and others, which King has said he understands. However, increasingly such flags have been pulled out of Southern-state public displays as some contend the flags symbolize bigotry in the aftermath of the war that gave African-Americans freedom from slavery.

King, a Republican from Kiron, Iowa, is a 14-year officeholder. It is not known how long the flag has been on his desk, amid others that include a U.S. flag and one with the phrase "Don't Tread On Me."

“I don’t agree with that. I guess that’s his decision," Branstad said about the desk flag during his Monday news conference. “People have a right to display whatever they want to, but I’m proud to say that (Iowa was) on the side of the Union and we won the war."Gov. Branstad criticizes Steve King's Confederate desk flag
Sioux City Journal
Gov. Branstad criticizes Steve King's Confederate desk flag
Bret Hayworth


Malmo's Ghost said...

Thom Hartmann, a preeminent constitutional scholar. lol

Malmo's Ghost said...

Hartmann, the new found strict construtionist, also might want to brush up on the meaning of stare decisis.

Six said...

Any chance you might attack Hartmann's case, Mal? Personally, I've never given two shits about stare decisis. Judges, etc., are often completely wrong. And the "framers" were often complete assholes. I wouldn't be surprised if they were in this case, too, but it's not something I'm well versed on.

Malmo's Ghost said...

The 2nd Amendment as it stands is considered settled law, which has developed over a long course of judicial renderings. With regard to original intent, there are scholars on differing sides who offer well reasoned arguments as to the framers intent. Of course technology has advanced to the point that a reasonable person might challenge the 2nd's conventional wisdom born out of strict construtionism and settled law. My guess is that the 2nd will be modified going forward judicially.

Dan Lynch said...

Hartmann takes a half-truth and peddles it as a whole truth in an attempt to equate gun rights with slavery.

Yes, the Southern states wanted slave patrols.

But the concept of militias and individual right to self defense did not originate in the South, as Hartmann would have us believe. It is rooted in England, and later in New England.

Before there was a second amendment, Pennsylvannia had already included individual gun rights in its constitution (1776). Vermont in 1777.

Anti-slavery founding father Thomas Paine had written in support of gun rights during the revolution.

Going back in time even further, the individual right to keep and bear arms was rooted in the 1689 English Bill of Rights:"That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence." You cannot attribute that to slave patrols.

Hartmann is a hack.

Six said...

Dan, I'm not doubting anything you say here. I don't know if Hartmann is a "hack"/isn't a "hack. I've never heard of him before. But your conclusion that the 2nd Amendment wasn't included to preserve/create/enhance slave patrols doesn't follow from your premise that individual rights to bear arms existed before the second amendment in non slave holding areas. A timeline doesn't necessarily prove/disprove anything.

Dan Lynch said...

@Six, the moral and philosophical background for the American Revolution was the English philosopher's John Locke's "Age of Enlightment," particularly Thomas Paine's writings on natural law as it applied to Americans. Paine and Locke believed that natural law gave everyone independence and the right to defend his life, health, liberty, or possessions. Paine and Locke believed in the individual right of self-defense. These were popular beliefs in New England at the time of the revolution. This is undisputed fact.

That's not to say that there were not less noble motives for the revolution. The South feared that Britain would end slavery. Land speculators like George Washington stood to profit from Westward expansion that had been blocked by the British.

So some Americans supported the individual right to bear arms for idealistic philosophical reasons, while the South supported state militias to keep the slaves under control. Both of these things are true.

It is not true to say that the 2nd amendment was ratified purely to preserve slavery, just as it is not true to say that the revolution came about purely to preserve slavery. Like the entire Bill of Rights, the 2nd amendment attempted to offer something for everyone in order to win popular support for the new constitution.

Tom Hickey said...

It is not true to say that the 2nd amendment was ratified purely to preserve slavery, just as it is not true to say that the revolution came about purely to preserve slavery. Like the entire Bill of Rights, the 2nd amendment attempted to offer something for everyone in order to win popular support for the new constitution.

That would have to be closely argued. The dominant view based on documentary evidence is that the populist democrats were out by the time of the formulation and ratification of the US Constitution. The only populist democrat remaining was Thomas Paine and he had almost no influence on the outcome.

The Constitution was brokered among the states that were parties to it, since they were sovereign entities at the time and the Constitutions was a replacement of the Articles of Confederation that greatly increased the powers of the federal government, which entailed curtailing the state sovereignty.

The deal involved bargaining over this and after the text of the Constitution was competed, it did not have the support required for ratification. The Bill of Rights was drafted to overcome that lack of support.

This was done by the elites of the respective states and the issues were not populist versus federal, but state vs federal. The slave states were controlled economically and politically by the plantation owners, who comprised a relatively small portion of the population of those states. In the non-slave states it was still the prominent men (elite) were those who were economically and politically dominant.

The US was designed as a republic in order to ensure elite control and the Constitution was drafted with that end it view. The words attributed to the first chief justice of the supreme court, John Jay, reflect this: Those who own the country should govern the country.

See, for example, Sheldon Richman, America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Dan Lynch said...

Agree with much of what you said, Tom, but the facts remain:

-- the individual right of citizens to possess weapons, or the right of local governments to command citizen militias, were not new things invented by Southern slaveowners as Hartmann would have us believe, rather they were a continuation of English common law and of existing laws and practices in New England.

-- the epicenter of the American Revolution was New England, not the South.

-- the Bill of Rights was not part of the "counter-revolution," rather it was a counter to the counter-revolution. It originated not in the South but in Massachusetts, as part of the "Massachusetts Compromise." One of the leaders of the Massachusetts Compromise was Samuel Adams, who was anti-Federalist, anti-slavery, and pro gun rights. Samuel was still influential at the time of ratification.

It is true that many American elites had shady motives, but it is also true that there was a long tradition of armed citizens and armed populist uprisings, and a distrust of big government.

Malmo's Ghost said...

From an historical perspective the argument will never be solved. Thus we are left with precedent---a legal perspective---which is in kind a quasi organic perspective. Legal reality says right now that there is a right to keep and bear arms. The pressing caveat to that fact is exactly what kind of arms are permitted? Scalia limited it to what one can carry on their person. It's likely, going forward, that the court will clarify even further if the court's composition changes to a more liberal makeup. IMO there will not in the foreseeable future be a dramatic shift in the legal reality. In fact there is evidence that the significant rise in gun ownership correlates strongly with the significant fall in violent crime the past two and a half decades. That's no simple fact to overcome politically or even judicially.

Tom Hickey said...

The fundamental issues that affect the US are generally related to urban, suburban and rural interests. One shoe doesn't fit all.

Tom Hickey said...

Agree with you on the different interests operative in the Bill of Rights, but I still maintain that it was state sovereignty versus federalism that shaped the debate at the time of the formulation and ratification of the Constitution.

This is an interesting approach by the father of an old friend of mine. Robert Dahl was Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale and a former president of the American Political Science Association. He passed way in 2014 at age 98.

How Democratic Is the American Constitution?

The US scores quite well relatively, but the Constitution was not based on popular democracy. The big issues were limiting government but controlling popular democracy, what Marx would call bourgeois liberalism, and meshing national (federal) and state sovereignty.

As a matter of record, the US was founded not under the US Constitution, ratified in 1778. It was replaced by the present US Constitution in 1789. The purpose was to strengthen the federal government in a dangerous and competitive world. The movement was led by Hamilton. But the Articles were not effective at domestic governance either, so many were open to a strong central government. There were other issues operative, too. As a result a new constitutional convention was convened and a new constitution formulated. The process of development and subsequent ratification revolved around disagreement between federalists and anti-federalists.

When some demanded the appending of a bill or rights before ratification, federalists argued that the Constitution was sufficient as originally drafted and did not need to be limited. Anti-federalists objected that it did not limit the central government from doing those things that the European monarchies flagrantly did, freedom from which many braved the ocean to avoid. They were not ready to see that happen again on this side of the Atlantic. The anti-federalists won since the document could not be ratified without their consent.


Tom Hickey said...


While some of the amendments of the Bill of rights are obviously about guaranteeing individual liberties, the 2nd is murky, and scholars disagree over the original intent. The crux of the argument over the Second Amendment is over whether the intention was to grant an individual right, as is obviously the case in the First Amendment, for example, or to guarantee the right of states to keep militias as they were already doing our whether the military power would rest solely with the federal government.

Southern states did already have organized patrols associated with their militias to control insurrection. See slave patrol. But some argue that the actual issue in the Second Amendment was not only maintaining the slave patrols without which enrichment of slaver would not be practical. It is argued that James Madison held that states need the right to keep militias in order to protect themselves from the army of the central government should it come to that, since the states did retain state sovereignty that gave them control over the powers not ceded to the federal government in the constitution.

Subsequently, a civil war was fought ostensibly over states' rights, although many scholars agree that the underlying issue was slavery. The issue was whether slavery would be further expanded territorially, or limited and restricted. Importation of slaves had already been prohibited, which encouraged breeding slaves for sale. Slaves constituted a significant portion of the capital of the US at the time. While slavery was a moral and political issue for the free states, it was a make-it-or-break-it economic issue for the slave states that was worth fighting over.

It's not a big issue now since the law is largely settled, but the question regarding Hartmann's article is the history and original intent. He puts forward a position that some hold, and most certainly the militias in the slave states functioned as slave patrols in addition to defense.

But what I find most odd is that while there is argument over the individual right to bear arms, there is very little objection to curtailing other civil liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Right because "terror."

Six said...

"But what I find most odd is that while there is argument over the individual right to bear arms, there is very little objection to curtailing other civil liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Right because "terror."

My guess is money and fetishism (of a non sexual nature).

Matthew Franko said...


"A timeline doesn't necessarily prove/disprove anything."

you would say that for the same reason you say to Mike:

"I'm not sure what your point is."

When Mike would point out the flaw in "the deficit is too small!" reasoning....

Youre not taking into full account the time domain in your analysis....

Its a basic concept in applied calculus to take into account the time domain...

Matthew Franko said...




"The fundamental idea of calculus is to study change by studying "instantaneous" change, by which we mean changes over tiny intervals of time."

The deficit is a subtraction result of two ex post accounting sums the equation of which is not a functional equation so it has no relevance to real economic activity...

Look at healthcare, US has spent about $1T this FY on healthcare, if the providers save some of that $1T what does that matter ? Why would we care what the providers saved? Are you trying to say that unless the providers save the USDs then they didnt do anything?

If we had a JG, and people were paid and they saved some of that, are we saying that they didnt do work and get paid for it? Or are we saying that unless they save that they didnt do anything or get paid?

Six said...

I think I have a pretty firm grip on the difference between flows and stocks. We are really just talking about cash basis accounting. A single transaction is a flow. Various transactions over a time interval lead to changes in stocks. It could be one transaction or a billion transactions, yet we can still determine the adjustment of stocks via accounting.

Six said...

I agree that the deficit/lack of deficit has no effect on the economy. The intermediate steps (flows) that get us to the deficit/lack of a deficit play a huge role.