Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Hamilton’

Practical Aspects of Gun Control, Part 4

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Having reviewed the cultural and historical aspects of gun control, we turn now in this edition to the moral aspect.

3          The Moral Aspect

In considering the moral aspect of citizen disarmament, commonly called “gun control”, it is helpful to return once again to English jurist William Blackstone [1]:

In these several articles consist the rights, or, as they are frequently termed, the liberties of Englishmen: liberties, more generally talked of than thoroughly understood; and yet highly necessary to be perfectly known and considered by every man of rank or property, lest his ignorance of the points whereon they are founded should hurry him into faction and licentiousness on the one hand, or a pusillanimous indifference and criminal submission on the other.  And we have seen that these rights consist, primarily, in the free enjoyment of personal security, of personal liberty, and of private property.  So long as these remain inviolate, the subject is perfectly free; for every species of compulsive tyranny and oppression must act in opposition to one or the other of these rights, having no other object upon which it can possibly be employed.  To preserve them from violation, it is necessary that the constitution of parliament be supported in its full vigor; and limits, certainly known, be set to the royal prerogative.  And, lastly, to vindicate these rights when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances; and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.  And all these rights and liberties it is our birthright to enjoy entire; unless where the laws of our country have laid them under necessary restraints.  Restraints in themselves so gentle and moderate, as will appear upon further inquiry, that no man of sense of probity would wish to see them slackened.  For all of us have in our choice to do every good thing that a good man would desire to do; and are restrained from nothing, but what would be pernicious either to ourselves or to our fellow-citizens.

So it is that every citizen is to be aware of his rights to life, liberty, and property, and at the risk of being both a coward and traitor to freedom and posterity, be prepared with arms to defend those freedoms should the government fail to perform its duties to preserve them.  But what about those “necessary restraints” that Mr. Blackstone refers to — doesn’t “gun control” fall under the category of “gentle and moderate” restrictions conducive to the happiness of the people?  No.  Gun control is quite the opposite: it is the means by which you, the citizen, are turned into a helpless dependent subject because it removes the ultimate restraint upon the power of governments and criminals alike. It is the means by which you, the citizen, are convinced that your life, liberty, and property are not worth fighting for; and you should leave that to the professionals, since you might get hurt and not be able to pay taxes.  It is the means by which your moral compass is forced to always point toward the government, begging them to save you; or maybe worse, subordinate yourself to the whims of some gang of professional criminals.

Is it moral to leave people in situations where the police are not available or cannot be of use, such as Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, the LA riots after the O. J. Simpson verdict, or the many riots that took place in the 1960’s, including most major cities?  The police have not signed up to protect you from everything.  The police generally do a fine job, but their task is to investigate crimes after they have occurred, make arrests in accordance with the evidence, and thus bring the suspect into the justice system.  The judicial system may limit the future actions of criminals, but have no effect on the crime that is about to happen.  You, as a moral agent, are responsible for your own safety.  In fact, the police are not legally obligated to protect you from anything, or even to show up when they are called, especially in those unusual times when the number of calls greatly exceeds the capacity of the system to respond.  Is it moral on your part to demand that the police risk their lives to defend yours?  The police do not sign up for responding to large-scale civil breakdown.  Many of the police in New Orleans fled to Baton Rouge during Katrina; many LAPD members fled to San Bernardino during the LA riots.  Rightfully so — they have families to look out for, which supersedes your needs and demands.  What if 9/11 had been a larger, more general attack in which the normal governance had broken down?  The criminals would have gone berserk, as they are always looking for an excuse.  History shows that you will be on your own. The National Guard troops were in their barracks by sundown during the LA riots; during Katrina they actually disarmed the citizens, leaving them easy prey for the gangs.

Politicians are always protected by bodyguards with high-capacity weapons — this is more than hypocrisy; it is immorality of the highest order: no moral government would permit its employees to arrogate an exemption for themselves while requiring the common people to go about unarmed.  Recall that all legislative authority is vested in the Congress; consider now the words of James Madison in The Federalist Papers #57:

I will add, as a fifth circumstance in the situation of the House of Representatives, restraining them from oppressive measures, that they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as the great mass of society.  This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and people together.  It creates between them that communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny.  If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society?  I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws, and the manly spirit which actuates the people of America– a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.

The same principle applies at the state and local government levels.  How can a just government exempt itself from its own laws?  But yet it is evident that “We the People” have failed to enforce this dictum upon our politicians; we see at every turn numerous exemptions to the laws created for the benefit of politicians, bureaucrats and their associates.  It is especially evident in the gun laws: our (allegedly) morally-superior government employees parade the streets with taxpayer-paid (supposedly) morally-superior bodyguards, while the people are forced by law to remain defenseless at all times and in all places.

Vice President Joe Biden took the time recently to look down his nose and lecture us lowlifes that we only need a double-barrel shotgun for self-defense, even at home.  I wonder what type of weapons, containing how many rounds, and of what type, his Secret Service detail carries with them when protecting him, even in his home.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) recently released a video claiming “that no one is going to take my guns away”.  He’s right — no one is going to take his guns away because he is a member of the (allegedly) morally-superior ruling elite.  He will have access to all the guns and ammunition he wants for the rest of his life, and so will all his friends and family for all of their lives.  It will be interesting to see what Senator Manchin thinks of you and your rights in the upcoming disarmament votes in Congress.

When the government is armed and the people are not, one has tyranny; when the people are armed and the government is not, one has anarchy; in America, both are armed, wary of each other, and each side is able to suppress the worst instincts of the other.  But our modern politicians do not like the idea of any challenges to their quest for arbitrary power.

Criminals know two things: a) they will always be able to get a gun, no matter what the law is; and b) they are likely to get shot by their intended victims if those intended victims have guns.  It is evident that criminals always favor gun control for the same reasons the politicians do: it has no effect upon their livelihood and makes their job easier.  Conversely, armed people don’t have to take any crap from criminals or from governments.  It is immoral to be afraid of criminals, but yet that is what our government demands.  The reason they demand it is simple: the government needs the existence of large criminal networks to justify part of its existence, and it also helps keep the people in fear.

We commonly hear arguments that “one doesn’t need a semi-automatic rifle” since the Second Amendment was written during a time when only muzzle-loading muskets were available.  But exactly the same argument could be made about radio, TV talk shows, and internet sites, since only newspapers existed when the First Amendment was written.  I would be curious to know, given their self-appointed superior moral righteousness, what part of the First Amendment is the mainstream media willing to give up in order to reduce the incidence of libel, defamation of character, and slander?

“We the People” would do well to recall the words of Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist #78:

There is no position which depends on clearer principles that that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void.  No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution can be valid.  To deny this would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

The U. S. Constitution clearly states that the right the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; and every state and local officer swears an oath to also uphold the federal Constitution.  Under what pretended morality do they claim power to do what is prohibited by their oath?  Or carve out exemptions to the laws for themselves?  Or tell us that we are not morally suitable to possess the tools necessary to take care of ourselves should the need arise?

[1]        William Blackstone, Commentary on the Laws of England, 1765, Book 1, Chap. 1, pp. 144, 145

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Practical Aspects of Gun Control, Part 3

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Dear readers:

This post is available only as a pdf owing to its considerable length.  It continues the examination of the historical aspect of gun control, focusing on the true extent and meaning of the Second Amendment.

Thanks for reading.

EDD

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A Free Reprint of The Federalist Papers

FederalistPapersReprint   <== FREE PDF reprint of The Federalist Papers

24 Nov 2011

Dear Readers:

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay published from the fall of 1787 to the spring of 1788.  Their purpose was to explain and defend the newly-crafted U. S. Constitution (intended to supercede the Articles of Confederation)  during the ratification debate in New York.  In the course of these essays, these three founding fathers discuss the philosophy of limited government with necessary powers, the separation of powers between the states and the federal government, and how these were implemented in the Constitution.

It is important for those who believe in limited government to read and understand the Federalist Papers.  They are as relevant today as they ever were.  Page 2 of the reprint (available in pdf only due to its length) contains a  commercial for a book that will help you understand it better; I hope you will consider that too.

The Federalist is in the public domain, and there is nothing copyrighted in this reprint.  Please distribute it as you see fit.

Thanks for reading,

Ed Duvall

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The Defects of the Articles of Confederation, Part 14

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The Articles of Confederation were initially proposed in the wartime emergency of 1775-1776 and were ratified by all the states by 1781; but the structure of the Confederation was not conducive to long-term stability.  Congress was granted certain powers under the Articles: a) to determine the amount of requisitions each state was to pay; b) to declare war and make peace; c) to send and receive ambassadors to foreign nations; d) to negotiate and ratify treaties; e) to determine rules for disposition of captures at sea; f) to grant letters of marque (authorizing private piracy on behalf of the U. S.); g) to convene courts for trials of crimes committed at sea; h) to be the appeal of last resort in disputes between the states; i) to regulate coinage issued by Congress or by the states; j) to establish uniform weights and measures throughout the United States; k) to regulate trade with the Indian tribes; l) to create post offices; m) to exercise overall command and control of the military forces; n) to appoint some officers in the army and all in the navy; and o) to commission all officers in the service of the United States.

One major difficulty was that Congress did not have the ability to regularly enforce any of its laws nor the means to punish violations of them.  This series of essays has presented considerable evidence to that effect, especially concerning Congress’ inability to maintain an army, raise revenue, ensure adherence to treaties, manage territories, respond to foreign policies, or regulate commerce.  A stable government must, as a minimum, have an executive function to enforce its laws and a judicial system to punish violations of valid laws and to interpret the law itself.

Alexander Hamilton addressed both of these problems in The Federalist Papers.  First, in No. 21, he cites Congress’ inability to enforce any of its laws:

The next most palpable defect of the subsisting Confederation, is the total want of a SANCTION to its laws. The United States, as now composed, have no powers to exact obedience, or punish disobedience to their resolutions, either by pecuniary mulcts, by a suspension or divestiture of privileges, or by any other constitutional mode.  There is no express delegation of authority to them to use force against delinquent members; and if such a right should be ascribed to the federal head, as resulting from the nature of the social compact between the States, it must be by inference and construction, in the face of that part of the second article, by which it is declared, “that each State shall retain every power, jurisdiction, and right, not expressly delegated to theUnited States in Congress assembled.”  There is, doubtless, a striking absurdity in supposing that a right of this kind does not exist, but we are reduced to the dilemma either of embracing that supposition, preposterous as it may seem, or of contravening or explaining away a provision, which has been of late a repeated theme of the eulogies of those who oppose the new Constitution; and the want of which, in that plan, has been the subject of much plausible animadversion, and severe criticism.  If we are unwilling to impair the force of this applauded provision, we shall be obliged to conclude, that the United States afford the extraordinary spectacle of a government destitute even of the shadow of constitutional power to enforce the execution of its own laws.  It will appear, from the specimens which have been cited, that the American Confederacy, in this particular, stands discriminated from every other institution of a similar kind, and exhibits a new and unexampled phenomenon in the political world.

 Hamilton then discusses in No. 22, the lack of a judicial system:

A circumstance which crowns the defects of the Confederation remains yet to be mentioned, — the want of a judiciary power.  Laws are a dead letter without courts to expound and define their true meaning and operation.  The treaties of theUnited States, to have any force at all, must be considered as part of the law of the land.  Their true import, as far as respects individuals, must, like all other laws, be ascertained by judicial determinations.  To produce uniformity in these determinations, they ought to be submitted, in the last resort, to one SUPREME TRIBUNAL.  And this tribunal ought to be instituted under the same authority which forms the treaties themselves.  These ingredients are both indispensable.  If there is in each State a court of final jurisdiction, there may be as many different final determinations on the same point as there are courts.  There are endless diversities in the opinions of men.  We often see not only different courts but the judges of the came court differing from each other.  To avoid the confusion which would unavoidably result from the contradictory decisions of a number of independent judicatories, all nations have found it necessary to establish one court paramount to the rest, possessing a general superintendence, and authorized to settle and declare in the last resort a uniform rule of civil justice.

In reviewing the chronicle of the Constitutional Convention, it is interesting to note that there was no serious debate about whether an executive or judicial branch should exist.  The need for them was pretty much accepted by all the attendees; the main debates were about the exact form, how they would be constituted, and what specific powers they would have.  There were some who thought an executive council would carry out the executive function better than a single officer; some preferred a system by which the judicial system would be combined with the legislative; some thought all proposed laws by the legislative should be reviewed and modified by the executive and judicial branches.  In the end, the framers developed a Constitution that created three main branches of the federal government, each with defined powers and the means to defend itself from encroachment by the other two.  The framers employed methods to ensure that the executive (President) and judicial branches were separate from each other and independent of the legislative.  There are some areas of overlap between the executive and the legislative (power of making treaties), and considerable influence of both of these upon the judicial branch (nomination of judges by the President and confirmation by the Senate).

The powers granted to the President are: a) to be Commander-in-Chief of the military; b) to be the point of contact for all foreign dignitaries as the nominal head of state; c) to negotiate treaties (but not to ratify them); d) to nominate ambassadors, judges, and certain other offices subject to Senate confirmation; e) to serve as chief administrator over the government departments that enforce the laws made by Congress; and f) to make lower-level appointments in his executive branches charged with those enforcement tasks.

The general power granted to the federal judicial system is to hear all cases in law and equity arising from treaties, federal laws, and the Constitution itself.  The powers are divided as follows: a) creation of a Supreme Court which is to have original jurisdiction in cases affecting ambassadors, public officials, and when a state is a party; and b) creation of lower federal courts to hear cases for which the Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction.  In all cases, the Supreme Court has an appellate jurisdiction to hear appeals from lower federal courts.

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