“Ye villains, ye rebels, disperse; damn you, disperse! Lay down your arms, damn you, why don’t you lay down your arms!”
~ British officer to American Minute Men assembled at Lexington, April 19, 1775, as recalled by the Reverend Jonas Clarke in his diary.
By Mr. Curmudgeon:
Of England’s King Charles II, John Trechard wrote in A Short History of Standing Armies in England (1698), “… He came in with the general applause of the people, who in a kind fit gave him a vast revenue for life. By this he was enabled to raise an army, and bribe the Parliament, which he did to the purpose.”
“The purpose,” of course, was the maintenance of King Charles’ royal power.
Standing before the delegates at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in June of 1787, James Madison said, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
Noah Webster, the famous American lexicographer of dictionary fame, said, “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. 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 that can be, on any presence, raised in the United States.”
Though little remembered by most Americans, the truth of Madison’s warning against America having a large standing army became clear after the defeat of Britain at the battle of Yorktown – what historians call the “Newburgh Conspiracy.”
Congress failed to pay the Continental Army — in some cases for years. They issued promissory certificates redeemable in the future, and many of America’s military men sold these promissory notes to speculators for pennies on the dollar to feed their starving families. With so many having fought, bled and died to secure American independence from Britain, officers serving under Washington wondered whether the price of freedom was too high.
“I own I am not that violent admirer of a republican form of government that numbers in this country are,” wrote Col. Lewis Nicola to Gen. George Washington in a letter dated May 22, 1782, “this is not owing to caprice, but reason and experience. Let us consider the fate of all the modern republics of any note … These have, each in their turns, shone with great brightness, but their luster has been of short duration, and as it were only a blaze.”
Then Col. Nicola hints that with the army’s help Washington might attain a title greater than Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. “Some people have so connected the ideas of tyranny & monarchy as to find it very difficult to separate them, it may therefore be requisite to give the head of such a constitution as I propose, some title apparently more moderate, but if all other things were once adjusted I believe strong arguments might be produced for admitting the title of king, which I conceive would be attended with some material advantages.”
And with that, Col. Nicola appealed to what he believed were Washington’s ambitions for power and wealth. But Washington was no ordinary man, and his written response to Lewis illustrates the estimable character of the “father of our country.”
“I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country,” wrote Washington, “If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable; at the same time in justice to my own feelings I must add, that no Man possesses a more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the Army than I do, and as far as my powers and influence, in a constitutional way extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your Mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or anyone else, a sentiment of the like Nature.”
And with that, one very remarkable man saved an infant America from a military coup d’état.
Today, there is much in the news regarding President Obama’s “commission on gun violence.” Many reports suggest the president’s potential ban on the sale of “assault weapons” is not likely to gain traction in Congress; that he will make the purchase of arms by law-abiding Americans more difficult through the issuance of imperial Executive Orders.
The Progressive left defines arms of military design as “assault weapons.” The often-heard argument is that there is no need for average Americans to own military-style weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines; that the police and military – the enforcers of state power – should be America’s sole possessors of such might.
To be perfectly blunt, this is because the Progressive left cannot conceive of an all-powerful government as oppressive – provided, of course, they are the authors of the oppression. This pathological need for total power is why a disarmed population and a standing army are so desirable to those possessing royal inclinations. And, as European royalty often said in defense of their total power, they “rule by divine right.” It’s hard to contest the arrogant irrevocability of that argument … especially when you’re unarmed.
I don’t make the argument in support of the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment on the simple claims of home defense and hunting. I support the average, law-abiding American’s right to own “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines to allow free people a modicum of parity with the military and police. That may sound shocking to Progressive ears, but it was a matter of common sense to the nation’s Founders.
The original 13 states created a national government with limited powers, reserving the rest to themselves and the people. To insure the national government adhered to the compact, amendments to this arrangement forbade the national government from abridging free speech, conducting invasive search and seizures and royal infringements on the individual’s right to bear arms.
The Founders understood, as expressed by Noah Webster, that an armed populace assured that “the supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword.”
That said, the question for America’s military and police is whether, if asked, they will carry out unconstitutional orders to confiscate legally-obtained arms from free, law-abiding Americans – or, instead, search the deep well of their conscience and tell the enemies of republican government, as Washington did, “… if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your Mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or anyone else, a sentiment of the like Nature.”