Tag Archives: Alexander Hamilton

Bill Lockwood: The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

by Bill Lockwood

With the recent shootings in America liberal politicians have proposed curtailing the God-given unalienable right to keep and bear arms as a method to stem the violence. From presidential hopeful Joe Biden recently telling Anderson Cooper, “Bingo” when asked about the government coming for “guns” to Kamala Harris’ proposal that if she is elected president she will enact “executive orders” to confiscate “assault weapons” when Congress fails to act, the Second Amendment needs to be re-asserted.

It is a historical fact that in nations where political leaders wish to remove properties and freedoms of the citizenry, they always begin by disarming the populace. This normally begins by requiring registration of firearms and imposing penalties when they do not. This is followed in many cases by federal governments deliberately provoking rioting and violence which is then used as an excuse to confiscate firearms.

The Second Amendment—A Prohibition

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” The first thing to be noted is that the 2d Amendment is a strict prohibition against the federal government. It is not a declaration of rights, period. The right to keep arms was assumed to be God-given by the founders, but they added the Amendments to ensure that the national government would not touch these freedoms.

The Bill of Rights opens with this bold statement, “Congress shall make NO LAW …” What Joe Biden and his Democrat cohorts propose is unconstitutional on its very surface. Federal government has no say so in the matter. Making “no law” is pretty clear.

Second, there is a popular view today, though erroneous, that the 2d Amendment means that the National Guard should be able to keep and bear arms, but that the guarantee does not extend to ordinary citizens. Those who advance such an argument either have not read the Founders themselves who wrote the 2d Amendment, or hope you do not—or both.

The concern has always been, from the time of the creation of America until today, that a centralized federal government would evolve into a dictatorship or totalitarian state. The framers, with one voice, stated that the only counter measure to such gravitational pull over time was the populace itself. Alexander Hamilton, for example, in The Federalist Papers, asserted that liberty would always be ensured as long as the people were allowed to be “properly armed and equipped.”

James Madison, who authored the 2d Amendment, wrote that under the Constitution “the ultimate authority …resides in the people alone [due to the] advantage of being armed which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” Joseph Story, an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court (8112-1845), a foremost Constitutional authority, wrote:

The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered the palladium of the liberties of the republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary powers of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.

George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, noted that

Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence….From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to ensure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable…the very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference—they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.

Sam Adams, introduced in the Massachusetts convention the call to ratify the Constitution. In it he said that the “Constitution never be construed to authorize Congress to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own guns.”

Sir William Blackstone (1725-80), though not a founder of this nation, was one of the top four quoted authorities on Common Law. Lawyers in America until the time of Abraham Lincoln normally carried Blackstone with them. Of the right to keep and bear arms, Blackstone said,

“Of the absolute rights of individuals: the fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject … is that of having arms for their defense …”

He explained that the basis for this right is the “natural right of resistance and self-preservation when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression” (Alan Gottlieb, The Rights of Gun Owners, 1983, p. 6). It is as if Blackstone was mirroring current day America and the push of Democratic and Socialist lawmakers to open our borders to the entire third world, turning our streets into combat zones in some cases.

State Militia

Still, some cling to the wording of the 2d Amendment which states a “well-regulated militia” is necessary for the security of a free people to insist that this right to keep and bear arms be reserved for a specialized unit which one must join. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most Americans do not realize that they themselves belong to the state militia where they reside. Title 10, section 31 of the U.S. Code defines the militia of each state as “all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and under 45 years of age who are or have [made] a declaration of intent to become citizens” (W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America, p. 694).

The United States Congress has weighed in on this topic as well. In 1982 a Senate subcommittee on the Constitution carefully documented the 2d Amendment understanding in a public report. After lengthy pages of history, it noted that in various states after the War for Independence many proposals called it a general duty for all citizens to be armed. Richard Henry Lee, for instance, observed that “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 …”

George Mason of Virginia, drafter of the Virginia Bill of Rights, accused the British of having plotted to “disarm the people—that was the best and most effective way to enslave them.” Patrick Henry said that the “great object is that every man be armed and everyone who is able may have a gun.”

St. George Tucker, one of the earliest commentators on the Constitution and Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, published in 1803 his annotations. He followed Blackstone’s citations (noted above) and pointed out regarding the 2d Amendment that it is “without any qualification.” So also, William Rawle’s “View of the Constitution” published in 1825. He emphasized that,

“The prohibition is general. No clause in the Constitution could by a rule of construction be conceived to give Congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretense by a state legislature. But if in blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.”

The 1982 Congress summarized some of the above material. First, subsequent legislation in the Second Congress “supports the interpretation of the Second Amendment that creates an individual right. In the Militia Act of 1792, the second Congress defined ‘militia of the United States’ to include almost every free adult male in the United States.”

They went on to add that these persons “were obligated by the law to possess a firearm and a minimum supply of ammunition and military equipment.” “There can be little doubt from this that when the Congress … spoke of a ‘militia’, they had reference to the traditional concept of the entire populace capable of bearing arms, and not to any formal group such as what is today called the National Guard.” (Skousen, p. 699).

Second, the prohibition is strict and broad against the federal government or its officers from being able to address the issue of firearms or weaponry in the hands of its citizens. The reason is clear. As Joseph Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution put it this way: the right to keep and bear arms is “the palladium of the liberties of the republic.” This is a natural deterrent to tyranny.

So, whether it is Elizabeth Warren, who wants to have the federal government involve themselves in background checks, or Kamala Harris, who has dictatorship-style plans to move unilaterally on guns if elected president, or Joe Biden, who plans to implement bans on “assault weapons” at the federal level, or Bernie Sanders, who promises some type of executive action on firearms—all of these are theorizing in unconstitutional territory. If the federal government can step into this arena—no matter how small a role—history shows that this foot-in-the-door will expand to larger roles as Constitutionally illiterate people pouring out of the colleges demand more federal control. Voters, beware.

 

Bill Lockwood: The Evil of Socialism-Part Two

by Bill Lockwood

Dennis Prager, founder of the conservative PragerU, conservative talk show host, made an excellent observation regarding socialism while on Fox & Friends this past Tuesday. He was there to advertise the newest instalment of his 5-part popular commentary series on the Torah.

He noted that the founders were distrustful of human nature, and that therefore one’s personal liberty is best secured when as little control as possible is placed in the hands of leaders. Socialism, on the other hand, by definition, entrusts tremendous power over the lives of others in the hands of a very few. The contrast could not be more stark. Let’s explore it a little.

Distrust of Human Nature

The founders were optimistic about human nature, but they were realistic as well. Alexander Hamilton expressed the optimism, but at the same time the realistic view of human nature. “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism” (The Famer Refuted, Feb. 23, 1775).

But it was James Madison, the father of the Constitution, that succinctly explained in Federalist No. 55 why limited government oversight was necessary:

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.

George Washington expressed the same sentiment in a letter to John Jay in 1786. “We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.”

Again, Madison outlined in Federalist No. 51 the importance of checks and balances in a government by viewing human nature.

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man, must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections of human nature?

The sole theme of the Constitution is to protect people from the concentration of power in the hands of a few government officials.

Illustrative of this skepticism of human nature to aggrandize power in the hands of the few is Article II, sec. 2 which pertains to the Electoral Vote of the states. The states considered collectively are the Electoral College. “Each state shall appoint …a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled.”

However, the founders added this caveat: “but no senator or representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”

What is the meaning of this negative note? “All human history … has demonstrated that concentrated government power is the greatest threat to individual freedom and states rights.” (1)

“Protecting the electoral system from conquest and occupation by the agencies of the federal government was the purpose of this provision.”

In other words, the only manner in which mankind could achieve happiness and liberty was by self-government. And this can only be gained by maintaining a system of limited government. But limited government would be surrendered if those in power could manipulate the system in their favor.

Socialism—Social Justice

Consider the contrast with socialism, by which we mean redistribution of wealth in the pursuit of so-called “equality.” The National Association of Scholars (NAS) defines “social justice”—socialism in a new dress—as “Advocacy of more egalitarian access to income, through state-sponsored redistribution.”

But what does this demand? In order to accomplish any state-sponsored redistribution, the state must be invested with more control over the lives of its members. This demands massive government power—power at the top.

Max Eastman, an elitist American in Woodrow Wilson’s time who became infatuated with socialism and actually traveled to the Soviet Union to learn how to implement it, later recanted. Would that our modern-day socialists of the Democratic Party would be as honest as Eastman.

Eastman’s book, Lectures in the Failure of Socialism, contains this definition of socialism: “A state apparatus which plans and runs the business of the country must have the authority of a business executive. And that is the authority to tell all those active in the business where to go and what to do, and if they are insubordinate, put them out.” It is all about power. Continuity of control.


(1) W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America, p. 526.


At the root level, it amounts to the relinquishing of our sacred rights into the hands of the few at the top whom we have entrusted with gigantic levers of authority over our lives. Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, presses for socialized healthcare. What is that? This is to say that he wants the entire healthcare industry to become a government-run monopoly financed entirely by taxes.

How opposite the founders! It all begins with a wrong view of human nature as modern progressives consistently hold. This is the legacy of the so-called Progressive Era—a skewed, unrealistic view of mankind. A refusal to recognize that man’s problem is sin, not lack of material possessions. (2)  This is the evil of socialism.

And to pretend that we have a “Constitutional Crisis” on hand because Attorney General William Barr refuses to break the law and hand over federally-protected testimony to raging Democrats in the House boggles the mind.

There is a Constitutional Crisis in America—has been for over 100 years. It is the complete disregarding of constitutional barriers that forbids the federal government from intruding into the private lives of citizens via the tax code, welfare, government housing, education, health care, and a thousand and one other items. The Democrats are simply trying to lock evil socialism into place by the healthcare proposals of “Medicaid for all.”


(2) The Bible is emphatic, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 6:23).“God saw that the wickedness of man was great … and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was on evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). This is why the founders did not trust their freedoms, liberties, and rights into the hands of a few elitists.