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home : opinions : opinions May 1, 2016

2/26/2013 8:01:00 AM
Letter: History is clear on slavery and 2nd Amendment


Many readers of the Verde Independent are unaware of the VI website wherein discussions take place concerning letters printed in the VI.

Such “discussions” are taking place concerning whether or not the institution of slavery played any role in the creation/adoption of the second amendment.

While I realize that far too many people rely upon very superficial readings of US history and therefore remain relatively ignorant about the relationship between the institution of slavery and the second amendment, such a relationship did exist.

For those of you with access to the internet, it is an easily verifiable fact that the institution of slavery played a significant role in the enactment of the second amendment.

Was it the singular reason for its inclusion in the Bill of Rights? No! Was it a factor in the enactment of the second amendment? Yes. Did the institution of slavery inform the debate over the second amendment? Yes.

For those of you too lazy to do your own research on this issue, here is just one source of information concerning the “militias/slave patrols” that operated in the Southern slave states prior to, during and after the enactment of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

“In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the “slave patrols,” and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, “The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search ‘all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition’ and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds.”

- From Thom Hartmann, Truth Out

If you take the time to research the issue, you will discover many, many more examples, if you do not; you will live in ignorance of the true history of the establishment of the second amendment. The choice is yours.

John Bond


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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

OK, G. Grammarian, I'll break that out into a separate paragraph and rephrase it:

During the Revolutionary War, more than a few slaves were freed if they agreed to fight as substitutes for masters who didn't want to be conscripted, and the State of Rhode Island even purchased black slaves to conscript. Congressmen from slavery-dependent states would not have approved legislation that conscripted their white citizens to serve in a federal militia along with freed black slaves.

Another interesting bit of history:
Prior to the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, Baron Ludwig von Closen, an officer serving with the French, visited General Washington’s camp. After surveying the troops, he wrote that “a quarter of them were Negroes, merry, confident and sturdy.”

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

That's true, Ms Hartman, relative to the war itself. Before the Revolution, the British didn't allow free Blacks in the colonial militias--probably due to problems the British were having with Black slaves in Barbados and elsewhere. When the British started losing, they reversed themselves and began to recruit Blacks, including slaves. At which point, the southern States suddenly decided slaves could join the Continental Militia, probably so that loyalist plantation owners could hedge their bets.

But what I'm trying to get straight is why the colonies and then the states tied "citizenship" (voting rights) to service in their militias if free Blacks were excluded.

We put a great deal more emphasis on race today than was present in colonial times. The colonists were far more concerned with class: bonded servitude being the lowest and royalty the highest. Free Black males were the same as free white males, to a point--the point at which you had to have noble blood. The British crown didn't recognize African royalty. But under English law, commoners could vote. So why did colonial governments, made up mostly of commoners, tie citizenship to militias and then go back to excluding Blacks from militia duty after the revolutionary war? There are scads of websites on this subject and each one pushes a different bias, each with a slightly different set of facts.

BTW, Mr. Bond, are you trying to tell us Dr. Bogus's thesis is the kind of Constitutional History Barrack Obama taught at Harvard?

Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013
Article comment by: Gray Grammarian

To Nusto Fasst:

Re: "Congressmen from southern states would not have approved legislation conscripting their citizens into a federal militia that included free blacks, who, as happened in the Revolutionary War, could be freed from slavery to fight as substitutes for masters who didn't want to be conscripted."

How could "free blacks" be "freed from slavery" for any reason?

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: M J

Re: Wacka Wacka
"If guns were a personal right, they would have said so." Your quote.



whooo wheeeee ..... thanks .... I haven't laughed that hard in some time.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Gray Grammarian

To Peter, Yavapai County:
We seem to be foundering on semantics here. The creation of a union of independent colonial states and the colonies' industrial/agricultural development were on parallel tracks. The evolution of slavery in the colonies is linked to the latter. Of course, along with a host of other considerations both domestic and foreign, the growing southern dependence on slave labor influenced articles in the Constitution, and probably influenced the wording of the Bill of Rights. But the correct terms are "influenced" or "relevant" not "linked."

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

Mr. Wacka: "If guns were a personal right, they would have said so."

They said that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," as you so blithely demonstrated. Had they intended to restrict that right, they would have written, using the grammar you seem to believe you're privy to: "The people shall have no right to keep and bear arms, except in the service of a well regulated militia, which is necessary to the security of a free State." However, the bill of Rights was not written to restrict the rights of the people, it was written to restrict the power of government.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ itsy bitsy Spider:
Could the Crown loyalists have something to do with State induction policies? They didn't want the revolution to succeed, and many southern plantation owners were Royalists. From what I've read, Washington didn't have the same problem with the New England States where a majority favored independence.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Wacka Wacka

@nutso fasst

Just to round out your argument ....

Article. I. - The Legislative Branch

Section 8 - Powers of Congress

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress

Article. II. - The Executive Branch
Section 2 - Civilian Power over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Amendment 2 - Right to Bear Arms. Ratified 12/15/1791.
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.

Amendment 5 - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

So .. as you can see .... the framers not only knew what a Militia was, but how it was to be armed, funded and used.

So ... you want a gun? Join the Militia and be "well regulated".
And then Congress will give you a gun and Pres Obama will be your boss. Just like it says in the Constitution.

The framers had no problem with the terms like "no person" and used them several times in the writing of the Constitution.

According to the grammar lessons that the Framers would have learned, the sentence structure of the Second Amendment binds the right to bear arms to service in the militia.

If guns were a personal right, they would have said so.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

This is about as relevant to the letter as Peter of Yavapai's comment, but it's an interesting bit of history:

The first blacks in British America arrived in Virginia in 1619 with Dutch traders who had seized them from a Spanish slave ship. They became indentured servants along with about 1,000 English indentured servants already in the colony. One of them, Anthony Johnson, gained freedom, became a landowner, and obtained his own black indentured servants to work for him.

In 1654, one of Johnson's servants, John Casor, told neighbor Robert Parker that Johnson had kept him beyond his agreed-to term of service. When Parker threatened to report Johnson's violation of local law and testify against him, Johnson gave Casor his freedom. Casor then signed up for 7 years of indentured servitude with Parker.

Johnson felt he'd been cheated and took the matter to court. The court ruled that Parker was illegally holding Casor and that Johnson was entitled to hold Casor "for the duration of his life."

So it was that a free black man became the owner of the first legally recognized black slave in Colonial America.


Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Country Boy

Peter?????? I was giving you a compliment and look at what you do with it???

I agreed with your militia point going so far as to encourage you to re-post your view on another conversation that it would also make since with...

How ever I do not agree with your points on militia and slavery.

I will conceded to the fact that yes a lot of recent history of some modern militias do in fact have "racial" and "racist" issues and agendas but again that is "modern militias"

Peter, please go read the other letter I talked about. I do feel your view on present day militias is a valid point and a valuable point in that discussion.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

British colonial militias preceded the importation of black slaves (the Virginia militia was established in 1607), and were organized primarily for defense against natives and other European colonizers. It should thus be clear to any logical person that the contention that "anyone with an open mind and an unprejudiced view of American history" would conclude that "slavery and militia were intimately related...in our nation’s history" simply illustrates the prejudice of the writer. Use of existing militia for enforcement of colonial slave laws is no more a "definite link" between militia and slavery than police enforcement of drug laws constitutes a definite link between police forces and the illicit drug trade.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Peter, Yavapai County

Country boy, I know you were quite offended by the premise that slavery and militia were intimately related (not cause and effect), in our nation’s history. Though the history “expert” debunked the theory, it is clear to anyone with an open mind and an unprejudiced view of American history that their is a definite link.

These days we would rather ignore that link, so some of us refuse to believe it exists. However, there are many who do believe that a state militia (while looking good on paper), if not properly regulated, will attract racists, and enable and encourage them to act on what they believe to be their Rights, however misguided. I believe that this is why Mr. Tobin, a solid Republican, refused to bring SB1083 to a vote. Common sense dictates that you don’t give green light to a state militia if you can’t fund it an regulate it properly.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: P F

@ m j

Yup, m j, that is exactly what they do and I hear you have won every day for 3 years running.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

@ Mr. History: "Insurrections? From where?"

As noted in response to your comment to the "Don't rewrite history" letter, the second Militia Act of 1792 defined who was to be conscripted into the federal militia. Every white male 18-45 years of age not expressly excused from service was required by law to be suitably armed and ready to serve. Congressmen from southern states would not have approved legislation conscripting their citizens into a federal militia that included free blacks, who, as happened in the Revolutionary War, could be freed from slavery to fight as substitutes for masters who didn't want to be conscripted.

The Militia Act allowed President Washington to call up a federal militia to put down the Whiskey Rebellion tax protest by Pennsylvania farmers in 1794. The federal militia was called up again in 1812 to fight the British, and it failed miserably for lack of being 'well regulated' (properly trained). The federal militia was never called up to suppress a slave uprising.

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: Country Boy

Peter, Yavapai County.
I think you may have miss placed this post.. It is actually very good and pertinent to another posting going on @

This would be very good in that discussion as far as "Far Riders" militia deal goes.. Please check that out and maybe re-post your information there also. .

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