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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Sources Of Militia

The Second Amendment is concerned with maintaining militias, that is, groups of armed men (usually men in those days) who were necessary for whatever purposes groups of armed men are needed.

The Founding Fathers could identify at least three needs for militias:

1) to fight in war, with the Revolution in mind,

2) to fight against Native Americans, which the country had a long history of by the time of the writing of the Bill of Rights, and

3) to fight against slave insurrections, which were more common than we usually think. I recall the first time I read Mary Boykin Chestnut's journals - some years before Ken Burns' Civil War was ever shown - and remember being surprised how large a role fear of insurrection played.

Need #1 was a memory and might be needed again (1812), but needs #2 and #3 remained acute for much longer; #3 until the end of the Civil War, and #2 a bit longer.

Now, if indeed the Bill of Rights reflected active and acute needs, what happens when those needs become moribund?

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