41.0,..,..44.4041*184.108.40.206.110910…* Contemporary members of “militia” movements, justifi ably feared by political liber als, claim that the contempo rary state is already teetering on the edge of, if not falling into, the kind of corruption that justified armed revolt in 1775. One need not support latter-day militia movements to concede that they are drawing on a strong thread of American thought. did not exist or have significant influence. If the symposiasts are ultimately simply offering sets of counter-examples designed to forestall the assertion of any confident generalizations about the historical issues surrounding firearms, then I have no real argument with them. If, on the other hand, they are insisting that we currently possess enough knowledge about the past to establish a real “truth” about what Americans in general believed about firearms, then I remain unconvinced. II. What role did ideology play in conceiving the Amendment? Perhaps at the heart of the debate is what set of interpretive constructs what one might call the “guiding pictures in one’s head” that give form to understanding the surrounding world were used by Anti-Federalist critics of the Constitution of 1787 who insisted, among other things, on the addition to the original text of some kind of right to keep and bear arms. As noted, I \(and tance of civic-republicanism in constructing such pictures. Consider, for example, the statue of the Minuteman in LexingtOn, Massachusetts that celebrates, in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, the “poor farmers who came up that day [in April 1775] to defend their native soil” against the British interlopers. This image of a citizen-militia, organized and operating against the trolled government of Massachusetts, is central to the civic republican understanding of the Revolution and indeed . of America herself. Michael Bellesiles, author of Arming America, the controversial book on the origins of America’s “gun culture” published last summer, contributes an interesting chapter detailing state and national gun policies in the early years of the Republic, following the ratification of the Second Amendment; he argues, basically, that the amendment was regarded as irrelevant to the various kinds of gun policies \(including “coninaccuracy of the image purveyed by the statue and by Emerson. Bellesiles is certainly not the first to do so:Yale history professor Edmund Morgan, for example, has written “that the armed yeonianry was neither effective as a fighting force nor particularly protective of popular liberty” Yet a central question to be answered is how important these facts are to understanding the political and ideological underpinnings of the Second Amendment. Rakove, for example, makes them central to his own analysis, and he is very critical of me specifically for suggesting that “reality” might be less important than the ideas in people’s heads, which included, for many, the militias were very important. At one level I certainly agree that there is a complex dialectical relationship between “experience” and the ideological pictures that people carry in their heads. On the other hand, I think it is ultimately these pictures that help to define an “experience” in the first place. I have no difficulty agreeing with Rakove that many Americans thought differently about citizen-militias in 1789, when the Second Amendment was proposed, than they did in 1776, and Rakove rightly criticizes many.previous writers, including myself, for being less attentive to that shift than we might have been. That being said, he admits that other forms of thought remained part of the American “legacy”; surely those ideas influenced the way many Americans interpreted the events of the Revolution and thereafter. III. Who “proposed” the Second Amendment? \(And is James Madison a `trickster’ who gulled* an easily fooled Rakove emphasizes that it was “the Federalist majority who proposed the Second Amendment.” This refers, presumably, to the fact that the proponents of the Constitution dominated the first Congress, which considered and then proposed what we today know as the Bill of Rights.We should, he argues, pay far more attention to their views than to those articulated outside the halls of Congress by anti-Federalists and others, who had, after all, missed the train carrying history forward. \(As a literal matter, it is obviously true that “the Federalist majority” proposed the Amendment and that, moreover, James Madison played a particularly important role in the proceedings of the first Congress. That being said, one cannot possibly overlook the fact that this majority, including Madison, probably would never have felt any need to propose any such amendments, had that not in effect been the price of gaining assent from moderate anti-Federalists and others who were unenthusiastic 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/18/02
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