Was the Second Amendment About Preserving Slavery?

Thom Hartmann seems to think so and he lays out a pretty convincing case at Truth Out:

If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband - or even move out of the state - those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse. And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery, and the southern economic and social systems, altogether.

These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned over 300 slaves) and the southern Christian evangelical, Patrick Henry (who opposed slavery on principle, but also opposed freeing slaves).

Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.

If this is true, then, like the Three-Fifths clause, the Second Amendment has to be obsolete.

  • I’m frankly shocked that anyone is surprised by this. Just look at a map of the slave states among the 13 colonies. None had a significant problem with restive native populations. There was little to no threat of foreign invasion. All, particularly the powerful state of South Carolina — which was already majority-slave by that point — had an interest in suppressing slave revolts. It was practically the only serious security risk they faced.

  • mrbrink

    Right wing conservatives, to a great degree, are still suppressing the slave insurrection with their guns.

    Whether it’s women fighting for their reproductive rights, fair pay, and equality in the workplace. Or unions fighting for better wages and protections for their members. Environmentalists fighting for a cleaner atmosphere and a less self-destructive habitat. Immigrants seeking legal status. LGBT fighting for their civil rights and equal protection under the law– and yet, here they are, over 200 years later, using their guns to regulate and suppress the congress from resolving any of that, and, in fact, using the threat of armed insurrection to undo all of that.

    A perpetual right wing insurrection providing for the defense of suppressing women, unions, gays, Muslims, a social safety net…

    They’re terrorists using terrorist tactics– threats of gun violence threats of money bombs– to suppress the majority of Americans who emphatically disagree with right wing conservatism’s idea of fairness, equality, and domestics tranquility.

    This changes the debate and it just goes to show you that right wing conservatives are still terrorizing freedom-seeking people with an obsolete amendment used to do just that.

    I’d love to see one of their faces when they read the “roots” of the 2nd amendment. I imagine it would look not-so-bright.

    • priscianusjr

      “If this is true, then, like the Three-Fifths clause, the Second Amendment has to be obsolete.” Non-sequitur. In the first case, the reference to slavery is in the text; in the second, it is, at most, behind the text. I read Hartmann’s piece, but I also read this: So even if Hartmann is right, it’s not the whole story. To me, the real problem with the second amendment is that nobody seems to know what exactly it is about, least of all its supporters. It is written in an antecedent-consequent logical construction, in which the consequence is the uninfringeable right to bear arms, but the antecedent refers to something that no longer exists. But if we can approximate a well-regulated militia that is necessary for the defense of the state, it would have to be the state national guards, and the best you can say is that potential volunteers ought to know how to bear arms in a way that would be consonant with a well-regulated militia. In other words, we need regulation, because anyone who might qualify as a “gun nut” is not the kind of person you would want carrying firearms in a well-regulated militia. But as of now it is almost impossible to discern any connection between a well-regulated state militia and the right to bear arms, even though that’s what the second amendment is based on.

    • muselet

      The average Righty would greet this comment with that same look of incomprehension.


  • “If this is true, then, like the Three-Fifths clause, the Second Amendment has to be obsolete.”

    Even so, we would be forced to fight another civil war if we tried to rid ourselves of it.

  • Victor_the_Crab

    But, but, but, but… Larry Ward… the guy planning the Gun Appreciation Day™ this weekend. He said if the slave had owned guns they would have been free. He’s not lying to me, is he???

  • I knew about the fear of slave emancipation through military service and that was not desired by the southern colonies. However, I have never read about the slave patrols or what the actual thoughts regarding the desire to preserve it on the part of the Southern Delegates. VERY interesting and helpful. Thank you!