Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Crime Against Kansas: History Informs Our Opinion on the Second Amendment

So, you think that the second amendment is only historically important because our forefathers thought they needed to protect themselves against the tyranny of the British?

The Volokh Conspiracy pointed out a recent (missed) anniversary of a historical speech on the Crime Against Kansas.

The Crime Against Kansas:

On this day in history, May 22, 1856, United States Representative Preston Brooks criminally attacked Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate, beating Sumner on the head with a heavy cane until the cane broke, and incapacitating Sumner for four years. South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks was the nephew of South Carolina Senator A.P. Butler, who had been sharply criticized by Massachusetts' Sumner in a May 19-20 speech, "The Crime Against Kansas."

Sumner had declared that while Butler "believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage," he "has chosen a mistress" who is "the harlot slavery."

Among the elements of the crime against Kansas was that guns belonging to the free-soil settlers had been confiscated by the pro-slavery territorial government. Senator A.P. Butler had allegedly remarked that the people of Kansas should be disarmed of their Sharps rifles. (The Sharps rifles were the main type which were being sent to the free-soilers by anti-slavery groups in the North, such as the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society, led by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.)

Sumner thundered:

Really, sir, has it come to this? The rifle has ever been the companion of the pioneer and, under God, his tutelary protector against the red man and the beast of the forest. Never was this efficient weapon more needed in just self-defence, than now in Kansas, and at least one article in our National Constitution must be blotted out, before the complete right to it can in any way be impeached. And yet such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guaranty, embodied in the Amendments to the Constitution, that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," the people of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the Senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed--of course, that the fanatics of Slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment.


This is what happens when you give the government the power to disarm its citizens. It does not have to be the national, federal government that can harm you, but a local, petty politician under the guise of "security" who then uses it to further their local power or even, in the case of the free soil v. slavery, a national agenda from the micro level.

I suggest reading the rest of Volokh's Crime Against Kansas. If you have time, you can find Sumner's entire speech (filled with great historical information and arguments against the confiscation of arms or disarmament of the citizens) at Making of America: Sumner's Speech.

In his speech, Sumner points out the already existing, low grade, war that has seen regular citizens of Kansas attacked and at the mercy of the different militias who were trying to overrun the state with their supporters for the upcoming citizens' referendum that would make Kansas either a free state or a slave state, changing the balance in the US Congress and possibly the future of freedom as we know it today.


Lawrence was sacked
by 750 pro-slavery forces masquerading as a posse led by local sheriff Jones to enforce a non-existing order of the court. A few days later, John Brown, soon to be famous at Harper's Ferry, went on to commit the Potowotamie Massacres. In fact, Sumner was beaten by Brooks on the same day that Lawrence was sacked.

There were many egregious acts, not to mention the confrontations with the "red man" as Sumner indicated in his speech. The reason this was being taken so seriously by Sumner and the free staters who had a territorial governor foisted on them by President Pierce, considered sympathetic to southern, pro-slavery states, was that President Pierce had declared:

...organized resistance on the part of free-state Kansans would be regarded as treasonable insurrection.


All the while, southerners were pouring into the state in an attempt to insure its entry as a "slave" state, often reported to be traveling in huge bodies of armed militia attacking "free state" settlements. Sumner had declared in his speech that the ballot box and the rights of the citizens were being destroyed by the very institution that was supposed to protect them:

"American Citizens? I show you how their dearest rights have been cloven down, while a Tyrannical Usurpation has sought to install itself on their very necks."


You think that you must only fear those in Washington DC? Or that we need not fear them because we are long past the days when the federal government could or would want to inflict any sort of acts or laws upon their citizens that would be detrimental to a Republican Democracy or the freedom of its citizens? Should we only worry about federal governments? Not the state, county or city? What about the neighbors or even people's outside the nation who would do us harm?

Why would we disarm ourselves in the face of an increasingly violent world? That makes no sense. Less sense than disarming the citizens of Kansas in 1856.

By the way, I hate to mention a rather significant fact, but the party that was trying to take away Kansas Citizens' guns? The "Law and Order Party", ostensibly to stop the partisan violence in Kansas. They were largely organized and supported by a political party that was pro-slavery (or at least wanted to protect their votes in the south which was pro-slavery) and is currently trying to take away people's guns.

Guess who?

2 comments:

Cricket said...

*said in best Church Lady voice*

Was it the Democrats? Or were they known as the Whigs at the time?

Kat said...

They were Democrats. Give the lady a brownie.