Shay’s Rebellion Revisited

The 2nd Amendment states that citizens have a right to arm themselves, yet the reason stated for doing so is to be prepared to fight in a militia. Given the size of the military budget today, it seems doubtful that “we the people” will be asked to use the mostly unimpressive arsenals we have in a locked cabinet against foreign invaders or even our own government.

In the mid-1780’s, western Massachusetts farmers rebelled against the government because they felt the government had been unresponsive to their plights of foreclosures and other debts. Shay’s Rebellion was defeated but many of the original founders of the United States, including George Washington, looked upon it not as a democratic rebellion in the spirit of the original revolution but, in his word, a “mobocracy,” “we the people” being the mob the founders had always tried to distance themselves from.

At the same time as the rebellion, when the Continental Congress was meeting to revise the Articles of Confederation into what became The Constitution, they realized that their document was just the nuts and bolts of government and really didn’t represent the rights of individuals in a democracy. Yet did they really intend, with the Bill of Rights, to arm “the people,” after the “mobocracy” of Shay’s Rebellion?

How could the second of those rights allow the people, who many of the elite founders feared after Shay’s Rebellion, to bear arms other than to be prepared to defeat foreign invaders, the most visible threat at the time being the British whose presence was still on the continent?

Is there really any likelihood that “we the people” will again be called upon to bear arms against foreign invasion? So why are we armed today? We are becoming a nation armed against itself, which will only breed more arms, more school shootings, more accidental shootings and more sadness.

Login

Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.