“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” Thomas Jefferson
Well, not really.
As awesome as this statement is, there is no evidence that Jefferson actually said it. But in 1825, about 18 months before he died, he did write this in a letter to William Short:
“And after all it is but a truth which exists in every country where not suppressed by the rod of despotism, men, according to their constitutions, and the circumstances in which they are placed, differ honestly in opinion. Some are Whigs, liberals, democrats, call them what you please; others are Tories, serviles, aristocrats. The latter fear the people, and wish to transfer all power to the higher classes of society. The former consider the people as the safest depository of power, in the ultimate, they cherish them therefore, and wish to leave in them all the powers to the exercise of which they are competent.”
In 1914, a version of the “fear” quote was delivered by John Basil Barnhill an author and lecturer engaged in a debate against Socialism in the form of a series of battling articles sponsored by the National Rip Saw Publishing Company in St. Louis Missouri, who said:
“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
Barnhill went on to warn the public of this new and liberty-destroying message of Socialism which claimed Capitalism to be the source of the current (1914) economic woes. Barnhill rather, placed the blame on monopoly.(Monopoly is most generally created when private businesses get special treatment from the government, giving them an unfair advantage over their competition. The only legitimate role for government regarding monopoly is to ensure that all competitors are treated fairly in the courts.
Technically, Capitalism and Free Enterprise are not the same thing, in fact they result in almost polar opposites. Capitalism promotes a system that treats people differently depending on their assets and connections – even using political position for unfair advantage. Free Enterprise is a system that simply protects rights and ensures justice, but prohibits any economic arrangements or unfair practices between government and people or between the people themselves.)
It is amazing how the narrative has not changed in over a hundred years. Keep in mind, this debate took place before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent evidence of the results of Socialism and Communism. This is also the general period of the writings of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Eric Voegelin, and Hilare Belloc–warning against the same dangers.
Here are a few excerpts from both sides of the argument:
Henry M. Tichenor – was a writer and prominent socialist during the Progressive Era. He has been ranked beside Madalyn O’Hair as a leading American freethinker of the twentieth century.
“Socialism is a proposed economic system wherein those things that we must all have access to in order to live, shall be owned publicly and operated democratically, and that Socialism guarantees to each one the private ownership and enjoyment of the full product of his labor. What Socialism proposes, and all that it proposes, is that no man or set of men shall live off the labor and earnings of another man or set of men—that no person shall put in his own pocket the wealth that is produced by the labor of another person. In other words, Socialism is a world-wide Anti-Pickpocket Crusade.
‘Barnhill shoots off his first load by actually admitting that Socialism and nothing but Socialism can create a decent and humane society. Barnhill didn’t know that he made this admission, because, alas! Barnhill’s knowledge of Socialism is limited to phantoms floating in his own head instead of the scientific economics laid down by Marx and Engels. Barnhill admits “that something in our modern civilization is murdering life.” This makes me rather like the man, because, although his brain is sadly balled up on economics, he appears after all to have a tender heart.
And then Barnhill bursts forth-I hate to tell it, it’s really a shame to expose him-with this:. _ “Socialists tell us that this monster (that is murdering life) is competition. I affirm that it is Monopoly, and the issue is clean cut between us.” Karl Marx predicted the birth of this “monster,” Monopoly, long before the animal came, and at a time when men of the Barnhill school laughed at Marx for his prediction. But Marx disclosed the already pregnant mother of Monopoly so clearly that about every scholar in Europe admitted the Monster would surely be born in due time.
‘Competition naturally produced partnerships of small capitalists that they might thus handle industry on a larger scale, and these combinations of partnerships just as naturally at last produced monopolies. This has gone on in the economic field until to-day the great modern machines, that sprang from the brains of the skilled mechanics and workers, are by far too immense and costly to ever be owned by any individual. Modern production and distribution-carried on by the mammoth factories and great railway systems-are entirely too big for any single individual-even Mr. Barnhill-to privately own and operate.
Even the most deluded mossback ought to realize that there is some difference between an old-time individually owned ox-cart and the modern transcontinental railway systems. The world to-day stands confronted with two, and only two, possible propositions, to-wit : Either its vast, modern industries shall continue to be a Capitalist Monopoly, conducted for the private profit of a select few, or shall become a nationally owned and nationally operated Blessing, conducted for the public welfare of the nation.”
Joseph Basil Barnhill – Lecturer and owner of the Anti-Socialist Book Company.
“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.
‘The surest way to make a scoundrel out of a saint is to give him the power of spending other people’s money, and Socialism would multiply infinitely such opportunities.
‘A great teacher truly said, “Progress in the political, religious and intellectual evolution of humanity is effected [negatively] by the substitution of personal decisions for authorative measures.” In other words, individual initiative and private enterprise are the indispensable bases of an advancing civilization.
‘The voice of the public may be the voice of God when it is strictly attending to public business, but when the public intermeddles in personal affairs it becomes an agent of the devil himself.
‘Socialists tell us that private monopoly spells stagnation and death, but my dear Socialist, you do not change your indictment by changing your adjective. All experience declares that you can prove an even stronger case against public monopoly. In other words, monopoly is the grave of nations. Monopoly means death, as competition means the life of civilization.”
I watched the January 26, 2016 FBI footage and Finicum definitely attempted to run the roadblock, almost striking an agent who jumped in front of him.
He left the vehicle immediately walking several yards away covered by multiple agents. He seems to have put his hands down for some reason and the agents shot him dead.
A tragic loss of life after what appears to be anything but a routine traffic stop (some say an ambush) following weeks of peaceful negotiations. There is an on going investigation to assess the actions of the police.
My military training to “repel boarders” justifies the use of lethal force when faced with aggressive potentially deadly combatants. Law enforcement receive similar training and I can understand interpreting Finicum’s actions as aggressive, but is it really possible that the overwhelming presence of FBI and State Police agents considered the actions of Finicum as “potentially deadly?”
All I know for sure is that I am deeply disturbed by these last few moments of a good man’s life and have lots of unanswered questions:
Why did law enforcement choose to escalate the situation after weeks of peaceful talks?
Why did law enforcement setup and ambush Finicum and company when there was no immediate danger to life or property?
What was the government’s imperative to force a conclusion?
What does “productive beneficial use” mean?
What were the occupiers trying to accomplish at the refuge?
What are the opposing claims of the government and the ranchers?
What originally gave the ranchers the right to ranch on this land generations before and what changed?
What are the “natural rights” that the LaVoy kept talking about?
Was this just another “crazy standoff” or are these the actions of patriots? Now that a life has been sacrificed, I challenge you to look deeper and ask hard questions.
More to follow.
In ancient Greece and Rome, the population experienced a natural segregation into to distinct classes: the slave class and a group now called liber.
Liber is the Latin word for the inner layers of tree bark, and since this paper-like substance was used to record histories, engage in contract, participate in the workings of law, etc. we associate the word liber with those who had this skill set.
Liber is the root word for libro (book). It is also the root word for liberty, library, and the phrase liberal arts.
The ancients believed that there was a connection between liberty or freedom and knowledge. The freedom referred to by the Greek and Rome civilization was that of political freedom.
A free man was one who possessed a high level of literacy—including reading, writing, and speaking. A free man was one who could own property and protect it. A free man was one who could defend himself in the courts, could hold his own in the legislature, and who was prepared and ready to militarily defend his city or state.
The importance of the liberal arts to Western culture is evidenced in the fact that we still talk about them today, although most people know little of their history or origins. The liberal arts consist of 7 arts in 2 categories, required by the free citizen to maintain their liberty:
Trivium: language, oratory, and logic
Quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music
For the person of leisure (the Greek definition of leisure is to study and reflect. It was considered the highest expression of humanity or human development), there is a natural flow from the liberal arts to the humanities or what are sometimes called the social sciences. The concept of the humanities was developed during the Renaissance as more of an intellectual approach to education whereas the liberal arts were more application oriented and pertain to the concept of protecting one’s citizenship. A full list of the humanities might look like this:
- Performing Arts
- Visual Arts
The basic concept used at Monticello College is that the liberal arts lead to the humanities or a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
The Monticello College definition of the liber education thus far consists of the liberal arts and the humanities.
But we also believe that the addition of the manual arts is of immense value to human develop and the making of leaders so we include the following to our definition of liber education:
- Use of garden hand tools
- Raising and planting seedlings
- Greenhousing and Aquaponics
- Weeding and watering crops and gardens
- HorticultureArboriculture/orchard management
- Harvesting, food storage and management
- Feeding, caring for, and reproduction of farm animals
- Butchering livestock
- Technology: basic electronics to writing code to the latest in social media
- Apiculture (bee keeping)
- Firearm safety and use
- Culinary Arts (ex.: stone hearth bread making)
- Soil preparation and maintenance
- Edifice construction: standard and alternative
- Energy production: solar, wind, and other passive means
- Customer service and restaurant skills
Last and certainly the most important is the belief in Divinity or a Supreme Being. We do not promote any particular religion or denomination, but we strongly encourage a reverence for nature and a power above man.
While the term liber originally referred to the liberal arts almost exclusively, we have taken the liberty to expand its meaning for the development of leaders in the 21st century. A liber education is designed to include all of the greatness of the past and all of the wonder of the future so that our graduates are prepared to be free leaders who are financially secure, intellectually prepared, emotionally open and empathetic, spiritually strong, and mission oriented.
I seldom share my personal opinions on the issue of gun control due to its emotional nature and the typical over reaction I have experienced from a public with little exposure to firearms.
But now I feel compelled to add to this volatile narrative by expressing a position that I almost never hear, nevertheless one that I believe to be the foundation for all accurate responses to the anti-gun lobby.
So here it is, the sentence that has had Americans up in arms (pun intended) for 200 years:
I don’t want to spend any time on the concept of militia and what it meant then versus now, I want to focus on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
When people try to defend the 2nd Amendment with rhetoric about the right to hunt or engage in shooting for sport or even home defense, they are actually doing the pro-gun adherents a disservice. It’s not about hunting or hobbies or self-defense. It is very much about all Americans being armed and trained.
I think I can sum up the varied concerns on this issue in one statement; namely, anti-gun advocates desire to diminish the ability of private individuals to commit mass violence on the general public. Whether this is initiated by mentally unstable individuals, those of criminal intent, or even the commission of terrorism against the state, it is suggested that the restriction of privately owned firearms will solve this concern.
I have to be honest, the way anti-gun advocates verbalize this concern seems manipulative to me. Seriously, who doesn’t want to eradicate murder? Who’s ok with mentally ill people shooting others or violent crime at any level? The problem is that the gun control side of the narrative has tried to posture themselves as the only people who are concerned about decreasing crime and the well being of citizens. Can we just state for the record that people who own and carry firearms are as equally concerned about law and order as those who want to prevent private ownership of guns?
A corollary to this concern is the question by sincere anti-gun advocates–why does a private American citizen need an AR-15 rifle (an AR-15 is the 1959 civilian version of the M-16 military service rifle which is no longer in service, it was replaced by the M4 carbine)?
To answer these not-so-modern questions (the 2nd Amendment was first challenged for these very same reasons in Bliss v. Commonwealth 1822), let’s look at the broader picture. Why was the right to keep and bear arms written into the U.S. Constitution in the first place? What was the original intent of the framers and US citizens at the time the Constitution was written?
When the Bill of Rights was legislated, 189 proposed amendments were submitted. James Madison, removing duplications, boiled them down to 17, and 12 were approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Ten of the original 17 were ratified, and the right to bear arms was established as the second amendment. By overwhelming acclaim, the right to bear arms was seen as a vital component of the plan of freedom vouchsafed in the Constitution. Not only did all fourteen state legislatures see this as an indisputable right in 1791, but also the vast majority of the citizens themselves approved this measure.
But the question remains—why? Why did early Americans vote to allow ordinary people to own and carry firearms in the open—in public? Were they unaware of the risks? Were they insensible to the violence and damage that firearms can inflict?
Since firearms were part of the daily life of colonial America, even the most ardent gun control advocate today would have to agree that these people clearly understood the dangers and risks of weapons in public even if the technology of the time was limited. In fact, most early Americans not only owned and carried firearms, but their weapons were often of the same caliber and size as those used by the military. So their stanch support for the second amendment couldn’t have been ignorance or a lack of experience. So why would they knowingly allow, encourage, and in fact, demand that anyone who wanted to—could own and carry a weapon in public?
The answer is as simple as it is compelling. They feared a oppressive government more than mass public gun violence. History is replete with human rights violations by kings and governments against the citizenry.
William Blackstone, arguable the greatest influence on early American jurisprudence, stated in his Commentaries on the Laws of England that, “the last auxiliary right of the [king’s] subject . . .is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. [But this] is also declared…a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.” [Commentaries 1:139 – Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765–1769. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.]
What he is saying here is that while a case can be made for reasonable restrictions on ownership of weapons, the whole point of private individuals “keeping and bearing arms” is to provide the means whereby free men can exercise the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. Oppression is the unjust or cruel exercise of power or authority. Since Blackstone is specifically numerating the rights of a subject, the threat of oppression he discusses here can only be that of the ruler or government.
The colonial and early American mentality regarding private ownership of firearms was to ensure the most fundamental of all human rights—the right to resist, the right to self-preservation. For 150 years prior to the American Revolution, the early Americans watched this very conflict of self-preservation against tyranny in their own motherland of England. And the colonists themselves experienced oppressive government beginning with the Stamp Act of 1765. For the next 11 years, they watched with great anxiety the encroachment of government into every aspect of their lives including the forced quartering of British soldiers and the confiscation of weapons and ammunition. They knew firsthand how a government could justify infringement on the rights its citizens.
Okay, so in 1765 according to Blackstone and the experience of Colonial America, it seems you could make a case that gun ownership was understood to be a deterrent to political/military tyranny. But certainly mankind has evolved and matured so much since that time that those kinds of concerns are no long an issue…or are they?
It is easy to sit here in the year 2016 and not remember the horrors of the last century. All over the globe egomaniacs ruined the lives of millions, in large part, because the people themselves had no means to stop the aggressor. Think of Tito from Yugoslavia, Pol Pot of Cambodia, the military cabal of Burma, and the unbelievable atrocities of China’s Mao. Then there were countries like Spain and Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan, where the central powers deliberately moved to confiscate all civilian weapons prior to revealing the more sinister part of their plans.
Entertaining the naïveté of not fearing the possibility that democracies can and often do evolve into usurpatious tyrannies is inconsistent with the actual facts of six thousand years of human experience, and this same naïveté and or ignorance of history, led to the near collapse of Europe just 70 years ago.
Because history has demonstrated that over time governments tend to concentrate power and ultimately if unchecked will violate rights, the American framers believed that unrestricted private ownership of firearms was required to keep the ever expanding and egocentric nature of government in check.
There is no counter to the evolving usurpatious-democracy argument. You can call someone out for conspiracy theories, but in the final analysis, the evolution from democracies and republics and democratic republics to tyrannical socialist and fascist states is not fantasy. It has happened many times in the past and considering the cyclical nature of history, it will likely happen again in the future. How many people in ancient Greece or Rome felt their rights were protected when suddenly government changed its mind? We could literally list hundreds of governments who have violated their citizenry. What makes our situation any different?
Many have said that perhaps private ownership was needs centuries ago, but now nearly all areas of the United States have police forces for such things and the US military is the strongest in the world…exactly. The whole point is regardless how much protection-infrastructure a city or a county or even a state has to protect the people, unless the people retain the ability to resist and self-preserve, there is always the looming likelihood that as power centralizes, individual rights diminish in value and those same government forces will be used against the very people they were designed to protect.
This is exactly why the Framers built the second amendment into the Constitution. They were readers of history and understood human frailties in the passage of time.
So am I suggesting that the US government will become oppressive and tyrannical and will require armed citizens to fight for a restoration of their freedom? No. I am not predicting that. But it is precisely the fact that I can’t predict it that causes me to see the wisdom in the private “keeping and bearing of arms.” I am simply pointing out that anyone who has studied the Roman Republic/Empire or further back the Greek City States or to near present times with Nazism under Hitler, will come to the conclusion that humanity runs in cycles and that knowing the problems and solutions of the past can be very constructive today.
Normalcy Bias ( a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster and its possible effects) dictates that no one in America wants to even consider the possibility that their government could evolve into some kind of tyrannical authority violating the rights of its citizens, but with the documented evidence of historic governmental maleficence, it would be cowardly and irresponsible to not consider the possibilities and make provisions to counter them. I want to close with the words of Tucker, Madison, Webster.
St. George Tucker was an officer in the American Revolutionary Army, a Professor of Law and a Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court. His studies in law included private mentoring from the most respected lawyer and professor in Virginia, George Wythe. Tucker states, “This may be considered as the true palladium (palee-dium) of liberty…. The right of self-defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” (Tucker, St. George. Blackstone’s Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 5 vols. Philadelphia, 1803. Reprint. South Hackensack, N.J.: Rothman Reprints, 1969.)
Though James Madison did not serve in the military on account of his poor health, he was nevertheless a champion of liberty, the youngest delegate in the Continental Congress, and was instrumental in writing and ratifying the US Constitution, he noted that, “It may be a reflection on human nature, that devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” – Federalist Papers #51 – James Madison
Noah Webster served briefly in the Connecticut Militia during the American Revolution, but found his true calling in supporting the war effort writing articles in support of the break with Great Britain. He supported the intellectual development of the fledgling country by writing pamphlets, primers and dictionaries to unify language and national identity. In support of the new national charter he said, “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops.”
– Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, October 10, 1787