What is a militia? Not what interpreters of the 2nd Amendment say it is

Oh yeah? Who sez different?

Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist No. 29, “Concerning the Militia,” where he describes in detail what a militia is and must be:

The power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents to the duties of superintending the common defense, and of watching over the internal peace of the Confederacy*.

It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were called into service for the public defense. It would enable them to discharge the duties of the camp and of the field with mutual intelligence and concert an advantage of peculiar moment in the operations of an army; and it would fit them much sooner to acquire the degree of proficiency in military functions which would be essential to their usefulness. This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union “to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by congress.”

Wow. Could this be clearer? A militia seems to be what a lot of us think it is: an early term for the National Guard, a military unit each state would maintain with “uniformity in the organization and discipline…” And each state would appoint the officers and would have authority to train the militia (according to the discipline prescribed by the federal legislature).

A state militia would have an advantage over a national army, given that it could move faster and more efficiently to provide for the common (local) defense. Thus, if an insurrection breaks out in New York, our state militia, e.g. National Guard units, would enter the picture before army troops would have to be brought in.

Or if an insurrection breaks out in the District of Columbia, say, the militias (National Guard troops) from Maryland and Virginia would be closer to the attack than would be the U.S. Army. (Even closer would be a DC National Guard, except that DC is not yet a state, thus does not have a National Guard.)

The entire Federalist No. 29 is devoted to arguing for state militias. I read it in a sort of wonderment. Given that one of our Founding Fathers laid it all out, how on earth did these simpleton “originalists” on the Supreme Court overlook this entire paper when issuing contrary and perverse interpretations of the Second Amendment?

Okay, let’s lay out the Second Amendment right here so we can see if it corresponds in any way at all to Hamilton’s definition of militia:


Right to bear arms

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

“A well regulated Militia” is distinctly what Hamilton was discussing, specifically to ensure our security. Also “uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia.” And I could go on re-quoting everything I quoted above to demonstrate how a “well regulated Militia” was not not not individual guys buying guns in an open market and prancing openly around with them sans regulations.

Indeed, Hamilton specifies how each state would — here I go again, quoting Hamilton — organize and discipline its militia and how each state would regulate its militia under regulations established by the federal government.

This is making me crazy yet again. How the fuck the Supreme Court ignores Hamilton’s lengthy specifics in favor of an awkwardly written 27 fucking words which, I’m thinking now, were scribbled down at 3 in some morning by a guy who’d had too much post-prandial brandy and closed his eyes while his pen dropped onto the paper and scratched what was later viewed as commas.

(The Amendment was proposed by James Madison, one of the trio of authors of the Federalist Papers. Proposed. He wasn’t claiming credit for writing it. In fact, it seems no one claims credit for writing it.)

*Hamilton uses the term “Confederacy” along with the term “Union” to describe the United States as the Constitution lays it out. He uses the plural “confederacies” to describe the alternative to a Union: a state or group of states forming independent sovereignties, which was an uneasy possibility before the Constitution was ratified.


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