Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our English Heritage...

As we gain one more step closer to celebrating the Christmas holiday, it’s always good to observe the points in history that shift and today is one of those days.  On December 16, 1689, the English Parliament approved the English Bill of Rights. This document would be the cornerstone which our Founding Fathers would use to fight for Independence, ratification of the new Constitution, and for the first 10 of the 27 Amendments to our Constitution.

The key design of the English Bill of Rights was an attempt by Parliament to solidify the legal basis of the 1688 Glorious Revolution. During the 1680s, many English Protestants became concerned with King James II’s abuses of power and the fear of a true Catholic on the throne. William of Orange was asked to come to England to secure the liberty of the English people and Protestantism. When James fled to France, William was proclaimed King. Parliament quickly moved to gain further control over the government and to ensure checks upon the power of the monarchy. Overall, the English Bill of Rights was used to cement the idea that the representatives of the people control the government.  

Many of the key points covered by the English Bill of Rights were used in the American Bill of Rights of 1791. But the time the First Congress met in 1789, in New York, most of the 13 States had Bill’s of Rights as part of the state Constitutions.  Some of the corresponding points are:
  *No Standing Army quartered in private homes (Amendment 3)
  *Freedom to Petition the government (Amendment 1)
  *Freedom of Speech (Amendment 1)

But the Bill of Rights went further to explain just how King James was keeping his power. He “caus[ed] several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law.” The last one is very important because King James II decided to remove the firearms from the houses of his opponents. In some case he was giving those weapons to his supporters. This was a bold move by King James II to maintain his control on the population of Protestant England. Just as Machiavelli had discussed in The Prince, to control the population one must be able to wield a force to fight off ones opponents.

Which leads me to wonder, How far is the US government willing to go to attack American’s Second Amendment rights?  History has proven that governments, in order to maintain power have had no issue restricting the rights of individuals to own firearms. The original mission of the British troops on April 19, were to capture military stores (gunpowder, firelocks, and cannons) in Concord as well as arresting John Hancock and Sam Adams. A government in power will do what it needs to remain in power. Maybe the Second Amendment isn’t just about the right of the individual to own a gun, maybe it’s much deeper.  Maybe the Founding Fathers gave us the Second Amendment a yet another check on an abusive government. Maybe it’s the right of citizens to resist by force of arms in necessary. It’s something to think about these days.

For a copy of the 1689 English Bill of Rights click HERE.

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