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The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms (Independent Studies in Political Economy) Hardcover – April 18, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent hearing of arguments in District of Columbia v. Heller—which may overturn the capital's ban on handguns—signals a general re-evaluation of the Second Amendment. The trend is toward an unlimited individual right rather than a restricted, collective one applying only to government militias. Halbrook, a research fellow at the Independent Institute in California, is firmly of the former school and investigates the nature of the ideas underlying the Second Amendment during the Revolutionary generation (between 1768 and 1826). How did the founders regard the issue of gun control? What prompted them to define the right to bear arms as fundamental, second only to freedom of speech? Basing his research on contemporary newspapers, political resolutions and private correspondence, Halbrook delves deeply into the importance of firearms during the Revolution, finding that attempts by search-and-seizure to control the flow of guns was regarded as the typical tyrannical behavior of a standing army. Liberty hinged on free ownership. While readers might disagree with some of Halbrook's historical interpretations, his book should be welcomed as a timely introduction to this most contentious of debates. (June)
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Stephen Halbrook's The Founders' Second Amendment is first-rate work, utterly convincing. This is a solid and important work. (Forrest McDonald )
I enthusiastically recommend Stephen Halbrook's book, The Founder's Second Amendment. This is an original and valuable approach, focusing on the place of individual ownership of firearms during the time of the American Revolution and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It will add appreciably to the scholarship on the origins and meaning of the Second Amendment. (Joyce L. Malcolm )
The Founder's Second Amendment is an impressive achievement. Halbrook shows conclusively to any honest mind, both in respect to historical evidence and analytical jurisprudence, that the Framers intended the Second Amendment not as the reserved right of a State government to organize a militia, but of the people as individuals to keep and to bear arms. In this meticulously researched and exhaustive study, Halbrook has produced what promises to be the standard work for years to come on the original intent of the Second Amendment. It will be an invaluable resource for scholars of the Constitution. (Donald W. Livingston )
Stephen Halbrook's The Founders' Second Amendment is crisply written, rich with history, and sure to be valuable to anyone interested in understanding the original meaning of the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. (Glenn Harlan Reynolds )
Like much of Halbrook's other excellent work, The Founders' Second Amendment is both well-written and full of fascinating details. It will serve as an important resource for professional scholars and interested laypersons. One especially useful aspect of Halbrook's work is that the author so consistently lets a huge variety of original sources speak for themselves. (Nelson Lund )
Historian and philosopher Stephen Halbrook is the single most prolific researcher on the Second Amendment, having contributed literally dozens of scholarly articles on various aspects of the subject. The Founders' Second Amendment masterfully both extends and summarizes his (and others') research. It is the last word—the single most comprehensive work on the thinking of the Founding Fathers' era about the constitutional right of citizens to be armed.
(Don B. Kates )
The subject of The Founders' Second Amendment is currently 'front-and-center' as a 'hot' and major controversy. Well researched and well presented, Halbrook's book has brought forward a substantial amount of new research, not redundant of what others have provided, and this book will find a solid place among leading works on the subject. (William W. Van Alstyne )
A timely introduction to this most contentious of debates. (Publishers Weekly )
The book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to form a knowledgeable opinion on the meaning, application and reason behind the Second Amendment. (New American )
The depth and detail added to source material quotes makes this a fine pick for both college and high school collections strong in American history and politics. (Midwest Book Review )
[Halbrook] covers the Second Amendment's historical underpinnings from 1768–1826, and so offers readers a rich interpretive framework from which to grasp the U.S. Supreme Court's (conservative) decision in June 2008 . . . affirming the constitutional right of individuals to keep guns at home.
Stephen P. Halbrook's new book represents the most careful and well-thought-out study yet in support of the politically ascendant claim that the Second Amendment, as originally intended and understood, protects a right to own guns for purposes other than service in the lawful militia. (William G. Merkel American Historical Review )
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Top Customer Reviews
Stephen Halbrook's "The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms" is an amazing scholarly review of the origins of 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. Out of 450 total pages, this book has over 90 pages in citations alone. For any one participating on either side of the "gun" debate today, this book in my opinion is required reading.
I admit, I like history. Especially U.S. history as it relates to the founding of the colonies, the revolutionary war, and the creation of the U.S. constitutional republic. This book describes life just prior to the revolutionary war and the oppression by the King of England. It also describes the discussions around the Bill Of Rights as they were not originally given in the U.S. Constitution but were demanded by the people at large.
What I learned:
- The text of the 2nd Amendment is to be read in two parts. The first half of the sentence preceding the comma is a politically declarative thought; the second half after the comma is an actionable statement as to what the government can never do.
- The militia was always referred to as the people at large (aka the general citizenry). Standing armies were viewed as a threat to liberty. Having an armed society was/is the best prevention to any threat and is to preserve liberty.
- Natural rights precede any government and are/were never granted by government. They are to be protected and never infringed.
- Due to the oppression by the King of England, a declaration of rights was demanded by the people of the colonies. Always included in this was the right to keep and bear arms for the natural right of self-defense from any person, persons/groups, and for hunting. "Game laws" were used to limit/subvert the rights of arms by the people.
- I agree with Thomas Jefferson in that the Bill of Rights did not go far enough to linguistically chain politicians and government down to make it difficult for the rights to be infringed upon.
- Considering the Bill of Rights discussion, I would like to find another book which goes through the entire history of Bill of Rights from each of the colonies and the debates on each side.
To my friends who are on both sides of this issue, this is a *must* read. You are doing all a dis-service by not reading it. (less)
An independent America was the last thing most Colonists wanted in 1770. The English subjects of the New World during this time were the freest, most prosperous people in the world, more so than most Englishmen in their mother-country, Great Britain. This was based in part on the freedoms they valued as Englishmen, their right to pursue any trade or endeavor they chose, and benefit from their own efforts. They were proud to be Englishmen, and valued their rights as defined in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Few would have ever wanted to sever their relationship with their Mother Country.
The Seven Years War (1754-1763) - Americans commonly call it the “French & Indian War” - opened up the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys to English settlements. There were issues between the British Crown and English Colonies regarding how to fund, govern, and protect the new frontier to the west. Most of the issues could have been negotiated and resolved peacefully. But the intransigence of the Crown, and a series of arrogant and oppressive rulings by the King and Parliament against the New World colonies, exacerbated the dispute.
The Founders of the United States - some liberal, some conservative - attempted to reason with George III (1738-1820), King of Great Britain. They learned their Sovereign would not tolerate ideas, concepts, or evidence that differed from their King’s royal decrees and beliefs. King George was “offended” with his subjects effrontery in the New World, and sent General Thomas Gauge with an army of 3,000 armed troops to Boston to do exactly what the British did in Ireland and other British colonies; disarm all subjects, take control of commerce and trade, expropriate property, censor contrary publications, and enslave the population.
“Slavery” was the word the Founders used. They were serious. These were learned men who were by and large well-schooled in history, politics, philosophy, and economics. They studied carefully which governments seemed to work, and why others failed. They knew throughout history that disarming the population was the first step to slavery.
American settlers of the English Colonies saw themselves as “liberal,” and believed King George and the British Parliament were trampling on their rights as Englishmen. Efforts by the First and Second Continental Congress to peacefully resolve the conflict were summarily rejected by King George. It wasn’t until April 18, 1775, when General Gauge, under orders from the King, sent 700 armed British Regulars - with reinforcements ultimately 1,700 British troops - to Trenton and Concord to confiscate arms of the Colonists, that a shooting-war began.