2ND AMENDMENT AND SLAVERY
The principal purpose of the 2nd amendment was to preserve the slave system that existed in the late 1700’s. While Professor Lepore (“Battleground America” New Yorker April 23, 2012) gives an excellent summary of the interpretive evolution of the 2nd Amendment, she neglects to speak to its origin. The 2nd Amendment was the price that had to be paid to secure ratification of the Constitution. (See “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment” by Carl T. Bogus.)
The slave states relied on their militias to control their slaves and to suppress rebellion. The militia was required because the slave population in the slave states was such a large proportion of the total population. For example, as per the 1790 census, in Virginia slaves were 39 % of the total population, in South Carolina 43%, in Maryland 32%. (The brutal methods of the state militias, murder, fire, terror were adopted by the Ku Klux Klan.)
Nine states were needed to ratify the constitution drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. At the time of Virginia’s Ratifying Convention (Richmond June 1788), eight states had ratified but of the other five, Virginia was the only realistic hope, for number nine. During the debate in Richmond, Patrick Henry who opposed the Constitution, reminded the delegates that “The militia were the last and best defense against slave insurrection.”
Commitment to including the second amendment in the Bill of Rights removed the threat of Congress using its constitutionally granted power to disarm the state militias. This was the price that had to be paid for Virginia’s ratification.
The horror of slavery was the driving factor for establishing the second amendment. It continues today to extract its grievous toll.