Since Thursday of last week after hearing some nonsense spoken by politicians on the radio, I realized that in order to filter the claims of politicians about what the Constitution says, we need to understand the contextual environment of the framers of the Constitution as they put together the government that we now have. So this morning I continued on in reading Federalist Papers. I read Federalist blog #15 HERE written by Alexander Hamilton in the fall of 1787. While reading this paper, I realized that I needed to refresh my memory about the sequence of events from 1776 through to the early 19th century in order to understand what Hamilton and his Publius colleagues were talking about in the Federalist papers. I guess if I had been schooled at the Academy in recent decades, I would have known this history. It seems very important to understand this history in order to evaluate what politicians are saying and advocating today, especially when they invoke the founding fathers and the right to bear military style weapons. Federalist blog #15 says nothing about the right to bear arms but I have only read about 20 of the papers. Many that I haven’t read are talking about the structure of the three branches of our federal government so I doubt that the right to bear arms is even mentioned in these.
The Federalist papers were published from around September1787 up to April 1788. The significance this timing was that the United States of America was not yet a union. The Constitution was adopted by 11 of the 13 (later all 13) states and went into effect a year later on March 4, 1789. Up until that time the 13 states co-existed as a loosely organized confederacy under the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” ratified in 1777 by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Under this document unifying the thirteen states was like herding cats.
This is the map of the thirteen states in the 1780s (click to enlarge). This is the sliver of what is now the United States of America that revolted against the British Empire with George Washington’s leadership, and won the war for our freedom. But the loose collection of states in the confederacy was basically broke. As an example, there was no unity over issues nor money to pay the ransom for the sailors and ships taken captive by the Barbary Pirates.
After the Constitution - which spelled out the structure of the Union of the 13 states - took effect in March 1789, we for the first time had a Congress composed of the House of Representatives whose members for each state were proportional to the relative population of each state, and a Senate in which each state was represented equally by two Senators regardless of size and population. This is the body of government that has formulated all of the laws of the United States ever since 1789. Having these two houses in Congress came from a proposal known as the “Connecticut Compromise.” In 1791, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, were added and, after that, 17 additional amendments were added all ratified by at least 3/4 of the states as required.
Federalist #15 opined about the weakness of the Confederacy in promoting the importance of forming a well-structured Union backed by a Constitution that could raise money, and negotiate treaties and trade agreements, while at the same time having the authority to assemble and fund a navy and army if there was an impending threat from Spain, France, Britain, Indian nations to the west, and later Mexico to the southwest.
One of the first big deals of the Union was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. By this time, the United States functioning under the Constitution was able raise the money to purchase this large landmass from France for $11,250,000 and cancelled debt of $3,750,000. France needed the money because of their Napolianic war with Britain. There was no provision for purchasing territories in the Constitution but the presidency was by that time was strong, so Jefferson just did it with the approval of Congress.
I had forgotten the details of the territorial acquistions that took place in the next 50 years leading up to Lincoln and the Civil War. Click to enlarge the map of these acquisitions and the list of the first four presidents of the United States. This growth would not have been possible under the Confederacy. Imagine a United States that didn’t own the Mississippi River or all the land west of the river.
So far, in reading the Federalist papers, I have not stumbled on to any discussion of the right to bear arms. The closest discussion I have found is the designation of the role of the legislature for organizing and funding the military.