US Citizens Do Not Have the Right to Take Up Arms Againt the US Government

Shays’ Rebellion

For until recently, the Court interpreted “militia” as being the privilege of the States– to put together as they see fit. Somehow, folks have gotten the idea that the signers of the Constitution meant that any contrarian with a fringe belief or grudge has the right to form a militia.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

More and more folks seem to interpret the second amendment as stating that anyone seeing the government as “tyrannical” has the right to overthrow that government. It has never been true in the past so how is it true now? How this new idea will play out is a worthy discussion.

For the original intent of the Constitution in regard to a militia, one need look no further than the Shays’ Rebellion. Four thousand people signed confessions acknowledging participation in the events of the rebellion. Eighteen men were convicted and sentenced to death, but most of these were either overturned on appeal, pardoned, or had their sentences commuted. Sad but even the Articles of Confederation did not grant those fellows the right to pick up a weapon and go march on Springfield.

Oh, almost forgot. Shay’s rebellion also helped influence the adoption of a more robust central government at the Constitutional Convention. Federalists argued for a more centralized federal government. Seems odd that those who called themselves Federalists wanted a more powerful central gov and those calling themselves anti-federalist wanted just a federation of States, but that’s beside the point. It’s also odd that folks think that this newly formed government intended to grant militia forming rights to everybody with an ax to grind (although the cause may have been just) What happened was that a deal was struck between the federal government and the states resulting in a Bill of Rights being added to the new Constitution. All this because of Shays’.

Let me get a show of hands. How many think that the government in Hamiltons’ and Washington’s world wanted their government overturned?

There have been other uprisings in the US; Shays’ was only one. I mention it because that set in motion the thrust of the Constitutional Convention. Dealing with rebellions like the Shays’ was on the minds of the Constitution signers. Yet, today there is a new twist to the second amendment about militias. The forefathers were clear in dealing with Shays’. Attempts to overthrow the US government would not be permitted and the States could pull together a militia as they saw fit to retain order. Shays’ Rebellion helped put the need to form a better Constitution–to put in place a strong federal government much like the one left behind in England. As far as the Law, militias were not for Daniel Shays; they are are not for everybody today, all willy-nilly.

Why would Madison and the gang send out an invitation for insurrection in a new Constitution?

In Oklahoma history, a militia was called up in 1923 to guard the State Capitol. The Governor called it due to the Ku Klux Klan becoming so bad in Oklahoma; they had to put the state under martial law. Anybody know other times a militia has been called up in Oklahoma? That’s the only one I can think of right now.


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