Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Would you not put the means of self-defence in that man's hands?"

Section 12. Every person has a right to bear arms for the defence of himself and the State.

Mr. BAGG moved to insert the word "white" between the words "every" and "person."

Mr. B. said--I move the amendment simply because I wish, so far as our sable population is concerned, under the operation of our laws, to keep them in their present sphere. I would extend to them benefits and charity, &c., &c., but I would not let them come into our civil, political, social, conjugal, or connubial relations.

Mr. WILLIAMS--I would like to put one question. I know in Kalamazoo a native born citizen, a man of large possessions, who is a black man. Would you not put the means of self-defence in that man's hands? If a gang of kidnappers were to come into the State, would you deprive that man of the means of defending his home, his children and his property?

Mr. BAGG--There may be isolated cases of individuals to whom I would extend more liberality than to others, but must go on general principles, which are so extensive that I should have to forego them, as they cannot adapt themselves to isolated cases. This is a general principle which I look to. Colored people, negroes and Indians should not be allowed to bear arms with us. It will be made a pretext with them to get into other circles. I am for keeping them where they are, believing them to be a species at least one link beneath us. The moment you let them into the political circle, you open the social and every other circle. I trust the Convention will never leave out the word "white" in the organic law.

Mr. BUSH would ask the gentleman from Wayne if this was a new feature in the constitution.

Mr. CORNELL--This would take away his natural rights, the right of self-defence which has never been given up.

Mr. McLEOD--There is an old Latin maxim, "satis est leoni prostrasse," which, translated, signifies it is quite sufficient for the lion to have conquered. He goes no further--he does not insult. This unfortunate class of people are thrown almost out of the protection of our laws. They are named with contumely and reproach.

They are not permitted to exercise the franchises which those who are distinguished from them by the mere accident of color exercise. It is sufficient that we, in our power, go thus far, without going still further and adding insult. I know many, both among the Indians and negroes, who, in point of intelligence virtue and personal appearance, in all that elevates the man above the brute, are at least equal to the delegate from Wayne, [Mr. Bagg]

Mr. CROUSE would suggest the propriety of amending by striking out the word "person," and inserting the word "citizen."

Mr. WILLIAMS would ask the gentleman from Livingston [Mr. Crouse] if he would not allow the women to defend themselves.

   The amendment offered by Mr. Bagg did not prevail.

Mr. BAGG moved to strike out words "and the State." In that article it would incorporate the colored with our white citizens. He was opposed to obliging them to do military duty, thus insinuate themselves among us.

   The amendment was negatived.

And here is how the right finally appeared in their Constitution:

   "Sec. 7 Every person has a right to arms for the defence of himself and the State."


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