Among the Germans every free man went armed. "They transact no public nor private business," says Tacitus, "without being armed." When a youth arrived at the age of manhood he was brought before the assembled warriors of his tribe, and one of the chiefs in the name of the tribe presented him with a shield and a spear. It was his badge of citizenship and proof of his freedom. He became at the same time a citizen and a warrior. Taking his seat among other freemen, he heard questions of policy discussed and cast his first vote. He voted by rattling his spear against his shield. He was exercising the two great privileges essential to constitutional government--the right to vote and the right to fight. The right of the people to bear arms is essential to liberty. It is a right that tyrants have always tried to destroy. When the patriots of the American revolution were making the charter of our liberties they inscribed in it the declaration that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." It is written in the constitution of the Union and of the several States, but the law was born in the hearts of our savage forefathers in the forests of the ancient Germany. Weapons were carried by the ancient Germans on all occasions, and were even held in sanctity and reverence. "Thou shalt swear to me," said a German warrior, "by the deck of the ship, and by the rim of the shield, by the withers of the horse and by the point of the sword." It was considered dishonorable for a man to die without weapons in his hands, a feeling which endured nearly 1000 years in the English race. In the Eleventh century of the Christian era Siward, Earl of Northumberland, lay dying of moral illness. Feeling that his end was nigh, he exclaimed, "What a shame that I could not die in so many battles, but must now end like a cow. At least put on my breast plate, gird on my sword, and mt helmet on my head, my shield in my left hand, my battle ax in my right, so that a brave warrior like myself may die like a warrior." As the life of every German was spent in war, so after life, the crown of immortality was won only by the brave. Not but warriors entered Walhalla, the happy home of the dead. These were blest in proportion to the number of enemies each had slain. At the burial of a warrior his weapons were placed in the grave along with his body. He would need them in Walhalla.The above historical example of the origins of American Freedom, Liberty, and Constitutional government. Is by no means confined to the Germanic/English races. History is filled with examples of almost every people either rising up against their oppressors. Or, showing great courage in defending their freedom, liberty, property and rights. Courage is not confined to race, creed, sex, or color. It is placed in the heart of all of mankind by our wise and beneficent Creator. And must be nourished, if there is a desire to retain freedom and liberty. It can and will slumber from time to time. But the fire must never be permitted to completely die out. For when and if it does, slavery and/or death will soon follow....
The German has surpassed all races in courage, but his courage was not mere ferocity; it was courage that makes men surrender life for something more precious. The Roman writer, Symmachus, relates that a band of Saxons were taken captive and brought to Rome, to fight as gladiators. They were powerful men, strong, fierce and brave. When the day came for the fight and the vast coliseum was filled with thousands shouting for blood, the guards went to lead out the Saxon captives, but they returned alone. The Saxons lay in their cells dead. They had taken their own lives. They would not fight as gladiators. These are the men that no earthly power can conquer. These are the men that fear not kings nor stakes. These are the Cromwells and Cranmers of the world. The first element of manhood is courage; it is the foundation of all manly virtues, of liberty, of truth, of justice, of generous actions. It is fear that makes men slaves and liars and bigots and tyrants. "Of all base passions, fear is most accursed."
The courage of the German race saved them from conquest by Rome and preserved their national liberty. It gave them the power and the spirit to conquer all races with whom they fought. Bit it wrought a nobler victory than this; it achieved the victory of individual liberty and constitutional government.
We live in an age when the rights of individuals are secured by law and enforced in courts of justice. But laws and courts are sprung from the hearts of the people. Older than courts and stronger than law is the spirit that dwells in the breast of the German man, the spirit that gives life for liberty. "After all," says Taine, "the only permanent guaranty of liberty, in every country, under every constitution, is the unspoken declaration in the heart of every man: 'If any tyrant touches my property, enters my home, or violate my liberty, let him beware, I have patience. I have also strong arms, brave comrades and a good sword; and, if need be, the firm resolve, come what may, to plunge my dagger in his throat.' A nation can not be founded on power alone, a nation can be founded only on respect for liberty and justice.
"Men who their duties know.
But know their rights; and knowing dare
Prevent the long aimed blow.
And crush the tyrant, while they rend
These constitute a State."
The forms of government among the Germanic tribes were typical of their national courage and love of liberty. Some were ruled by kings, others by chieftains; here the crown was hereditary, there it was elective; but everywhere the power of the rule was fixed and the sovereign authority was in the people. When Ambiorix, king of Ehurones, was treating with Caesar's messengers, he told them he could not dictate the policy of his people, "for" he said, "my authority over them is no greater than their authority over me." "The power of their kings," said Tacitus, "is not arbitrary, but limited. Even their generals command less by authority than by example. If they are brave, if they are conspicuous, if they fight in the front, they lead because they are admired. They cannot inflict punishment of death or even whipping." Sentence of death could be passed only by the people in their general assembly. Here every free man voted, and the votes of all were equal. They came, each with his weapons, every man a legislator and a soldier....[President George T. Winston of the University of Texas, "Inheritance of English Race." An address delivered before the Sam Houston Normal Institute at Huntsville, Texas, May, 30, 1898.]
- The Houston Daily Post, June 06, 1898, Fourteenth Year--No. 65. Pg. 8.