Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Let us see what our ancestors thought of this indefeasible right of carrying arms...."

The Right of Carrying Arms.

   The evidence so far heard by the United States Commissioner in the case of the Baton Rouge disturbance on election day, has, we believe, established no fact implicating the parties before him of any crime. At most it has only been testified that some of these citizens were on the streets of Baton Rouge on the evening of election day, after the polls closed, with arms on their person. That is about the substance of the testimony of that swaggering Bobadil of the army, who disgraces his profession by making cowardly threats against the women and children of Baton Rouge, and who has given evidence in the case, admitting he had contemplated laying that town in ashes, burying in one common ruin all who might determine to stand by their homes, be they guilty or be they innocent. Brave soldier, this Capt. Meyers seems to think it is a crime in a citizen to carry arms, and that the carrying of arms is proof of a criminal intention. He does not seem to know that the bearing of arms is the right of every free man, secured to him by the Constitution of the country, a right which never has been questioned and which never will be surrendered. In the times in which we live, and in the circumstances in which we are placed, it is the bounden duty of every white man to have his arms at hand and ready for use. When we are ruled over by such wicked men as Warmoth and his associates, who would have no hesitation in instigating the negroes to a riot were it their interest to provoke one, it becomes necessary at all times to stand upon our defense. These wretches adopt measures designed to goad the people into resistance and then wish to punish them because they cannot bear the oppression. If there be any disposition to disturb the public peace in this State it is Warmoth and his gang of vultures who have awakened that spirit; it is they who have aroused and encouraged the negroes in their antipathy to the white people and who have given the latter cause for alarm. Then when they find us with arms in our hands ready to sell our lives only at the highest price, if we must lose them, they wish to make it a crime and would infer felonious intentions. Let us see what our ancestors thought of this indefeasible right of carrying arms. Hallam, in his Constitutitonal History of England, speaking of proposed restraints upon personal liberty, made in Parliament in 1737, says:

   A bill having been brought in by the ministers to prevent smuggling, which contained some unusual clauses, it was strongly opposed, among other peers by Lord Chancellor Talbot, himself, of course, in the Cabinet and by Lord Hardwicke, then Chief Justice, a regularly bred crown lawyer, and in his whole life disposed to hold very high the authority of government. They objected to a clause subjecting any three persons traveling with arms to the penalty of transportation, on proof by two witnesses that their intention was to assist in the clandestine landing. or carring away prohibited or unaccusted goods."

   "We have in our laws, said Lord Hardwicke, then Chief Justice of England, no such thing as at crime by implication, nor can a malicious intention ever be proved by witnesses. Facts only are admitted to be proved, any from those facts the judge and the jury are to determine with what intention they were committed; but no judge or jury can ever, by our laws, suppose, much less determine, that an action in itself innocent or indifferent, was attended with a criminal or malicious intention. Another security for our liberties is, that no subject can be imprisoned unless some felonious and high crime be sworn against him. This, with respect to private men, is the very foundation stone of all our liberties; and if we remove it, if we but knock off a corner, we may probably overturn the whole fabric. A third guard for our liberties is that right which every subject has, not only to provide himself with arms proper for his defense, but to accustom himself to the use of these arms, and to travel with them whenever he has a mind." But the clause in question, it was contended, was repugnant to all the maxims of free government. No presumption of a crime could be drawn from the mere wearing of arms, an act not only innocent, but highly commendable; and, therefore, the admitting of witnesses to prove that any of these men were armed, in order to assist in smuggling, would be the admitting of witnesses to prove an intention, which was inconsistent with the whole tenor of our laws."

   How very like this proposed English law is section No. 6 of the act of Congress known as the Enforcement law, which prohibits two or more persons from banding or conspiring together with intent to violate its provisions. We think. However, when it comes to be analyzed and applied in practice, like the English statute it will be found very difficult of enforcement as all such indefinite laws must be.

   If these Baton Rouge citizens have done nothing more than carry arms for their defense, they need be under no apprehension of being condemned by public opinion whatever pliant magistrate may do in their case.--N.O. Bee

[The Opelousas Courier, Opelousas, Paarish of St. Landry, La., December 3, 1870. Vol. XVIII. No. 12. Pg. 2]

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