by Mike Vanderboegh
21 December 2008
Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
So runs the world away.
-- Hamlet, Act III, scene 2
The Bard, wise in all things human, observes that some folks must be always vigilant against the dangers posed by evil men while others get to sleep through life, never being forced to pay attention to what is happening around them. Some accept the responsibility of being guards. Others choose to sleep. But free men, if they wish to remain free, MUST be guards. At Virginia's Constitutional Ratification convention in 1788, Patrick Henry warned his fellow delegates:
"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined."
Ruined. We have very nearly arrived at the point Patrick Henry warned us about. Yet the danger does not relieve those of us who are guards from the responsibility of faithfully discharging our civic duty. If anything, it only sharpens our call to guard duty. Understand, this is not only about the right to firearms.
Joseph Story (1779-1845), was the son of a member of the Sons of Liberty who participated in the Boston Tea Party. A brilliant lawyer, in 1811 Story became the youngest Supreme Court Associate Justice ever appointed at the age of thirty-two. In 1833, he published a three volume set entitled Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States , a work of profound learning which is still the standard treatise on the subject. Story wrote, "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms" is "the palladium of the liberties of a republic." He also said this:
"The sacred rights of property are to be guarded at every point. I call them sacred, because, if they are unprotected, all other rights become worthless or visionary. What is personal liberty, if it does not draw after it the right to enjoy the fruits of our own industry? What is political liberty, if it imparts only perpetual poverty to us and all our posterity? What is the privilege of a vote, if the majority of the hour may sweep away the earnings of our whole lives, to gratify the rapacity of the indolent, the cunning, or the profligate, who are borne into power upon the tide of a temporary popularity?"
The "majority of the hour." Is that not what the Obama administration represents? The gun confiscationist impulse among Obama's entourage is not only a threat to our access to arms but to our property rights as well. The new "Assault Weapons Ban," we are promised by the gun grabbers, will "have teeth." There is no doubt from the Obama transition team's own statements that they intend to ban, hence confiscate, heretofore legal semi-automatic rifles of military utility. It is our property as much as our liberty they aim to seize. And what do we profit if we successfully defend our right to arms, but cannot afford to purchase the ammunition without which they become mere expensive clubs? Sam Adams once asked:
"Now what liberty can there be where property is taken without consent?"
Or, one might add, where the ability to acquire property is artificially and tyrannically denied? The answer is, there can be none.
"Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." -- Frederick Douglass
There has been much unfortunate name-calling between the Three Percenters and the so-called Pragmatists these past six months since the printing of my letter in the Madison newspaper. They started out calling us "insane" (among the nicer terms) and we responded by calling them "cowards" and the debate went downhill from there. I shoulder as much blame for this as the next man, maybe more. As a guard, I should know better.
You know, the stern, undistractable attitude of the guards at Buckingham Palace has become cartoonish in the public mind over the years. It is now a given that tourists will approach them and do everything (including the flashing of mammary glands large and small, I am told) in order to get them to react. They do not react. They do not argue. They guard.
As Constitutional guards, I have come to the conclusion that we should do more guarding and less arguing about whether or not we have the right to guard our own liberty and property. We have taken our posts by common declaration. Let the tourists mug and mock, but let us not mug and mock them back. Let us instead guard, by declaration and example.
The truth of the matter is that when the tyrant's myrmidons approach the guard post, the tourists will scatter anyway. Seeking to convert them by anything less than consistent, stern example is foolhardy. For those who might be persuaded to our position will only be swayed by conduct that they admire, not facile taunting, however effective.
Equally foolhardy, from the Pragmatists' point of view, is their expectation that they can protect their liberties without, at base, Patrick Henry's "downright force." They are foolhardy to believe that we can guard anything, whether it is our liberty or property or even the cash register at the local gas station without the threat of defensive violence. The Founders understood this.
The Pragmatists blame us for staking out a position that will lead to violence. Yet this is as ridiculous as blaming a potential rape victim for pulling out her .38 revolver and telling her would-be attacker to put that thing back in his pants before somebody gets dead. We do not seek to attack the government. We seek merely to defend ourselves from government depredations of liberty and property. We merely seek to guard.
So let us be about our Constitutional guard duty, and refuse to engage the salad-bar philosophy tourists in taunting contests. To the extent we are able to do this, it will be seen both by our potential allies and our looming enemies as evidence of our serious purpose. And if we are able to do that, we will have taken a long step down the road back to the Founders' idea of the armed citizenry as the most important credible deterrent to potential American tyranny.