Contrary to Danny Glover, The Second Amendment Was Not Ratified to Preserve Slavery

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | Anthony Gregory | The Independent Institute
An article at Truth Out by Thom Hartmann argues that the Second Amendment was ratified to preserve slavery, particularly to empower the state militia that used arms to enforce the institution through slave patrols. I wrote to Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, an historian who has written at some length about the history of American militia and whose working paper Deadweight Loss and the American Civil War: The Political Economy of Slavery, Secession, and Emancipation extensively discusses slave patrols as a key method by which slaveowners socialized the costs of slavery’s enforcement.

Hummel’s response to the Second Amendment slavery theory? Don’t buy it. Hartmann’s argument is overstated “to put it mildly.” In particular, the argument suffers from “presentism, back-dated from the Civil War, where everything that happened prior in U.S. history was driven by slavery.”

Hummel takes issue with some of the basic historical background in the Hartman piece, particularly “with the claim about ‘hundreds of substantial slave uprisings’ prior to the Constitution’s adoption. This would astonish most serious colonial historians.” Hummel explains the confusion:

    Hartmann lifts this claim from the Carl T. Bogus article he cites, which in turn relies on Herbert Aptheker’s 1949 book, generally considered exaggerated even at the time it was published, before much additional research on slave revolts had made historians curious about their relative infrequency when compared with other slave societies in the New World. Nor were the few serious slave revolts during the colonial period confined to the South, with two in New York City (1712 and 1741).


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