This is the title of a very interesting article at Truthout.

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.
In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.
y the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South.  Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings.  As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.
If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband - or even move out of the state - those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse.  And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery, and the southern economic and social systems, altogether.
These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned over 300 slaves) and the southern Christian evangelical, Patrick Henry (who opposed slavery on principle, but also opposed freeing slaves).
Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.
This seems like a plausible interpretation of constitutional history to me. The northern and southern states had come together to defeat the British but they were divided by very different economic and cultural systems. The tensions that would eventually lead to the civil war were already very present in the convention in Philadelphia. Much of the negotiation revolved around crafting compromises between the two regions. The most notorious of them was counting slaves as 3/5 of a person. The constitution also set a date for the importation of additional slaves to end. The nation about to be born was not at peace about slavery.

I have always been puzzled by the language in the second amendment about a well regulated militia. There was provision in the constitution for a standing army and navy. What was really meant by a militia? This makes very good sense that the slave states demanded military type forces under their direct control for the purpose of controlling their slave society. If you tie the right to keep and bear arms directly to the existence of a militia, then the whole thing is seriously out of date and nothing more than an historical anachronism. It seems to me that many of the people on the far right who are frothing at the mouth over their guns come off as being seriously anachronistic as well.

Originally posted to Richard Lyon on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 06:24 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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