On the Second Amendment . . .
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .
A discussion of any of the parts of the Bill of Rights necessarily must begin with a reference to the “spirit of the Law.” The United States Constitution is the “letter or word of the Law,” but the Declaration of Independence is the spirit. The Constitution describes “how” we will do government as a free and independent people, but Declaration tells us “why” we will govern ourselves.
One cannot properly understand the Constitution or the mindset or intentions of our Founders unless one first understands the Declaration. They must be studied together, even though they were written nearly fifteen years apart.
Our Founders were nearly to a man amateur theologians and historians. Most could communicate in numerous foreign languages, to include ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin. They studied classical literature and were familiar with the writings of all the great western thinkers. They were nearly all deeply devout Christians of the reformed tradition and had a profoundly biblical view of life.
The British citizens of the North American colonies of Great Britain in the late 18th Century had been actively governing themselves for nearly two hundred years. They had made a good life for themselves and their families by hard work, industry, risk and faith.
They had a more-or-less common understanding of God, the nature of man, the necessity for salvation and individual self-government.
They understood the value of liberty and the curse of tyranny.
There is no other way to explain the explosive reaction of the British colonists to a tiny tax on tea and official papers.
It was not about the money; it was about the principle of self-governing citizens authorizing their own just taxes, not some distant legislature in which the colonists were not represented. These people understood their heritage of liberty and they took up their weapons to defend it.
Liberty is the gift of God to people. It is the condition of a person when they have no external restraints on them. The only restraints on a truly free person are internal, those they choose to accept, such as a prohibition to do something self-destructive, or a choice to not harm another person.
Biblically speaking, liberty is the original condition of humanity; we were literally created for it. Unfortunately, as the biblical narrative tells us, our original ancestors exchanged their liberty for a knowledge that enslaved them; they accepted a condition of tyranny, the tyranny of a sinful, rebellious, broken nature that manifests itself in a huge variety of negative, destructive, selfish behaviors.
Ultimately, tyranny is the condition when someone imposes their will on a person. Tyranny is the opposite of liberty. Our Founding generation understood this very well, and they fought, suffered horrific conditions of deprivation, had their lives destroyed and families and fortunes lost. But, they defended their liberty successfully.
The patriots were citizens who were well-armed and principled. As the tyranny of the British king became more obvious, more and more Americans rose in opposition. When British professional soldiers, the Redcoats, marched, they were always opposed by the dedicated but amateurish Continentals.
Here in Virginia in December 1775, several groups of Virginia militia and some militia from North Carolina gathered together and defeated a large group of British infantry, who took horrific casualties, at what has come to be called The Battle of Great Bridge in what was then Norfolk County (now the independent City of Chesapeake).
His troops having been driven back with heavy losses, the tyrannical royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, evacuated to Great Britain with his remaining military forces and colonists who were willing to surrender their liberties for security. As Dunmore left on British naval shipping in early January 1776, he vengefully fired on the City of Norfolk causing fire, destruction, and death.
One cannonball from the fleeing governor’s vindictive assault still remains lodged in the upper wall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a quiet testimony of the tyranny of government.
After winning their independence the American people, through their remarkably capable representatives, hammered out a practical exercise in government unlike anything the world had ever experienced before. Their model was the ancient Hebrew Republic that Jehovah God gave to His people as they won their independence from another tyrant. It took a dedicated, miraculous military effort to throw off the oppression of the British government, and the Founders knew very well that an armed citizenry would continue to be an essential defense against any new tyranny that might arise in the future.
Precious to them as they debated the terms that must go into the governing document were the concepts enshrined in what came to be called the Bill of Rights.
It is not surprising that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is codified in the U.S. Constitution. The writers understood very well that it was the people, who were well-armed and skilled with their weapons, who had faced down the professional soldiers of the only world “super power” of the day and forced them to surrender and grant the Americans their liberty. Indeed, in the Declaration of Independence the People clearly stated,
. . . that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it , and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
In Virginia today we face a new tyranny of government. The governor and a complicit legislature, animated by a lust for power over the lives of common Virginians, are actively pursuing an agenda that is a very real assault on the unalienable rights of the people.
In their haste to strip away constitutional prohibitions against government power they have aroused fervent patriotic zeal across the commonwealth. Virginia has always been a leader of the states since the colonial times and again today she is leading. All eyes are on Virginia.
Will the People successfully defend their liberties, or will tyrannical government illegally impose its will on the governed?