Paul Finkelman: 2nd Amendment Passed to Protect Slavery? No!

tags: Thom Hartmann, Second Amendment, guns, gun control, slavery, The Root, Paul Finkelman



Paul Finkelman, Ph.D., is the President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at Albany Law School. He is the author of more than 40 books, including Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson and recently published an op-ed in the New York Times on Thomas Jefferson and slavery entitled "The Monster of Monticello."


Recently Thom Hartmann published an essay on Truthout titled "The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery." Hartmann, who is described on the Internet as a radio host, author, former psychotherapist and entrepreneur and a progressive political commentator, said the amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended, in part, to protect slave-patrol militias. 

If Hartmann's political goal is to argue for reasonable firearms regulations, then he and I are in the same camp. I have long argued that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual's right to own firearms, and that the purpose of the amendment was purely to guarantee that the states could maintain their own militias. I have also written a great deal on how the Constitution protected slavery (see my book Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson), and I am not shy about pointing out how the founders protected slavery. Indeed, my most recent public comment on slavery and the founding was an op-ed in the New York Times on Jefferson and slavery titled "The Monster of Monticello."

Still, however committed one may be to a political outcome, it serves no purpose to make historical arguments that are demonstrably wrong, misleading and inconsistent with what happened. Hartmann does not serve his cause well by purporting to write history when his version of history is mostly wrong, and very misleading.

Hartmann begins by arguing that "the real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says 'State' instead of 'Country' " was that the framers wanted "to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote."...



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