Columnist’s wrong on interpretation
I am writing in response to the commentary “Cherry picking for rights” (Aug. 26). I find it necessary to address a fundamental flaw the author has in regard to the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
He states he has “no doubt the government has the right to regulate that right in many ways, the language, ‘a well regulated Militia’ allows that, and let’s face it, they regulate each and every other amendment of the Constitution.” He then states that those who do not agree with his misinterpretation “can’t read, refuse to accept or just don’t understand the words.”
The English language contains many words that have multiple meanings and variations of meanings. Some had meanings which have fallen out of common usage over time, but were completely understood at the time they were written. There are those who are simply ignorant of the usage of the word “regulate” as used at the time of the framing of the Constitution, or deliberately choose the wrong definition in an attempt to distort and pervert the meaning of the passage.
In either case, the author’s opinion is at odds with the meaning intended by the Framers. “An American Dictionary of the English Language,” by Noah Webster LL.D. published in 1875 gives the definition of “regulate” on p. 1109 as follows:
1. To adjust by rule, method, or established mode; to direct by rule or restrictions; to subject to governing principals or laws. “The laws which regulate a succession of the seasons.”
2. To put in good order; as, to regulate the disordered state of a nation or its finances.
The second definition as given in 1875 is the same as used in 1789 by the Framers when writing the Second Amendment. I shall provide some examples of the use of the term “well regulated” from that time period to support this fact.
“We hear likewise that the French are in a great Alarm in Dauphine and Bresse, not having at present 1500 Men of well regulated Troops on that side.” – The London Gazette, No. 2568/3, 1690.
“To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss.” Alexander Hamilton, “The Federalist Papers,” No. 29.
“Resolved, That this appointment be conferred on experienced and vigilant general officers, who are acquainted with whatever relates to the general economy, manoeuvres and discipline of a well regulated army.” “Journals of the Continental Congress,” 1774-1789.
“That the strength of the Wabash Indians who were principally the object of the resolve of the 21st of July 1787, and the strength of the Creek Indians is very different. That the said Creeks are not only superior in numbers but are more united, better regulated, and headed by a name whose talents appear to have fixed him in their confidence. That from the view of the object your secretary has been able to take he conceives that the only effectual mode of acting against the said Creeks in case they should persist in their hostilities would be making an invasion of their country with a powerful body of well regulated troops always ready to combat and able to defeat any combination of force the said Creeks could oppose and destroy their towns and provisions.” “Journals of the Continental Congress,” 1774-1789.
“I am unacquainted with the extent of your works, and consequently ignorant of the number of men necessary to man them. If your present numbers should be insufficient for that purpose, I would then by all means advise your making up that deficiency out of the best regulated militia that can be got.” “The Writings of George Washington,” pp. 503-504, G.P. Putnam & Sons, pub. 1889.
These are but a few examples that clearly show that the meaning of the term “well regulated” as used in the Second Amendment is a reference to troops properly armed, trained and disciplined, in good order. Examine how the term “regulate” was used elsewhere in the Constitution. In every other instance where the term “regulate” is used as in definition one, or regulations are referred to, the Constitution specifies who is to do the regulating and what is to be regulated. In the Second Amendment, the Framers used the term “well regulated” to describe the militia, and therefore did not define who or what would regulate it. This descriptive term cannot honestly be construed as intent to give authority to politicians, unelected bureaucrats or appointed political czars to control, invent prohibitions and restrict the types of arms the people were permitted to possess, require licensing and otherwise infringe on the right.
I hope this clarifies the matter and corrects the author’s confusion.
It was also suggested that supporters of the Second Amendment somehow support infringements on other Amendments. I can’t answer for anyone else, but I do not, and am indeed outraged by the blatant infringements and abuses of all the others as we currently see perpetrated by our State and Federal governments.
Terry L. Clark is an Angola resident.