10 February 2019

"Marshall has made his decision: now let him enforce it"

The attorneys for the missionaries sought to have this judgement enforced, but could not. General Jackson was President, and would do nothing of the sort. "Well: John Marshall has made his decision: now let him enforce it!" was his commentary on the matter. So the missionaries languished years in prison, and the Cherokees were finally (1838) driven into exile, in defiance of the mandate of our highest judicial tribunal.
Horace Greeley, The American Conflict (1864), 106.
Some high school civics textbooks report a Constitutional crisis in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Worcester v. Georgia (1832). The issue in the case was Georgia law requiring a license from the state and an oath of allegiance to the state constitution for non-Indians living and working among the Cherokee. The bulk of the Cherokee Nation fell within the state boundaries of Georgia; the state sought to exercise its sovereignty over these lands. Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler, missionaries among the Cherokee, refused to comply with Georgia's laws, were tried and convicted, and appealed their case to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Marshall wrote the decision, which affirmed the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation.
The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress.
Worcester v. Georgia 31 U.S. 515, at 520
Marshall's decision, along with one nine years earlier (Johnson v. McIntosh) and one the previous year (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia) form the foundation of Federal Indian Law. The so-called Marshall Trilogy of cases has been celebrated and condemned and been the subject of countless books.

For the past few decades, I have occasionally checked high school civics and American government texts for how much space they devote to notions of tribal sovereignty, or to other Indian matters. The fishing rights cases of the 1970s sometimes appear, and sometimes there is a little bit about the American Indian Movement. However, the notion of tribal governments as sovereigns rarely makes an appearance. When Worcester v. Georgia is mentioned at all, Greeley's fabrication is the most frequent point.

Patriots and Peoples began as a blog concerned with two US history texts, one unabashedly liberal, and the other equally partisan on the right. Both mention Worcester. Jackson's alleged words appear no where in the historical record prior to Horace Greeley's 1864 book, published 32 years after the event.

Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen reveal no evidence of skepticism of the quote's authenticity:
Marshall's Court stated that Georgia could not violate Cherokee land rights because those rights were protected under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Jackson muttered, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it," and proceeded to ignore the Supreme Court's ruling.
A Patriot's History, 208
Howard Zinn does not pass on the quote, but makes reference to the putative Constitutional crisis:
John Marshall, for the majority, declared that the Georgia law on which Worcester was jailed violated the treaty with the Cherokees, which by the Constitution was binding on the states. He ordered Worcester freed. Georgia ignored him, and President Jackson refused to enforce the court order.
A People's History, 141
The conservative Schweikart and Allen and the liberal Zinn both cite as a leading source for these events the book Fathers and Children (1975) by Michael P. Rogin. It a strong testament to Rogin's scholarship that both skewed histories choose his work as the foundation for their claims.

Where Zinn differs from Schweikart and Allen becomes evident in what follows. Two paragraphs later in Zinn and the next sentence in Schweikart and Allen, we find contrasting interpretations of Jackson's views regarding states' rights, but neither highlights tribal sovereignty.
The same year Jackson was declaring states' rights for Georgia on the Cherokee question in 1832, he was attacking South Carolina's right to nullify a federal tariff.
A People's History, 141 
Ultimately, the Cherokee learned that having the highest court in the land, and even Congress, on their side meant little to a president who disregarded the rule of law and the sovereignty of the states when it suited him.
A Patriot's History, 208
I need to sit down with Rogin's book to examine whether he proceeds in either of these directions. I am also curious how he sources the claim. Greeley's own deployment of the alleged words 32 years after the event in question stretch the bounds of credibility. Questions drive me.

09 February 2019

Gun Obsession

Recently, I became cognizant that every post on Patriots and Peoples the past three years has been about guns in one way or another. There also have been very few posts. Despite appearances, I have interests other than guns (read my more active Chess Skills for evidence). Nonetheless, my interest in guns has grown over the past few years. This interest is both personal and historical. Guns have long interested me, although for the better part of forty years that interest was mostly historical. My personal interest revived slowly over the past few years. Last fall, I returned to the woods as a hunter for the first time since the late 1970s.

Three or four years ago, a friend shared a series of quotes on Facebook that he alleged made clear the views on the Founding Fathers on the matter of guns. My initial impression was that the list was not characterized by the usual array of fake quotes that seem the norm in highly partisan collections.

Study Regimen

Over the next few weeks, I spent several hours tracking down the original sources of each quote, studying the context, and jotting down some notes in the computer file where I had pasted the collection. My intention was to create a series of blog posts assessing which quotes were credible and which were deceptive. When I saw my friend, I asked about his source. He had received the collection in an email, he recalled, but was vague on the specifics. I found the whole collection online at Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio gun rights organization. Their website offers:
Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that serves as the flagship of our grassroots efforts to defend and advance the right of more than 4 million Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation.
My friend could have subscribed to their email, but he denied any knowledge of the organization. I am sure that the collection of quotes circulates several ways. It is possible that it originates with the BFA, but there may be another source.

My main concern is the authenticity and relevance of each quote. I appreciate the sourcing in the collection. That is, the collection not only credits George Washington with, "A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined...", but also references the president's First Annual Message to Congress. There are many fake gun quotes attributed President Washington that begin with this one.

One of my relatives shared on Facebook last week an image with a version that adds words not only that Washington did not utter, but that were contrary to his known views.

Fake Quote
His source was Mary J. Ruwart, a biochemist turned libertarian political activist. She posted this image 1 February 2017 and it continues to circulate. The measures Facebook has taken against fake news stories does not apply to images and does not apply to errors of historical fact.

I pointed out to my relative that the quote is fake and offered a link to the whole of Washington's address to Congress. I pasted my reply to Ruwart's original post.

My Response
This response and my post on Wayne LaPierre's errors with respect to a John Adams quote both were aided by the work I started three years ago or so on the BFA quotes. My series of blog posts have not materialized the way I intended, but the work has been useful. Like many projects, it has taken longer than anticipated and other interests began to crown upon the project. When I started working through these quotes, I did not have a shelf of books on guns and gun history. Now I have several such shelves and another book is scheduled to arrive today.

Yesterday morning, I started reading Adam Winkler, Gun Fight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America (2011). I am halfway through. I might post a review of this book, which I think is vastly superior to Michael Waldman, The Second Amendment: A Biography (2014), which I reviewed in 2017. I wanted to go to the shooting range yesterday morning, but the snow started falling at 6:00 am and my wife took our Explorer to work leaving me with the car that does less well on slick roads. Instead of shooting a gun or two at some targets, I spent my time reading about them.

15 January 2019

Guns and Violence in America

The problem of guns and violence in American society is a problem of overblown rhetoric compounded by willed ignorance. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its supporters take a stand that is both principled and wrong in opposition to all reasonable discussion of the limits of the right to bear arms. Those who seek to regulate firearms, on the other hand, seek band aids without addressing root causes. (See "Why Root Causes Matter" for the views of another group of gun owners.)

More than 60% of gun deaths are suicides. Without accessible guns, many or even most of these people would find other means, albeit often less effective ones that fail. More than 60% of the remaining gun deaths are gang related. When physically mature teenagers kill one other over drug deals or turf, the anti-gunners add the numbers to their discussions of children being gunned down in their classrooms. (See "Gun Deaths in America".)

In 2000, I was a delegate to my County Democratic Convention. Because I liked Bill Bradley, I became more involved in the political process that year than normal. At the convention, there was a platform proposal to ban handguns that could accommodate more than six rounds “in the chamber”. I joined a small group of others who spent half an hour explaining that passing this proposal, which would push it on to the state convention, would embarrass us. It seeks to ban a gun that not only does not exist, but that cannot exist. Of course, we could have helped improve the language.* We weren’t interested in improving the proposal. We believed, or at least some of us did, that anti-gun planks in Democratic platforms hurt Democrats.

I wasn’t a gun owner then. I am now. In 2000, I still thought that I agreed with the NRA. Since becoming a gun owner a couple of years ago, however, my views have evolved and this issue has risen in importance to me. I now realize how much I disagree with the NRA, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, also how much more I oppose some of the same things the NRA is fighting against. (See "That's Not What They Meant" for part of my argument with one of the NRA's leaders.)

As a reluctant Democrat, I vote health care, the environment, the economy, and foreign policy over guns. On all of those issues, the GOP is nearly 100% wrong in my humble opinion. That doesn’t mean the Democrats are always right, only that they are better than Republicans. Even so, I’m growing increasingly frustrated with the priorities of Democrats who are more willing to seek a Constitutional Amendment eliminating the Electoral College than to find a way to win back the rural voters who once were the backbone of the party.

We need to have a real conversation in this nation about the root causes of violence. The United States is one of the most violent nations in the history of the world. Blaming the tools employed by the violent is no more useful than refusing to consider any improvements in safety training, safe storage, and limiting access to certain individuals.

*The author of the proposed plank meant magazine, but did not understand the difference. It might be argued that revolvers do accommodate multiple rounds in the chamber because each slot in the cylinder is essentially the chamber when it is lined up with the barrel. If so, this plank sought to ban revolvers holding more than six rounds in the cylinder, a very small percentage of firearms, but they do exist.

01 February 2018


American history runs over with irony and contradictions. The gap between common beliefs and the evidence is especially true of the American West. The West revels in individualism, but the region as a whole is vastly more dependent upon the Federal government than the East.

Pamela Haag, The Gunning of America: Business and the making of American Gun Culture (2016) traces Samuel Colt and Oliver Winchester's efforts to make a business of the manufacture of firearms. She offers a compelling sentence that crystallizes a central irony in Western America.
No objects are more indelibly associated with the American West that the Colt revolver and the Winchester rifle, and yet no objects relied more heavily for their survival--before, but especially after, the Civil War--on non-U.S., global markets.
Haag, 35.
Samuel Colt's Cabinet of Memorials, for example, containing gifts from customers, contained a gold snuff box from the sultan of the Ottoman Empire; a ring from Alexander Alexandrovioch, the Russian grand duke; a ring from the king of Sardinia; a tea -caddy and cigar case from Siam; and other gifts from England, Italy, and the Islamic world.

15 August 2017

Gun Ownership in Colonial Virginia

While rereading A True Relation (1608) by John Smith, a statement about most guns being packed away caught my eye. I noticed the statement because it provides corroborating evidence for an assertion that I read on the Jamestown Rediscovery website.

On 22 April 1607, according to Smith,* He, Captain Christopher Newport, and twenty others set out upriver to explore and gather food for the nascent colony. While they were away, the fort at Jamestown on which construction had barely begun, was attacked by about 400 Indians. The English colonists were fortunate in their ability to repel the attacks because most of the guns were still packed away in shipping containers. The exceptions were those possessed by "gentlemen". Smith noted, "...their Armes beeing then in drievats and few ready but certain Gentlemen of their own" (35).

The Jamestown Rediscovery website mentions restrictions on ownership and access to firearms in the England of James I.
There had been no major military battles in England since the war against Spain that ended in 1603; so, at the time of Jamestown’s settlement there was a shortage of arms and armor in England for the Virginia Company to supply to its colony. The English government strictly controlled all the military equipment, which was stored in city armories or private households of the rural gentry.
"Arms and Armor," Jamestown Rediscovery (accessed 15 August 2017).
For centuries leading up to this time, men in England had a duty to be trained in the use of arms for service in the militia, as well as for service in the defense of themselves and their neighbors. But, ownership of weapons was not yet articulated as a right. Moreover, there were restrictions, especially on concealable weapons--crossbows and firearms less than a yard in length. Additional restrictions were put into place early in the reign of James I (1603-1625).

In To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right (1994), Joyce Lee Malcolm traces how the duty to bear arms became a right as articulated in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. She suggests that gun ownership among the common people, as well as by the gentry, was widespread in rural England, and most of England was rural. But, she also notes that James I restricted firearm, crossbows, and hunting dogs through a series game acts in 1604, 1605, and 1609.
These acts altered the property qualification needed to hunt far more materially than any act in the preceding two centuries; made it illegal for unqualified persons to keep coursing dogs, sell game, use guns, crossbows, or other devices to take game; and brought some poaching cases before the kingdom's highest courts.
Malcolm, To Keep and Bear Arms, 13.
The needs for self defense and for hunting certainly differed in colonial Virginia than in the home country. Although perhaps difficult, the colonists were supplied with firearms. But, it appears that when they first arrived, guns were not individual possessions for the majority. Smith was a soldier and had pistols. Others were armed as needed, such as when on guard duty. Gentlemen possessed their own arms and these were all that were readily available during the first Indian attack.

As the settlement at Jamestown grew and expanded along the James River, those with farms certainly had firearms. That was not inconsistent with the practice in England where land owners ordinarily possessed firearms and other weapons for hunting and for self-defense. Slowly, during the fifteen years from 1607-1622, the English also began to instruct their Indian neighbors in the use of these weapons.

This training was negotiated. The English wished to offer religious training to the Natives. Opechancanough, chief of the Powhatans, agreed to this religious training on the stipulation that firearms training came as part of the package. In 1622, Opechancanough led his people to slaughter one-quarter of the English colonists, most of them in their own homes with their own weapons.

Over the course of the rest of the century, ownership of firearms expanded. As ownership expanded, the duty of Englishmen to be prepared for service in the militia also developed into a right to own and use firearms. It was a long process, and one that is not well-documented.

*21 May 1607, according to Lyon Gardiner Tyler, editor of Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606-1625 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907) 33. My source for Smith's True Relation is this book, 27-71, digitized at American Journeys.

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