Synopses & Reviews
Whose right to bear arms did the Second Amendment protect? Today the Second Amendment has become one of the most controversial provisions of the American Bill of Rights, but what did the founding generation mean by it? Did they understand it to imply protection of an individual or a collective right to bear arms — and what were and are the ramifications of that difference? What ideological or social function did the militia serve in early America? These are just a few of the intriguing questions generated by the rich and controversial body of Second Amendment scholarship over the years. Exploring how late-eighteenth-century Americans understood the right to bear arms, the selections expose students to ongoing scholarly debates over this topic, providing insight into a number of the most important issues in early American historiography: the controversy over republicanism and liberalism, the tension between states' rights and individual rights, and the place of rights and revolution in the American constitutional experience.
About the Author
SAUL CORNELL is associate professor of history at the Ohio State University and is the author of Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828 (1999), published by the Institute of Early American History and Culture. His articles have appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including The Journal of American History, William and Mary Quarterly, Law and History Review, Constitutional Commentary, American Quarterly, and American Studies. Cornell has been an NEH fellow at the Institute of Early American History and Culture and held the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands as a Fulbright scholar.
Table of Contents
A Note for Students
PART I. THE DOCUMENT
Constitutional Amendments Proposed and Ratified by the States Including the Second Amendment, 1791
PART II. INTRODUCTION
"To Keep and Bear Arms": The Militia, the People, and the Problem of Rights in Revolutionary America
Scholars and the Second Amendment
PART III. SOME CURRENT QUESTIONS
1. Did the Second Amendment protect an individual right to own guns?
Robert E. Shalhope, The Armed Citizen in the Early Republic
2. Was the Second Amendment intended to protect the people's right to maintain a well-regulated militia?
Lawrence Delbert Cress, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Origins and Meaning of the Second Amendment, From The Bill of Rights: A Lively Heritage
3. Does the Standard Model of the Second Amendment favored by some legal scholars distort the original understanding of the right to bear arms?
Garry Wills, To Keep and Bear Arms, With Letters in Rebuttal from Stanford Levinson, David C. Williams, and Glenn Harlan Reynolds
4. Was the Second Amendment primarily about the struggle between Federalists and Antifederalists over the nature of Federalism?
Don Higginbotham, The Federalized Militia Debate: A Neglected Aspect of Second Amendment Scholarship
5. How did the reality of the militia differ from the ideal of the military in Revolutionary America?
Edmund S. Morgan, The People in Arms: The Invincible Yeoman From Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America
6. Was the Second Amendment an outgrowth of America's gun culture?
Michael A. Bellesiles, The Origins of Gun Culture in the United States, 1760-1865
Suggestions for Further Reading