Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

From “fertile” to fertilizer: a debunking of the revisionist history of the origins of the Second Amendment

Written By: Bob - Jan• 18•13

In recent days, Truthout—yes, the organization repeatedly discredited by Plamegate truther Jason Leopold—has generated some small amount of attention for itself by publishing an article by an obscure radio talk show host, which claims the Second Amendment to the Constitution was ratified to preserve the institution of slavery.

Don’t laugh… he appears to be earnest. At least, don’t laugh yet.

The Truthout piece was a lazy summation and further spinning of an actual academic article by a University of California academic named (appropriately) Bogus, called, The Hidden History of the Second Amendment. It was a history so hidden that it wasn’t discovered until 1998, more than 200 years after the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified.

Bogus was such a thorough researcher that he discovered that the Second Amendment had very little at all to do with the fact that a fledgling nation birthed from an failed attempt at gun control would actually want to make sure that future tyrants would not attempt to disarm them again. Nope… that was too obvious, too in your face, too accepted by two hundred years of academic scholarship, the Founder Father’s own writings, contemporary news from that time period, feeling, and social mores.

After all, who can build up an academic reputation based upon conventional, reasonable thinking?

No, Bogus needed something new, and found that if he stitched together minor themes in a way so that it supplanted the master narrative, he could create a brilliant work of fiction that paid homage to the original, just as brilliant novelist John Gardner’s Grendel was a retelling of the epic Beowulf from the monster’s point of view.

And did Bogus loved to create monsters.

The “acceptable” boogeyman for Bogus was the same now as it ever was for bi-coastal academics, the much vilified Southern White Male. Bogus elected Founding Father Patrick Henry to play the lead villain, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if we found out that Leonardo di Caprio’s cartoonish Calvin Candie  in Django was based upon the caricature of Henry offered up by Bogus.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The first indication we have of Bogus’ academic “neutrality” is when he sought to vilify Second Amendment scholarship from the individual rights perspective, which he dismissed as the “insurrectionist” viewpoint. Bogus made sure to mention that the pro-gun rights lobbying organization, the National Rifle Association, provided grants to writers who shared their individual rights interpretation.

Dishonestly, and one must assume purposefully, Bogus neglected to mention that the NRA only joined the gamesmanship of legal scholarship to counter-balance the funding of the left-wing Joyce Foundation, led in part by a then-unknown Barack Obama, which purchased entire law reviews and refused to publish or even consider authorship of the less controversial and longer-established individual rights views.

After the frustrated character assassination of his academic rivals, Bogus wove a tale around the very real concerns of several of the southern states, that slave insurrections (which did occur, and not without great merit) threatened the white populations. I cannot stress enough that this was true. Nor can I stress any more than this was a minor theme in the ratification of the Second Amendment. Was it important factor to several key politicians among the anti-federalists? Certainly. Was it the linchpin on which the entire Constitution,  Bill of Rights, and fledgling republic hung?


I wanted to complete reading Bogus’ scholarship (or bogus scholarship; either one is as seemingly accurate as the other), even after hearing his “insurrectionist view” whine repeatedly, but had to abandon my quest when I discovered that a significant crutch for Bogus’s work of historical fantasy was Michael A. Bellesiles’ work, Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. 

Does the name  Michael A. Bellesiles, or the book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture sound vaguely familiar? It should, as the New York Times, of all places, begrudgingly reminds us:

His book “1877: America’s Year of Living Violently,” which will be published next week, is an attempted comeback for Mr. Bellesiles, who has languished in a kind of academic no-man’s land for the past decade after a scandal surrounding his previous book cut short what looked to be a promising career. “I’d like to think that anyone reading it would give it a fair chance,” he said of his latest work.

So far, the energetic debate about Mr. Bellesiles, scholarship and second chances on academic and education Web sites has focused mostly on his 2000 book, “Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture.” It argued that most Americans did not possess firearms until after the Civil War, a radically different interpretation of the country’s gun-owning history and one that entangled him in the bitter and shrill argument over Second Amendment rights.

The ideological debate turned into a scholarly inquiry when critics pointed out several significant errors in fact and sources. An independent panel of three prominent historians concluded in 2002 that Mr. Bellesiles was “guilty of unprofessional and misleading work,”and raised questions about falsified data. Columbia University’s trustees took back the Bancroft history prize it had awarded the book, and Mr. Bellesiles resigned from the faculty at Emory University.

Bogus’ Hidden History is built upon naked political partisanship, masquerading as scholarship, built upon a foundation that included a source “unprofessional,” “misleading,” and possibly falsified so badly that the author had to resign in disgrace.

Admittedly, I stopped reading at this point, perhaps less than a quarter of the way into this self-impeaching “scholarly work.”

Perhaps such poor scholarship is enough for a relatively unknown radio host to stake his reputation on, in a missive posted on fringe web site with known credibility problems, but it doesn’t warrant study by serious adults. I didn’t waste any more of my time on reading such fantasy, and I wouldn’t recommend it to you, either.

I were to recommend spending more time reading  touching upon the subjects of fantasy, firearms, and slavery, I’d at least recommend Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South, which is both more plausible, and better written.

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  1. Unfortunately, the army officer corps is either under active subversion as we speak, or has already been subverted and taken over.

    Ask yourself what this means.

      • Rob Crawford says:

        Be careful attributing it to the officer corps. It apparently came from a career academic (no apparent military career) employed by a privately funded program at West Point.

        I’m frankly terrified by what looks like yet another push to scapegoat anyone who doesn’t toe the “progressive” line, but I think it’s a bit too soon to say it reflects on the military.

    • J says:

      I am not trying to be antagonistic but you could not be more wrong.

      I am a former field grade officer. I train, work with and am close friends with many Army officers from company grade through flag grade. While it is almost impossible to group their political thought into one category I will say that every one of them holds the Constitution over petty politics. I know officers that don’t believe they should vote because it’s not their business to be partisan. All that said, I would say that most officers are Conservative and that even officers I know that are fairly liberal still raised their right hand and are patriots.

      The CTC turns out some pretty good products. I’ve met some of the people that work there and they are earnest, intelligent and fiercely American. I would be dumbfounded if there were not a follow on study describing the same problem on the left. CTC products get used and if the products are wrong the funding stops. They can’t afford to be much further to the left or right of the fairly conservative atmosphere of West Point.

      I will take this a step further and find out if an assessment of the far left is being planned. I’ll let Bob know when I get a response.

      One last thing, believe it or not… When you hear hoof beats from the military you’re going to be right most of the time if you think horse instead of zebra.

  2. Comrade X says:

    “The historical record provides compelling evidence that racism underlies gun control laws — and not in any subtle way. Throughout much of American history, gun control was openly stated as a method for keeping blacks and Hispanics “in their place,” and to quiet the racial fears of whites. This paper is intended to provide a brief summary of this unholy alliance of gun control and racism, and to suggest that gun control laws should be regarded as “suspect ideas,” analogous to the “suspect classifications” theory of discrimination already part of the American legal system.

    Racist arms laws predate the establishment of the United States. Starting in 1751, the French Black Code required Louisiana colonists to stop any blacks, and if necessary, beat “any black carrying any potential weapon, such as a cane.” If a black refused to stop on demand, and was on horseback, the colonist was authorized to “shoot to kill.” [1] Slave possession of firearms was a necessity at times in a frontier society, yet laws continued to be passed in an attempt to prohibit slaves or free blacks from possessing firearms, except under very restrictively controlled conditions. [2] Similarly, in the sixteenth century the colony of New Spain, terrified of black slave revolts, prohibited all blacks, free and slave, from carrying arms. [3]….

  3. Bill says:

    Well, expect this to start making the talking points in 3… 2… 1…

  4. Gayle says:

    Bill, it’s already made the talking points. Danny Glover was parroting this claptrap at Texas A&M, of all places.

    Fortunately, Drudge picked up the story, so now Danny and this ridiculous theory can pelted with ridicule all weekend long ;)

    • Bill says:

      To quote one of the commenter’s below that article “If Danny Glover was any dumber he’d need to be watered twice a day.”

  5. Critch says:

    Missouri used to have a Permit To Acquire. You had to get permission from the local sheriff to buy a pistol, it cost $10.00. That law was started in 1913 or so in the wake of race riots in St. Louis and East St. Louis. Why? Well, to keep black folk from getting handguns, pure and simple.

  6. Phelps says:

    Perhaps he should have read the Federalist Papers (I think it is either 28 or 29, concerning Militias) where it is explicitly stated that an armed populace PREVENTS insurrection, not causes it. After all, a foreign power has no problem arming insurrectionists. The people putting down the insurrection have fewer patrons.

  7. Cole says:

    Even if it were true it would make our point. Guns were kept away from blacks to keep them enslaved. The erroneous point that whites had guns to hold power over those who didn’t inevitably leads to the realization that men must have guns to be free.

    • cmblake6 says:

      Now, this one makes sense. The rest of it has been long discredited by Equal Opportunity, 14th Amendment, on and on. The only people hung up on this claptrap are the racists on both sides of the spectrum.

    • Rob Crawford says:

      Keep in mind that the left has a split personality when it comes to slavery. On the one hand, they condemn it as a perfect evil unique to the United States on the other hand they support its implementation around the world and strive for its reimposition here.

      Since they have to disarm the people to have a chance to enslave the people, they must declare that the right to self defense is a way to enslave.

      Orwell’s Ministry of Truth wouldn’t be able to keep up with these people.

  8. Joe Doakes says:

    Bogus’ arguments were immediately rebutted by legal scholars in other law review articles in 1999. His collectivist theory was expressly rejected in Heller (2008). Justice Stevens mentioned Bogus in his dissent in MacDonald (2010) as a cite for a handgun violence statistic but even Stevens didn’t buy the Slavery Secret Agenda theory. Those exhuming Bogus now are trying to play the race card on gun control. Ignore them.

  9. Thanks for the scintillating survey of such spectacular sh*t. I was blissfully unaware of this spectacular idiocy until I saw your spat with some libtard on teh twit.

  10. hhoss says:

    you’re a douche bag. Reaching back SEVEN years to try and discredit truthout? Hartmann obscure? Hardly. He’s a national syndicated radio host. And Leopold’s work has been outstanding since then. The whole truthout news site is different than what it was. Moron

    • Rob Crawford says:

      Oh! A nationally syndicated radio host! Well, I guess we should consult Casey Kasem on American history as well?

      • Bill says:

        Man, I miss those “Dear Casey, My boyfriend is so sad, can you play…” shout outs on Sunday afternoons.

    • JP Kalishek says:

      Reading and comprehension not one your strong points, is it hoss?
      btw, Nationaly Syndicated means little as one can have a show that is carried on two stations in different regions and qualify as “Nationally Syndicated”. All this means is he is a discredited nationally syndicated radio host

  11. JFirch says:

    Guns of the South, hah. Good one. Actually a fairly thought provoking series. Thanks for your fine work.

  12. hhoss says:

    can you do us all a favor and shoot each other?

  13. Sean says:

    Actor Danny Glover spouted that “2nd amendment is racist” fuctardary here in Texas the day you posted this article Bob. Where was he? At Texas A&M *headdesk, headdesk, headdesk* the school chancellor needs a good swift kick in the ass…