I recently read the David McCullough book 1776. I enjoyed it and I wholeheartedly recommend it. As you probably guessed the book tells the story of the continental army's campaigns and battles during 1776, from the siege of Boston up through Washington's midnight crossing of the Delaware.
I don't really remember how the revolutionary war was taught when I was in high school but reading this book was definitely a learning experience. Like most Americans I think that George Washington was a great patriot and outstanding general. He beat the most powerful army of the time after all. But Mr. McCullough also shows his blunders and mistakes. He makes Washington human, full of worries about his own ability and the ability of his soldiers and officers. Even some of Washington's closest friends and confidants doubted his ability to lead the Americans to victory at times.
And they did this for good reason. The continental army was made up of young boys, old men, and every age in between. They were for the most part untrained and highly undisciplined. Many deserted, some back to their homes others to the British. They were short on supplies and many were left shoeless in the cold northeastern winters. While I was reading the book all I kept thinking was "How did this ragtag bunch of guys ever win this war?". It seemed impossible.
But the revolutionary war could have been a lot more difficult than it was. King George and Parliament could have outlawed guns. After all, there was no continental army before the continental congress decided to create one in defiance of their king. The colonies had no standing army to call on to fight the British for them. They had to form one, an army made up of everyday people fighting for the freedom that they felt was being denied to them. These men took their rifles, muskets, and pistols from their houses to the battlefield. How would they have fought the British if they had not been allowed to own guns?
Some people will say that this is a ridiculous example. We don't have to worry about rebellion and revolution and fighting our government in this country. It is OK for us to give up some of our individual rights to own weapons and just allow the police and army to protect us. They will never turn on us, we will never need to protect ourselves from them.
Maybe that is true now. But will it always be that way? Will we always be able to rely on our government to protect us, even from themselves? Will there never be any minorities, like the Japanese Americans in the 1940's, who have to worry about their government throwing them in prison camps? That was only 70 years ago. Or what about African Americans during the Jim Crow era, who often relied on personal firearms to protect themselves from racists when the police were looking the other way. I doubt that they would have felt comfortable being told that they were not allowed to own a gun.
I find it hard to believe that we have reached such a level of peace in the last 50 years that I no longer have to worry about protecting myself and can instead rely on the police to do it for me. And not only that, but I also no longer have to worry about my government turning against me, even though every government I can think of has at some point turned on its citizens or at the very least a minority of them.
The point is that yes, maybe today we don't need semi-automatic rifles, machine guns, grenades, or even tanks in the hands of private citizens. Maybe. But even if that is true that is just today. What about 100 years from now, or 200 years? Will our posterity also be alleviated of this threat? History tells us no. But once we give up guns, once we let the government take them away a little at a time, I promise that they will not give these rights back when they become oppressive. If we lose the right to carry these kind of weapons now we lose it forever. And when the day comes that we do need these weapons they will not be around except in the hands of the very people we are trying to defend ourselves against.
In closing I have two quotes from the great patriot and American, John Adams.
"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and
murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit
suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud,
less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or
monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those
passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government,
and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and
- John Adams
"Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation
to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do
not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to
- John Adams