Previous Post
Next Post

 What would TJ Do?(courtesy fabius

You’ll find the key to understanding‘s Jefferson: The face of the modern gun debate at the bottom of the post: “This occasional series examines our darlings of the Interwebs, people the online world has chosen to represent the issues of our times, from the gun debate to the immigration argument to the fight over gay rights. True or false, like it or not, Internet zeitgeist shapes our views and conversation.” In other words, Christina Zdanowicz set out to pull the rhetorical rug from under conservative causes by undermining their historical roots. In other other words, it’s a sandbag job on those who quote TJ to support Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms . . .

No one will ever really know how Jefferson would have felt about gun control in today’s world, but he left us a clue: He accepted that times change, and so should laws. Infer what you will.

I infer that Ms. Zdanowicz wants us to believe that nothing is absolute. That everything is situational and, therefore, mutable. Yes, well, that’s not how Thomas Jefferson saw the world. Lest we forget, TJ wrote the following words (missing from her article):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I’m going to go ahead an infer that the man who believes in the unalienable right to life (self-defense) and liberty (defense against tyranny) would oppose modern day gun control. Of course, Jefferson did have a thing or two to say on the subject.

“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … only disarm those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one.”

Zdanowicz tries to “debunk” this quote by pointing out that Jefferson was quoting someone else: Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria’s Essay on Crimes and Punishments” And . . . what difference does that make, exactly? None, precisely. Unless . . . it was a mistranslation! Taken out of context!

The phrase takes on different meaning when translated from the Italian, according to an article by Washington University law professor David Thomas Konig. Jefferson wasn’t questioning the constitutionality of anti-carrying laws; he said they were impractical to uphold.

Huh? I won’t trouble you with the rest of the quotes, and the disses heaped thereupon. Suffice it to say, Zdanowicz is no Thomas Jefferson. Nor is she a friend of gun rights. But trying to paint gun rights advocates as historical revisionists is . . . wait for it . . . historical revisionism. And not very convincing.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. I say quit listening to the fascist Pigs of CNN a new channel which glorifies Joe Gerbales. Tell them to take a flying leap!!

  2. Let’s face facts, Christina Zdanowicz is waaaaay smarter than Thomas Jefferson. It’s because she has one of those mighty Katie Helm Texas vaginas, dontcha know.

    • And she has a master’s in “journalism” from Northwestern.

      So la-de-freekin’-da.

  3. The founders took a lot of inspiration from John Locke.

    And, by reading 2nd Treatise of Government, Miss know-it-all would have realized that Locke stated multiple times that self-defense is a natural right. An individual attacking another unprovoked has declared a state of war and threatens the victim’s freedom and the victim can do anything in his or her power to end the aggression.

  4. Old Media’s biggest problem isn’t its bias. One could deal with that. It’s their dishonesty that most folks haven’t come to grips with. Jefferson wasn’t concerned with the unconstitutionality of gun prohibition, only its impracticality? He was concerned with its sheer evil and destructiveness. Which was one reason he wanted it unconstitutional.

    If these people spent five minutes reading the founding fathers the real story would be how tame the NRA is by comparison. But CNN takes what remains of its audience for fools.

  5. Well, it can’t be denied that you often see quotes attributed to Jefferson that he never actually said, or wrote. The one quoted here is him quoting someone else, and as for what that guy meant, I don’t know. I read the law review article linked above, and I’m not seeing where they’re getting their conclusion from. Jefferson wrote the Beccaria quote down in his Legal Commonplace Book, which is a journal or notebook in which a person compiles quotations, poems, letters, and information, along with the compiler’s notes and reactions. It’s a scratch pad, basically. The fact that he wrote it down is definitely evidence that the quote struck him in some way, but it is not necessarily evidence that he agreed with any or all of it. Though I find it unlikely, it’s possible he even wrote it down because he disagreed with it, and was going to write a rebuttal. The point is, he didn’t say it, and it shouldn’t be attributed to him.

    I think the takeaway from this, for me, is verify your sources.

  6. I am fairly certain that if someone was on top of him beating his brains out, Thomas Jeffersnon wouldn’t have asked them how old they were, race, religion and philosophy before stopping them anyway he could whether it be by dagger, sword, cane or pistol.

  7. This is why my go-to place, my happy place, is the United States Constitution.

    The current attempt to disarm Americans is to question Stand Your Ground laws, again (see McCain this morning at and Prof. Lawrence Rosenthal:

    Last week it was Civil Rights. The week before that it was Racism. The week before that it was … well: Why go on?

    The opponents of Freedom are relentless. Some say it is to be admired.

    Not me; I don’t admire them. They are to be defeated, utterly.

    Next on my plate: Picking a public fight with choked and sclerotic monster, State of Florida Attorney, Angela Corey.

    • As little enthusiasm I have for the current occupant of the White House, about the only thing worse would have been Neville McCain, the so-called Maverick, who never misses an opportunity to jam it to his own party and appease the people who are doing their best to wreck the country.

      God bless him for his military service, but he should retire.

        • Different set of pressures being tortured by the NVA. I’ll cut him some slack. Can’t see the same problems having a multi-million dollar lifetime pension as a retired senator, though.

  8. CNN has officially lost its Journalistic Minds!

    I shake my head in disbelief every time I pass by their channel rregardless of who is on at the time.

  9. I not even going to dignify Christina with a rebuttal to such stupidity. I will however challenge her intellectually, historically, paleontogically and philosophically to a debate at the time and place of her choosing.

  10. “mis-translated” or not the words were written down by Jefferson, presumably were he quoting the results of his own translations since he claimed to speak Italian among other languages.

    If Jefferson or someone else did in fact mis-translate Beccaria’s text that doesn’t mean he himself believed in the original reading thereof, it means only that he believed the text to represent his views on “gun control” and wrote it as such.

  11. I think that there is considerable evidence to suggest that the men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights intended the Militia Clause and the Second Amendment to be used to protect the government from the people, not the other way around. The Federalists who won the debate against the Antifederalists were conservative who really didn’t have much faith in the abilities and character of common people…just look at how they handled the Whiskey Rebels! That’s why I really try to avoid any gun debates regarding the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter because the simple fact is that armed self-defense is an inherent natural right. I really don’t care what a bunch of old, dead, rich guys thought about that 230 years ago…

    • Except that the Federalists didn’t want a BoR at all, it was a concession to the anti-Federalists to get them to sign on to the constitution.

      • @Julian: Yes, but the Antifederalists really didn’t get anywhere NEAR the amendments they were hoping for in the Bill of Rights. Delegates from New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, and a couple other states offered dozens (over one hundred) of proposed changed to the Constitution. Many of these proposed changes were structural…in other words, they would have made actual changes to the document that was written in 1787.

        What did the Antifederalists get from the dozens of amendments they proposed? They got 12, of which only 10 got ratified by 1792. And the ten amendments they got ratified weren’t the structural changes to the Constitution that the Antifederalists were demanding. In fact, James Madison, the author of both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights regarded the Bill of Rights as completely insignificant and held the opinion that those amendments didn’t do anything to change the document that had been written in 1792.

        What the Antifederalists (especially Patrick Henry and George Mason) were hoping was that the Bill of Rights would become a wedge issue that would prevent the required nine states from ratifying the Constitution. When New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify by mid-1788 and it became clear that the Constitution would become a reality, the Antifederalists realized they had been defeated and many dropped their objections. The Bill of Rights that finally was ratified was more a face-saving gesture that the remaining Antifederalists could take back to their home legislatures and use to show that they had done everything they could to wrest some concessions from the Federalists.

        Long story short…the Bill of Rights did not change the Constitution and the Federalists completely dominated the debate over the Constitution.

        • Based on the Federalist Papers, I wouldn’t exactly say the Bill of Rights wasn’t important. Plus, the 9th Amendment us been undermined, but it took up the slack for anything that may have been left out such as Driver’s Licenses or right to ride a horse down the road.

          “And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress … to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms…. ”
          –Samuel Adams

          • “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”
          — Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. ME 6:373, Papers 12:356

          “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
          — Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

        • **EDIT**

          The date at the end of my second paragraph above is wrong. It should read “1787” and not “1792”.

      • If you read Hamiltons writings in the Federalist papers, you see that in the Federalists didn’t want a Bill of Rights because they thought that it would limit our freedoms to those specific rights.

        I think that people tend to forget that back then they didn’t have the same Democrat/Republican party divisions and that issues weren’t looked at through our modern political lenses.

        Hamiltons point though was that the Constitution was all the power that the Federal government should have, and that everything else should be left to the state. He didn’t have much faith in the character of the people, but he figured they would be reasonable enough to recognize the limits imposed and enjoy the newly earned freedoms from the war.

        • @Enzo: That is not true about Hamilton. He was the originator of the “loose construction” view of the Constitution’s Necessary and Proper Clause. This interpretation was based on the belief that the newly-created central government could exercise any power that was not specifically denied to it. In Hamilton’s view (and that of his Federalist allies), the Necessary and Proper Clause gave the central government the implied power to create a national bank, assume state debts, and exercise other powers that were not specifically delegated to it.

          Contrast this with Jefferson’s “strict construction” of the Constitution in which he condemned the doctrine of implied powers and rightfully predicted that such an open-ended interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause would lead to the unchecked growth of the central government at the expense of the states and the people.

    • The Second Amendment was very clearly about protecting an individual right. It is odd that people think a collective “right” (when does government protect a right to people in order to protect itself?) was put smack among what are clearly a group of individual rights. Everywhere the Constitution says “the people,” it is in reference to an individual right. When it says, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” that also means an individual right.

      Also keep in mind that the Founders did not trust standing armies or governments. It WAS discussed how to prevent insurrections from being a problem, as those are historically a bane of republics, but that is why the Congress has the authority to call forth the militia if necessary.

      The people’s right to keep arms doesn’t mean that some random group has the right o just stat an insurrection and try to overthrow the existing government.

      • @kyle: The Whiskey Rebels weren’t “some random group”. Their efforts were highly coordinated and legitimate…the Whiskey Tax that was passed after George Washington took office was far more egregious than any of the taxes that Parliament tried to impose on the Americans from 1764-1774. It was clearly a federal giveaway to the big whiskey producers in the East (of which George Washington himself was one of the biggest) that would unfairly punish Western farmers who were only making small amounts of whiskey for their own personal use within their communities.

        Much like the Revolutionary generation, the Whiskey Rebels protested, boycotted, and petitioned. Once it became clear that those methods were falling on deaf ears in New York City and Philadelphia and the other Federalist power centers, the Whiskey Rebels took the only recourse left to them: armed self-defense against tyrants.

        And how did George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the other Federalists respond to the Whiskey Rebels’ legitimate complaints? They most certainly DID NOT support these people who were rightfully rebelling against tyranny. Instead, Hamilton encouraged Washington and Congress to federalize the militia from several states into an army of 13,000 troops under the direct military command of George Washington…the only time in US history that the sitting President physically led troops into battle.

        Fortunately, there wasn’t large-scale bloodshed. The Whiskey Rebels stood down when faced with this massively aggressive federal response. But the point is that the Federalists who controlled the central government from 1789-1801 pulled the ladder up after themselves. For all of their posturing about defending liberty from tyranny, their actions speak much louder than their words.

        • I have always found it interesting that Hamilton was killed in a pistol duel with Aaron Burr. Many of these men carried pistols or swords sometimes both. In fact, it was common for a long time. Harriet Tubman carried a pistol and a sword during her underground railroad days.

  12. • “Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms … The right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard, against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible.”
    — Hubert H. Humphrey, Senator, Vice President, 22 October 1959

    Stark Contrast from Shotgun Joe Biden isn’t it?

    • @Blue: I absolutely agree. Armed self-defense is an inherent, natural right that can’t be granted, denied, or interpreted by any man.

  13. @Blue: Madison correctly interpreted the Bill of Rights as simply an affirmation of what the Philadelphia Convention created with the Constitution in 1787. In his opinion (and in the opinion of most of his contemporaries), the Bill of Rights were essentially redundant. He didn’t think it was necessary to add a separate Bill of Rights because the foundation of the Constitution was the idea of federalism: that the central government that was created by the Constitution could only exercise those powers that were specifically delegated to it by the states. If a power was not specifically delegated to the central government, it automatically was reserved to the states and the people of the states. So, it follows that it would not be necessary to create a Bill of Rights that would reserve rights to individual citizens and states because that idea was inherent to the nature of federalism on which the Constitution was based.

  14. I remember reading the European powers at the time calling the Constitution a wooden gun. It looks all impressive, but will explode if actually used. Makes me wonder if the Bill of Rights are a wooden gun. We are waving it like crazy but the government isn’t backing down. Can we actually pull the trigger?

  15. @blue: incidentally, the Alexander Hamilton quote from above is taken out of context and has been heavily edited. The quote comes from Federalist No. 29. In that essay, Hamilton is actually arguing that for the militia to be effective, it must be put under strict federal supervision. That is pretty much the exact opposite of what people who use that quote are trying to prove.

    There are major accuracy problems with many of the purported pro-gun “quotes” found on the Internet that are attributed to the Founding Fathers. The quotes are often wrongly attributed, taken out of context (and actually mean the exact opposite of what pro-gun people think they mean), or flat-out made up.

    Again…that’s why I personally don’t care how the Founding Fathers felt about gun ownership. It is not necessary to use their words to justify the natural right of armed self-defense.

    • What Hamilton is saying is that in order for the militia, i.e. the general population, to be have the characteristics of well-regulated troops (i.e. well-trained), it would have to undergo constant training akin to what military soldiers do. He points out that this would be utterly impossible to require the general population to do, and attempting to do so would greatly harm the economy of the nation. Then he goes into long rant about how those who perceive the militia as being a danger to the nation are crazy, as the states appoint the officers for the militia even when it is to be called upon by the federal government for things like national defense, and the fear that the government would use the militia, the very citizens, to try to implement a tyranny, isn’t logical and is paranoia.

      It is very clear that he sees the militia as serving as a check on the federal government.

      • @kyle: In Federalist No. 29, what Hamilton is arguing for is a “special militia” that would be under the supervision of the central government. He was openly disdainful of the abilities of the militia in this and in other essays. For example, in Federalist No. 28, Hamilton says this:

        “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms of legal authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo. The smaller the extent of the territory, the more difficult will it be for the people to form a regular or systematic plan of opposition, and the more easy will it be to defeat their early efforts. Intelligence can be more speedily obtained of their preparations and movements, and the military force in the possession of the usurpers can be more rapidly directed against the part where the opposition has begun. In this situation there must be a peculiar coincidence of circumstances to insure success to the popular resistance.”

        What Hamilton is saying is that the people of the states, when faced with tyranny, will rise up against it but will be easily and quickly defeated by it. He goes on to say that the only defense against tyranny is a powerful central government that can meet strength with strength.

        In fact, it would be accurate to say that Hamilton, at least based on what he wrote in the Federalist Papers, never really even entertained that tyranny would originate with the central government. It was his position that tyranny would always originate at the state and local level. He viewed the newly created central government as a bulwark against tyranny, not a source of it.

        Furthermore, the Federalist Papers need to viewed as what they are: a well-coordinated propaganda campaign that used clever sophistry to overstate the benefits of a strong central government while understating the dangers that are inherent to such a system.

        • In a way, I guess Hamilton was right. Our current tyranny seems to be coming out of Chicago and NYC.

  16. @blue: Yes. It was quite common for people in the past to openly carry weapons for self-defense. The result was a much more polite society than we have now.

  17. For anyone worried about the possibility of that article quoted being right take a look at a randomly selected paragraph from it

    “Harding made his remark at a Washington’s
    Birthday banquet of the Daughters of the American Revolution in
    1918,39 his use of male-only terminology reflected a view of history
    blind to the pervasively transformative nature of the nation’s
    founding and to the role of female Americans in it.”

    Yeah… this person has no bias whatsoever.

  18. You are not accurately referencing the article, so your bias is showing. Jefferson never re-wrote or translated the quote, only wrote it in the original Italian; his one sentence margin note, also in Italian, suggests he was in accord with Beccaria, but he also wrote that all laws had a natural life of 19 years – which certainly would not support blind absolute worship of the literalist/originalist’s interpretation of the 2nd amendment after 250 years. Frontier Dodge City and Tombstone had sidearms bans in the town limits, so how’s that align with the current mindset? More Americans die from shooting than from car accidents, and the trade-offs seem akin to the “right” not to wear a seatbelt, even tho’ that alone would prevent a great number of deaths; criminals obtain and use guns because they’re so easy to acquire in this country, and a vast and broad array of stricter licensing and purchasing requirements can be established with minimal impact on law-abiding citizens. The BS fear that Obama is coming for your Glock is a political straw man.
    I am writing as a liberal who yet may acquire a pistol for specific home protection issues, only after being trained for safe secure use and storage. There is a vast middle path for those who understand how safe responsible firearm ownership can coexist with broader lifesaving laws. My response to any absolutist on the 2nd amendment is, “So which militia do you belong to?”

    • I would refer you to James Madison and George Mason, co-authors of the 2d Amendment, whose words remain for us today. Both men were called before the legislatures of the several states to explain the 2d Amendment. Mason said that the militia was comprised of every able bodied man who, when called upon, would respond with their arms and equipment, in good order, to meet the situation. Such response was conducted on several occasions in later years, such as the War of 1812. Madison stated that there was no need for formal training with militia marching to and fro and wasting powder and shot on that which should be a normal activity. Their responses remain in personal writings, the minutes of the several legislatures, and media reports at the time. The 2d was ratified for inclusion during the Constitutional ratification process. Following ratification, the states individually created their own constitutions which were taken practically word for word from the US Constitution.

      In my mind, those who wrote the Constitution and amendments are the best sources for the meaning of the words they wrote. Further, any interpretation which alters what the authors say they intended is baseless and a violation of the rights of the people. Under law, there is a common matter of best evidence. That it is better to base evidence on the direct testimony of a witness rather than rely on a document, UNLESS, the witness is no longer available to testify. Such is the case of the Founding Fathers. They are gone, however, their words remain. Those words should form the basis of any review of the amendment.

      At the time the 2d was ratified, there was no standing army. The Founders viewed the 2d as the means of defending the nation. They also say this as the means of defending against a government gone bad. After all, they had witnessed and experienced the English government doing just that, and they were authoring a document to give the people the ability to prevent the abuses seen in European governments where rights were determined by the ruler.

  19. Jefferson did say that the Constitution may be changed, but that the people should consider the context of the times during which it was authored. He continued on to say that no change to individual rights can be left in the hands of legislators; that any such change to individual rights may only be made by the participation of the whole of the people. To allow legislators the authority to make changes circumvented the very reason individual rights were enumerated; that being that they government might stomp out the rights of the people. Finally, Jefferson observed that they people should be hesitant to make any changes because changes might not be easily reversed if they were found to have been made in error.

    There are two ways by which the Constitution may be changed. First a Constitutional Convention may be called. The second was by the amendment process. It was noted that both methods were intentionally made nearly impossible to accomplish. However, history has shown that change is possible when the process is applied correctly. Unfortunately, the anti-gun (or gun control) supporters seek to bypass the Constitutional processes in order to advance their agenda.

    Prohibition is an excellent example of the processes being applied correctly. Congress submitted the 18th Amendment, which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors, for state ratification. Though Congress had stipulated a seven-year time limit for the process, the amendment received the support of the necessary three-quarters of U.S. states in just 11 months. In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th was proposed to the states. The amendment was submitted to the states, and in December 1933 Utah provided the 36th and final necessary vote for ratification. Two separate amendments to cover a subject which is not an enumerated right. Yet, the gun control supporters seek to circumvent the process and have controls imposed in order to render the 2d Amendment powerless.

Comments are closed.