Observations from Chapter two, The Second Amendment Primer by Les Adams: Expressions of The Right in Sixteenth to Eighteenth-Century Continental Europe.
Continuing our journey through the history of the Second Amendment we find more evidence that the greatest minds of the past distinctly understood that free men, not only had the natural right to self-defense, but also should bear arms. Machiavelli, Rousseau, Beccaria, Grotius and Montisque all agreed that free men bearing arms was the best means for providing for the collective defense, and led to a more virtuous society. They recognized the positive effect on the spirit of the individual.
With individual liberty comes power, and with power comes personal responsibility; all of which lead to and encourage virtue. It is my belief that a disarmed individual is nothing more than a subject, but armed we are citizens, and citizenship bestows upon the individual rights and duties. It leads the life of the individual to have greater relevance and provides incentive for them to take greater stock in the world around them. With proper moral guidance and the absence of character flaws the free citizen will naturally seek to live a life of virtue and honor. They will embrace greater social responsibility that will ultimately lead to the betterment of society through civic virtue.
Expressions of The Right in Sixteenth to Eighteenth-Century Continental Europe page 29
Stephen Holbrook writes “…Machiavelli draws on the Roman experience to show that an armed populace has virtu [civic virtue or valor], while a disarmed people is subject to the whims of fortuna [fortune]… According to Machiavelli, Ceasar had destroyed the liberty of the Roman republic by engaging in conquests and developing a standing army of professionals. No longer could the populace check the empires power… The demise of the armed citizen meant the end of civic virtue and with it the end of the people’s control over their destiny.” [Emphasis added]
Why are standing armies so dangerous, and why does Machiavelli believe this was a major factor that led to the eventual collapse of the Roman Empire? Because government boiled down to its essence is force, and when government is granted a total monopoly on force, liberty will soon be destroyed. Standing armies bar the people from holding the government (empire) accountable for its actions and transgressions. They are left powerless in the face of overwhelming force. No one desires violence to be the method for conflict resolution, but the bearing of arms deters violence by ensuring that both sides have to opportunity to be heard. When one opponent can simply trample the other, there is no conversation, no debate, just oppression. The right to bear arms, the 2nd amendment specific to the United States, quite literally guarantees the protection and enforcement of all other individual liberties.
Machiavelli’s own words page 30
“But, when they (the citizens) are not familiar with arms and merely trust to the whim of fortune, not to their own virtue, they will change with the changes of fortune.”
Expressions of The Right in Sixteenth to Eighteenth-Century Continental Europe page 30
“The demise of the republic was also the demise of the armed populace. For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman People.”
Machiavelli page 31
“Rome remained free for four hundred years and Sparta eight hundred, although their citizens were armed all that time; but many other states that have been disarmed have lost their liberties in less than forty years.” [Emphasis added]
As stated by Robert A. Heinlein “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life”, but what did he mean?
A common theme in the downfall of the ancient civilizations is the disarmament of their people allowing their rulers to hold a complete monopoly on force. Human beings thrive in environments where their lives are valued, have meaning, and they are given responsibility. Allowing and encouraging the free citizen to bear arms calls out all that is good in them, appeals to their underlying virtuous nature, and to their inner warrior. It is a proclamation to all citizens that they have value and are trusted. It is an explicit way to show them “this is your country, you are free, we serve you.”