Prosecute the torture.

July 23, 2016

The Tribune-Review's Colin McNickle MISREPRESENTS A Source

This one has been bouncing around in my head for some time, forgive me.

A few weeks ago my BFF, columnist Colin McNickle, wrote this piece at my absolutely positively favorite news source in the entire galaxy (it's true - believe me), the Tribune-Review.

It's titled:
Here's the foundation of the 2nd Amendment
And in it he very subtly misquotes his main foundation/source - United States Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story.  It's interesting to note that a columnist for the conservative/libertarian Tribune-Review would be so enamored of a Justice "deeply committed to a strong national union" but there you have it.  Strange bedfellows and all that.

About Joseph Story, he was nominated to SCOTUS on November 15, 1811 and confirmed by the Senate three days later.  And according to the Federal Judicial Center:
His appointment to the Court came after three other nominees, including John Quincy Adams, had either declined the offer or failed to win Senate confirmation.
Wait, The Senate voted on the nominees back then? Within days?? Did you know this Senator Toomey?

Anyway, in 1833, Story published his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, from which Trib columnist selectively selects his snippets to bolster his pro-gun argument.

This is what McNickle says Story wrote:
Once upon a more cogent time, the right to bear arms scarcely was questioned. The right was considered as natural as breathing — a natural right, not a common law right. As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story put it in “Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States,” his seminal 1833 book, “The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons who have duly reflected on the subject.”

It was Mr. Justice Story who distilled the Second Amendment — “the palladium of the liberties of a republic” — into its essence:

“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms ... offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”
And then in a quote within a quote (McNickle is quoting this article at The Federalist and that article is quoting Poli-Sci professor Edward Erler):
The right to revolution — and even merely the specter of it, I would interject — is “an essential ingredient of the social compact and a right which is always reserved to the people. The people can never cede or delegate this ultimate expression of sovereign power. Thus, in a very important sense, the right of revolution (or even its threat) is the right that guarantees every other right.”

Or as Story put it, “There is certainly no small danger that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause in our national bill of rights.”
Now, let's go see what Joseph Story really wrote.  I'll highlight the parts that McNickle chose for you to see:
The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them. And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights.
Ohmigod! Take a look at what Colin McNickle chose not to show you.  Immediately after the first sentence he takes from Story, we see this:
The militia is the natural defence...(sic)
And then in the sentences immediately before the last that McNickle chooses for you, we see this:
And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see.
Regardless of what you (or I) might think of the Second Amendment's meaning, do you really think Joseph Story was talking about an individual's right to own weaponry rather than a State's right to a militia made up of citizen-soldiers?  Story is obviously talking about a "well regulated militia" as the "natural" defense against tyranny and complaining how there was (even then) a growing indifference to any sort of "militia discipline" and strong disposition "to be rid of all regulations."

My my - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, I suppose.

This leads me to McNickle's biggest sin.  Take a look at the context into which he places Story's last sentence.  It's a discussion of "the people's" right to revolution.  That's where McNickle writes about indifference going to disgust and then to contempt.

Now take a look at where Story actually uses the word "indifference."  It's in two places; "the growing indifference to any system of militia discipline" and then the danger that it leads to disgust and so on.

Story is NOT talking about any sort of revolution there is he, Colin?

You mis-represented your main source didn't you, Colin?

Isn't that kind of a bad thing to do when you're a columnist?  I'm just asking.

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