I Wonder If Eric Black And Brian Lambert Know This?

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails to elaborate on the subject of this piece, assailing the MinnPost’s Eric Black’s participation in the resurrection of the long-forgotten “Second Amendment Was Written To Protect Slavery!” meme:

I forgot about this when I wrote to debunk Carl Bogus’ law review article.  Bogus relies for some of his historical evidence about firearms use on Michael Bellesiles, saying:

“Most militiamen were not even good shots.[168] We think of men as having grown up with guns in colonial America.[169] We assume they were sharpshooters by necessity. Did not men have to become proficient with muskets to protect themselves from ruffians and Indians or to hunt to put food on the table? Contrary to myth, the answer, in the main, is no. In reality, few Americans owned guns.[170] When Michael A. Bellesiles reviewed more than a thousand probate records from frontier areas of northern New England and western Pennsylvania for the years 1765 to 1790, he found that although the records were so detailed that they listed items as small as broken cups, only fourteen percent of the household inventories included firearms and [Page 342] fifty-three percent of those guns were listed as not working.[171] In addition, few Americans hunted. Bellesiles writes: “From the time of the earliest colonial settlements, frontier families had relied on Indians or professional hunters for wild game, and the colonial assemblies regulated all forms of hunting, as did Britain’s Parliament.”[172]

You remember Michael Bellesiles?  He supposedly studied probate records and found practically nobody owned guns in those days, so he wrote a book called “Arming America” saying the scarcity of private firearms ownership proved the Founding Fathers could not have intended the Second Amendment to refer to private firearms ownership, but must have intended it to refer to government militias.

James Lindgren at Northwestern University writes on The Volokh Conspiracy to remember his work taking Bellesiles down.   And I know you remember how Bellesiles claimed to have lost his research notes in a flood.

No serious historian believes Bellesiles today.   And to the extent Bellesiles is the foundation for Bogus, no serious legal scholar should believe Bogus, either.

Joe Doakes

Como Park

Reading Bogus’ original article, most of the citations are to, well, himself.  But listing Bellesisles is about on par with listing Milli Vanilli.

Brian Lambert may now respond with a dismissive, name-calling bit of snark before going back to metaphorically painting Mark Dayton’s toenails.

16 thoughts on “I Wonder If Eric Black And Brian Lambert Know This?

  1. Maybe this is why DG can’t explain how Cornish’s bill was “crap” – she had all the information right there at her fingertips and then the “Bellesiles flood” came and washed it all away. She’s just embarrassed to admit that she left the window of her kennel open and everything got wet.

  2. When I heard about Belleisles’ claims (from a liberal friend) I thought that the idea of using probate records to track gun ownership in frontier America was wrong-headed. Then, as now, in large families guns are usually given to younger family members when a father or uncle got too old to use them. They wouldn’t show up as part of an estate.
    What’s more, a review of literature from the period before the Civil War indicates that rifles or muskets were always close to hand and people seemed familiar with their use (and the operation of old firearms was trickier than modern firearms).
    Bellisles would have generated less controversy if he had tried to show that common people keeping handguns was a post Civil War phenomenon.

  3. metaphorically painting Mark Dayton’s toenails

    Metaphorically? Surely you meant “literally”.

  4. I agree with Terry’s explanation of the lack of recorded guns.

    To personally hand down a treasured family artifact and see the recipient’s joy in receiving and using it is far more satisfying to both parties than giving/ receiving it from the owner’s “Cold, dead hands.”

    Besides, I doubt that gun owners back then were any more likely than they are today to want to document their firearm’s existence with any official entity.

  5. A guy could have a lot of fun tracking a society’s ideas about firearms from literature.
    Going off the top of my head, before the revolver came into use, most people would have thought of handguns as being of little practical use. They were used by cavalrymen and the wealthy (for dueling). The guns most people would have been familiar with were muskets and fowling pieces. The common weapon of self defense, in urban settings, was the sword (‘hanger’) or cane.
    Stories and written reminiscences from the ‘old frontier’ (Kentucky and Ohio) indicate that farmers’ fields were often some distance from their cabin and that this left the family exposed to attack by Indians when the farmer — and his rifle — were away during the day.

  6. Terry, you bring up a great point re: swords. Back in the day, the majority of men were chivalrous and would never think of using a gun in a sword fight, lest he be labeled a coward! If I recall past readings, as settlers moved west, native American tribes also initially displayed such chivalry. Their culture honored the bravery of close combat with their enemies, using knives, tomahawks and/or clubs.

  7. They are still using the debunked story about our 18th century pioneers not having firearms? Well, if you tell a lie enough times……

    Speaking of that. The left is saying (over and over and over) that the NRA says that Obama’s children shouldn’t have secret service protection. That is a fabrication. The NRA put out a web ad saying rich Democrats send their kids to schools that have armed guards, yet don’t want regular folks to have the same protection. It has nothing to do with secret service.

  8. The past is an odd place, Bosshoss. I doubt if chivalry had much to do with the preference for swords over hand guns in the 18th century. Handguns of the period were expensive, unreliable, and difficult to use.
    When you read the stories in, say, Heroes and Hunters of the West http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26965/26965-h/26965-h.htm , it’s obvious that while the frontiersmen were short of horses, and sometimes powder and ball, on the frontier no one would leave site of their home without bringing their musket or rifle.

  9. I doubt either Lambo or Black have time to spare for anything other than the epic circle jerk going on at the Minnpost right now.

    They’re tripping over one another to get their own papspew posted.

    It’s a daisy chain that Nick Coleman would highly approve of.

  10. Terry, if you want to get a feel as to how different the past was, try and replicate the speed with which musketeers or riflemen of the era could load and fire. I’ve shot a lot of black powder and I couldn’t even come close to matching the speed of even newly formed militiamen.

  11. During the siege of Boston, in 1775, the British allowed loyalists to leave, provided that they carried no arms. Approximately 2000 muskets were turned in. From a town with an adult male population of about 3000.

    Hard to square that with “hardly anybody owned guns”. Particularly as these are only those voluntarily surrendered.

  12. I question the allegation that people back then were not proficient with their firearms and were not “sharpshooters”.

    Proficiency is relative. Firearms back then, as previously mentioned, were cumbersome, slow to load, and by today’s standards, innaccurate. The technology was as good as it got in colonial America and was sufficient. However, shooting accurately back then may well have been hitting a person-sized target anywhere on the body from 100 feet.

    The time it took to load a rifle, bring it to bear, and hit a large target in colonial times was horrendously slow by today’s standards. A modern soldier would in deed be deemed to lack proficiency.

    “Sharpshooter” is a relative term. Of course everyone was not a sharpshooter. The term designates one who shoots better than the rest of the group. Once everyone was deemed a sharpshooter, standards would have to be strengthened and the best of the best redesignated.

    Sorry to sound like a “magazine not clip” and “It’s not by definition an assault rifle because …” – type gun geek. However, the use of terms should be defined in the proper context.

  13. . . . and Boston was hardly the frontier.
    I swear the inability of liberals to tell sh*t from shinola is going to drive me crazy. They think that ‘peer reviewed’ is the highest standard of truth, when most of them don’t understand the difference between a ‘peer reviewed’ epidemiological study (which cannot show causation) and a ‘peer reviewed’ input-controlled study (which can).

  14. They also forgot to recognize that the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at British soldiers that were coming to confiscate the colonist’s rifles.

  15. Bosshoss, don’t forget the cannon. The British were after the cannon. If I remember correctly they got and destroyed 3 or 4 cannon. before being turned back.

  16. That is cannon that were not owned by the state. Because they would not have destroyed their own cannon, would they? Private ownership of cannon? How is that possible?

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