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Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison discuss guns and the Proposed Second Amendment to the Constitution
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The weather in Philadelphia when the Constitutional Convention began on May 25, 1787 was downright balmy.
By the time the delegates had signed their names approving the new Constitution and the assembly released to go back to their homes
on September 17th a wintry blast had driven through the streets and alleys of the America’s most famous city.
The delegates were glad to be returning home as they had not brought clothing to protect them from the coming bitter cold northeast
On the last day of the convention, as the delegates were offering their goodbyes to their counterparts
from the various states, Ben Franklin, from Philadelphia, cornered James Madison from Virginia and Alexander Hamilton from New York
and asked them to linger with him for a while. He wanted to discuss the proposed second amendment to the constitution with these men,
in whom he had great respect.
Franklin, perhaps the most respected man attending the Convention along with
George Washington, asked Madison and Hamilton to meet him a half hour hence at the small pub across the street from the Pennsylvania
State House, the home of the newly ended historic convention.
Thirty minutes later the three delegates were
at the front door of one of Philadelphia’s most popular inns, “The Feather and Bone.”
Franklyn greeted first
Madison, then Hamilton with hearty handshakes. “My gratitude for coming, gentlemen. What say we grab a table in the back of this establishment
and have an ale.”
Madison and Hamilton followed the elder Franklin as he walked to the rear of the inn. Most
of the patrons recognized the three delegates. They had seen them around Philadelphia town for four months as they labored over creating
the country’s new Constitution.
The three sat at a worn oak table near the rear exit of the inn. The sturdy
oak chairs screeched as the men dragged them across the worn hardwood floors. They sat and waited for Franklin to give them a hint
of why he had asked them to tarry awhile before returning to their homes.
Franklin began, “Gentlemen, although
I don’t completely agree with every sentence written in the new Constitution I believe it to be one of the great documents conceived
by man. The work that all of the delegates, including you, Mr. Madison, and you Mr. Hamilton, along with the writings of the esteemed
Gouverneur Morris have created a document that will go well to preserve our union and furthermore protect the freedoms of every citizen
of this great new nation. But, gentlemen, I am troubled mostly by one piece of the proposed legislation called “The Bill of Rights.”
Just then a young maiden, the bar-server at “The Feather and Bone,” walked up to the trio’s table and said, “Here ya go, gents, three
large ales for you.” She placed a large tankard in front of each man and left a full pitcher in the middle of the table for their
later use. Walking away, she turned and offered, “Enjoy yourselves, you men. You deserve it.”
Alexander Hamilton raised his tankard,
“Gents, I offer you a toast to the great men who designed our new Constitution. Not perfect, it is, but close. Long live this new
union of the colonies.”
Each sipped at their tankard. Franklin did and then wiped his lips. “My concern,
gentlemen, is with the proposed second amendment to our Constitution. Some of the men at the Convention have told me that they want
to include an amendment that allows any citizen of this country to own a gun. Gentlemen, think of each one of our millions of citizens
owning a Blunderbuss.”
Hamilton, the delegate from New York, quickly placed his tankard of ale on the oak
table and said, “Ben, Ben, Ben. The proposed amendment is designed to prevent the English from again invading our lands and then quartering
their armies in the homes of Americans. We must give our countrymen the right to have arms to prevent the English from doing again
to us what they have done once before. We must have an armed militia.”
James Madison of Virginia added, “Of
course we don’t want a blunderbuss, or any other rifle in the hands of all Americans, only those who serve in our country’s militia.
I can’t imagine the dangers of all Americans having the legal right to own a gun. I am sure that some day in the future guns will
be invented that will fire one, two or three bullets without reloading. What a frightful eventuality that would enable a crack pot
citizen to own a newly invented firearm that would allow him to fire three rounds at a fellow citizen without reloading.”
Franklin, replied, “But I have read the proposed ten amendments to our new Constitution, which they are calling “The Bill of Rights.
It’s the second one that worries me fully. Giving guns to our militia is one thing, permitting every cockeyed citizen to have a Blunderbuss
is another concern. What if a citizen of any of our thirteen colonies became angry and decided to harm another group of citizens.
How easy it would be for him to load his Blunderbuss and fire on the group. And would we not be a partner in the crime for making
it legal for a deranged person to own the firearm. And what of those city gendarmes who walk around unarmed and at the mercy of a
criminal outfitted with the latest firearm? A frightful thought to ponder.”
The New Yorker, Alexander Hamilton,
sipped his ale and said, “Perhaps the amendment should state that only members of a state militia can legally own a gun. And the amendment
could further state that non-militia members are permitted to own guns only if they pass a psychical test and register with a trustworthy
“Sirs, I see the day coming when someone will invent a Blunderbuss that will fit conveniently in
a person’s single hand. That person will become a possible threat to anyone who differs with him. Think of the shopkeepers being robbed
with lawful firearms made legal by this amendment,” added Franklin.
James Madison, seeing both sides of the
gun issue, said, “Wouldn’t it be a shame if we did not permit gun ownership to any American and the King of England decided to once
again invade our shores. We would be left defenseless. We could once again be under the thumb of the King of England. I say let our
people’s militia be permitted to legally own guns and the others must prove they are responsible parties before they are allowed to
own firearms. We cannot permit the mentally disordered or the insane to own guns. I would feel personally responsible if a citizen
with a gun, legally registered though, brought harm to another citizen due to our making the ownership of the gun legal and approved
by the government. I presume this means that legal gun ownership must depend on the forthright registration of all firearms. Only
those highly responsible should be allowed to own a dangerous weapon.”
Ben Franklin reached across the table
and patted Madison on his right forearm and said, “James, I think you are correct. Mr. Hamilton, do you concur that the permitting
a person to own a firearm merely because they are a citizen of our fair land would prove to be a deviation from our God-given responsibility
to protect our citizenry.”
Hamilton shook his head up and down, smiled and said, “I cannot come to any other
conclusion, especially when I peer, as best I can, into our future and see the Blunderbuss evolving into something more than it is
today. I am horrified and aghast at the thought.”
Franklin pushed his chair away from the table and stood.
He said, “Gentlemen, thank you for your sage advice. I appreciate your intelligence and foresight. I shall report my thoughts and
yours to the committee concerned with formulating the second amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. I am hopeful that they
will listen to my pleas.”
Alexander Hamilton stood, shook hands with James Madison and reached out for the
hand of the estimable Ben Franklin. “Ben, I wish you the best. Were it not for you so many of the segments of our new Constitution
would be missing or unclear. God bless you Mr. Franklin and may God grant that the Second Amendment is written so as to protect our
With that Ben Franklin returned to the oak table and placed a few coins next to his tankard plus
a generous gratuity for the young server. With that the three together walked out the front door of the “Feather and Bone” into the