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Does the Constitution’s right to keep and bear arms apply to everyone? Or only to law enforcement and the National Guard? Does the right include so-called “assault weapons?”
A newly published document from America’s founding offers a clue.
Constitution - Judges - Scholars - People - Document
When interpreting the Constitution, judges and scholars consider what people said about the document around the time it was adopted. Writings by the Constitution’s advocates explaining its meaning to the general public are particularly helpful, because Americans relied on those explanations in deciding to ratify the document.
The most famous writings of this kind were penned by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay and collected as “The Federalist.” But there were many others. Among the most important were newspaper op-eds produced by Tench Coxe.
People - Coxe - Today - Era - Confederation
Few people know of Coxe today, but during the founding era he was famous. He served in the Confederation Congress. After the Constitution was ratified he became our first assistant secretary of the treasury, working directly under Alexander Hamilton.
Public release of the proposed Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 ignited a massive public debate. Opponents argued that if the instrument were ratified it would create an all-powerful central government. Coxe supported the Constitution — and like Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, he was frustrated by opponents’ misrepresentations.
Coxe - Series - Op-eds - Constitution - Effect
Coxe wrote a series of op-eds to accurately explain the Constitution’s legal effect. His informal style was much easier to understand than the scholarly tone of The Federalist, and his articles became extremely popular.
Many of Coxe’s op-eds were republished long ago, but new ones sometimes surface. The editors of the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution recently issued new volumes that include four productions by Coxe previously known to only a few dedicated scholars.
Pennsylvania - Gazette - Article - February - Coxe
In a Pennsylvania Gazette article published February 20, 1788, Coxe addressed the right to keep and bear arms: “The power of the...
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