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Commentary by F. Earle Fox
on an article by Wayne Pierre, NRA VP
Wayne Pierre writes in America's First Freedom, a National Rifle Assn. magazine about how Baltimore was saved during the War of 1812. Washington, DC, had been firebombed and nearly burned to the ground, and the British troops and navy were descending on Baltimore to do the same. The US army was apparently occupied elsewhere, and Washington and Baltimore had been left nearly defenseless.
The news reached Baltimore, and 10,000 citizens began appearing from every road, village, and hamlet around Baltimore, rifle in hand, to defend the city and harbor. This was truly the meaning of the militia, a citizenry which was prepared to defend itself. Japan reportedly decided against invading America because they had heard that every American household had a gun.
Wayne Pierre writes:
Behind you, a few townsmen freeze in surrender. But most don't. And now you're one of the 10,000 citizens streaming down the hills and flooding the countryside, taking up position to protect Baltimore Harbor from the world's largest navy. You are now one of the militia.
The trees and high spots belong to best among you -- country sharpshooters shaped by life times of hunting. Many will take out Britain's finest officers.
British warships unleash a 25-hour torrent of rockets and cannon fire on For McHenry, to sail into Baltimore's inner harbor and seize the city. As lightning flashes and rain falls alongside the bombshells, an observer held captive on a British ship in the bay watches the nonstop assault -- all day and all night.
Meanwhile, the huge collection of American militia has slowed or stopped the British advance by land and by sea. The British retreat.
As sunrise, the confined man peers out his prison porthole at the smoky sky above toward Fort McHenry. And Francis Scott Key sees that it's still there -- that star spangled banner still waves, the 15 broad stripes and bright stars of the time, by dawn's early light, give proof that our flag is still there.
This is the war of 1812. The British will be defeated, not by an army of soldiers, but by an army of civilians who'll become known as The Defenders.
A few months later, an army of thousands of American volunteers would again coalesce to crush the British in the Battle of New Orleans. An American force of soldiers, sailors, citizens, Indians, and African Americans, led by Andrew Jackson, defeated Britain's finest and best trained troops.
In many ways the War of 1812 was our second War of Independence because it defined our national character, and proved that Americans would unite not only to win liberty, but to keep it.
That's the legacy you live today.
The observer noted above was not actually a captive. He was an emissary sent officially from America to talk with the British. But when the cannonade began from the ships, he was caught there and had to watch the battle from the ship.
The article goes on to point out that our legacy is not only military but political, that we must fight the war of ideas and commitments, even more important than the military battles.
What the author leaves out, as is almost universally the case today, even among Christians, is our Biblical heritage, without which we will not win those battles. They are essentially, not peripherally, spiritual battles. As did many of the colonial soldiers, we must declare, "No king but Jesus!"
If Jesus is not Lord over our lives, civil government will be. And in that case, we have no inalienable freedoms, only those the current government chooses to grant us. A legitimate government does not make up laws of its own, it enforces only those laws of God as understood by the people who elect them. See William Blackstone, British lawyer of the Colonial and early American times, on these issues.
It is the job of the Church, the conscience of society, to teach people the law of God so that they will elect righteous governors -- a principle understood by the Colonial leadership. The Continental Congress, badly short on money and arms, bought 20,000 Bibles for their troops to ensure that the war would be fought in a Godly manner. They knew that 20,000 Bibles would even up the sides more than 20,000 of anything else.
We, the People, we the voting citizens under God, are the primary officers of State, not our elected officials. They work for us, not we for them. They are our servants, not we theirs. Yet they get into office and act as though we were.
The primary reason for the Second Amendment was not to provide hunting weapons, but to provide protection among the citizens against threat from criminals, both on the street and in government. Power structures always attract criminal types. They gravitate toward authority and control like flies to honey. So, We the People must protect ourselves by being appropriately armed and trained, a well organized militia.
So, as the World War II song said, "Praise the Lord! and pass the ammunition, and we'll all stay free...."
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