“Germans who wish to use firearms should join the SS or the SA – ordinary citizens don’t need guns, as their having guns doesn’t serve the State.”
~ Heinrich Himmler; Reichsfuhrer-SS
Recently, there has been a great deal of conversation concerning the Second Amendment and whether the present administration is going to be a friend, foe or neutral to “gun ownership.”
This article attempts to shed light on the discussion.
Can we find an historical time which gives us enough social, economic, and governmental parallels with today and the current administration to make a rational judgment concerning what is likely to occur? Sure we can, more than one; but I think we will find today has a great deal in common with the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527 to 565 AD).
When Justin, Justinian’s uncle, took the throne (518 AD) he and Justinian found the treasuries full. Procopius tells us that the previous emperor “had been the most provident and economical of all monarchs, fearing…that the inheritor of his Empire should find himself in need of money, would perhaps plunder his subjects, (and) filled all the treasuries to their brim with gold before he completed his span of life.”
According to Procopius this was a huge sum that “would take the most extravagant of Emperors a hundred years to disburse…” However, Justinian had in a few short years squandered the entire amount.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The result was that when Justinian, in 527 AD, acquired the purple robe of the emperor the eastern empire was in financial straights.
Justinian also found himself embroiled in a war with the Sassanian Dynasty of Persia. This inherited war, along with his desire to regain western Roman provinces which had been lost through earlier barbarian invasions, meant he had to support Roman troops in northern Africa against the Vandals, the Visigoths in Spain and in Italy against the Ostrogoths.
Equally important was the amount of money Justinian paid to those who we would consider “illegal aliens.” While a potential threat, the Huns were thought by Justinian, to be indispensable on the grounds that an alliance “was necessary to the Romans against the Goths…or some other foe.” Justinian was so convinced of the Huns value to the empire that even after they had raided and plundered Roman citizens he stopped the Thracian and Illyrian generals who planned to attack them as they returned to their own territories.
The consequence of Justinian’s payments and policy toward the Huns was that “having once tasted (of) Roman wealth, (they) never forgot the road that led to it.” The Huns, thus emboldened, “ravaged the country as if they were the foe, and enslaved the Romans there; and, laden with booty and captives, these friends and allies of the Romans returned to their homes.”
One of the great aspects of studying history is realizing how human nature never changes. Justinian’s policies toward the Huns and their continued raiding of Roman property holders put the Romans farmers in those provinces attacked, in an awkward position. Thus the farmers did what any reasonable person would do when faced with a continuing threat to their family and property; they banded together and attacked the unlawful intruders.
Evidently these justice loving farmers were successful, for we are told their retaliation resulted in Huns being killed, horses taken and packed with spoils; all of which were undoubtedly considered to be just recompense for past pain and suffering.
We are often informed that government hates competition and it was the same in ancient times. Justinian’s reaction was unquestionably to label those Roman farmers as terrorists, vigilantes, rogue militia or some such “antisocial” term, then to send “agents…from Constantinople to beat and torture them and seize their property, until they had given up all the horses they had taken from the barbarians.”
Justinian, unlike today, didn’t have the means to produce money out of thin air. Oh, his policies would impoverish future generations but it wasn’t through debt. Justinian’s only means of raising the capital he needed was either through taxation or unashamed murder and subsequent confiscation of the victim’s wealth. Those whose wealth had been stolen, but allowed to live were released to struggle through life in abject poverty.
Some bureaucratic offices were abolished while others were created then staffed with criminals who were thought to be too smart or too capable not to be placed in positions of authority. This, of course, led to more political abuses, authoritarian injustices, and a more powerful criminal state.
So great was the fear of Justinian and his roving agents that family members and friends turned on each other and “… many died by conspiracy of members of their own households. Nor was there any investigation after these deeds…and none avenged the victim. No longer was there left any force in law or contract, because of this disorder, but everything was settled by violence.”
“The State,” Procopius says, “might as well have been a tyranny”: but it wasn’t an established tyranny in the conventional sense, rather the Byzantine state was so chaotic that what was law one day was being replaced with something new and different the next.
Honest bureaucrats were reduced to sniveling cowards, while judges decided cases not according to what was lawful or traditional justice but based solely on who had the greatest or fewest political connections and what was currently politically correct.
It was one injustice heaped upon another that finally brought the people to a state of rebellion. Procopius explains: “…[T]hose who suffer the most grievously from evildoers are relieved of the greater part of their anguish by the expectation they will sometime be avenged by law and authority. Men who are confident of the future can bear more easily and less painfully their present troubles; but when they are outraged even by the government what befalls them is naturally all the more grievous, and by the failing of all hope of redress they are turned to utter despair.”
This despair was first manifested in the rural districts when, because of new laws which amounted to a religious form of political correctness, people were forced “…by the compulsion of law, (to) abandon the belief of their fathers…” which resulted in armed rebellion. The rebellion was for a time successful, but eventually suppressed by Roman troops.
In bringing the uprising to an end, Justinian had in effect made some of the “…most fertile country on earth…destitute of farmers. To the Christian owners of these lands, the affair brought great hardship: for while their profits from these properties were annihilated, they had to pay heavy annual taxes…to the Emperor for the rest of their lives, and secured no remission of this burden.”
However, this was just the beginning of Justinian’s problems.
Justinian had come from the peasant class and didn’t have the support of the Roman nobility which left him with no power base among the old aristocracy.
As a result Justinian sought to establish his power base through what was known as the blue party. This was a group of criminals who, with Justinian’s blessing “carried steel openly from the first, while by day they concealed their two-edged daggers along the thigh under their cloaks” and to whom he was very generous with both money and positions of power.
To say that Justinian was not universally popular would be an understatement. His unbridled use of power, criminal associations, lack of support among the nobility, failed economic policies, and total disregard for justice, almost cost him his throne.
It was January 13, 532 AD when the anger of Justinian’s subjects reached a fevered pitch in what is known as the Nika riots. When it was all over Justinian was still in power but some 30,000 who had opposed him were dead; leaving Justinian free to enforce his brand of law.
Among Justinian’s laws, is Title XIV, Concerning Arms, Eighty-Fifth New Constitution (P.313) in which we find the following:
“Therefore, desiring to prevent men from killing each other, We have thought it proper to decree that no private person shall engage in the manufacture of weapons, and that only those shall be authorized to do so who are employed in the public arsenals, or are called armorers; and also that manufacturers of arms should not sell them to any private individual…”
“Therefore, God directing Our thoughts, We decree by the present law that no private individual, or anyone else whosoever shall, in any province or city of Our Empire, have the right to make or sell arms, or deal in them in any way, but only such as are authorized to manufacture them can do so, and deposit them in Our armory…”
“But in order that what has been forbidden by Us to private persons and all others may become clear, We have taken pains to enumerate in this law the different kinds of weapons whose manufacture is forbidden. Therefore We prohibit private individuals from either making or buying bows, arrows, double-edged swords, ordinary swords, weapons usually called hunting knives, those styled zabes, breast-plates, javelins, lances and spears of every shape whatever, arms called by the Isaurians monocopia, others called sitinnes, or missiles, shields, and helmets; for We do not permit anything of this kind to be manufactured, except by those who are appointed for that purpose in Our arsenals, and only small knives which no one uses in fighting shall be allowed to be made and sold by private persons…”
Far too often the concern regarding gun ownership has revolved around the question: “Will the government seek to take our firearms?” This has consistently been the wrong inquiry; it should never have been “will,” but rather “when will.” The former is implicit with the addition of the Second Amendment to the Constitution while the latter is subject to a number of real or imagined threats to the state.
George Washington stated much the same thing in his letter to congress at the close of the Constitutional Convention. Washington wrote in part: “…It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all: Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance as on the object to be obtained…” (Italics mine)
President George Washington’s dislike of the “militia” as defined by the Second Amendment, in favor of a standing army, is well documented by historians.
Washington defined the statement “magnitude of the sacrifice” when he utilized “militias” from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey as a de facto federal standing army to put down the Monongahela Valley “Whisky Rebellion” of the 1790’s; thereby securing a federal tax in perpetuity.
In earlier articles I endeavored to show that government is neither about morality, nor immorality but always about power; either as a protector or predator and sometimes as the principle in both roles at once. When it is understood that government’s power is in reality compulsive unification then it becomes equally obvious that any nonconformity will not be tolerated.
Thus, Washington’s statement above takes on a whole new meaning. For as society continues in the woes of an economic melt down, being pressured by border incursions, hampered by decisions of inept leadership, saddled with abusive taxation and faced with the loss of their present and future welfare etc… they will of necessity become less amenable to conforming to the dictates of the state.
This threat to the government’s power base will be met first with tactics that generate fear and intimidation, then in the last instance with raw, brute force. Both will be designed to reduce the threat to the state, from nonconformity, by disarming the general public.
As a centralized force, the Federal government, regardless of the administration, has been a foe of gun owners since April 30, 1789 and of the Second Amendment since December 15, 1791.