19 October 2009

A thought

Part of this is something I am working on for my Michael Bellesiles vindication which is there is a technological and political argument for there not being many firearms manufacturers in Colonial North America.

One is that the Navigation Acts. These acts were a limitation on trade with the Colonies. The acts demanded that most raw materials be imported into England from the colonies in order to support British manufacturing. Particularly saliently to this matter, Iron was found in all the colonies, and forges and furnaces were established in many places (e.g., Batso, NJ). In 1750, Parliament enacted a law declaring that "no mill or other engine for rolling or slitting iron," "nor any furnace for making steel shall be erected in the colonies". After this only pig and bar iron could be made.

That would rule out one possibility for local North American firearm production since they lacked the technology to do so. Additionally, Britain wanted to make sure any manufacturing of ANYTHING took place in England: that wasn't just firearms.

The War for American Independence provided some impetus for North American Firearm production, but a fair amout of muskets used were either the British Brown Bess or the French Charleville Musket. Major North American firearms production didn't begin in strength until after 1794.

In 1794, the new Federal government decided to manufacture its own muskets so that the United States would not be dependent on foreign arms (got that "dependent on foreign arms"). President Washington selected Springfield as the site for one of the two Federal Armories, the other being the Harpers Ferry Armory at Harpers Ferry), Virginia (now part of West Virginia). Production of weaponry at the Armory began in 1795 when 220 flintlock muskets were produced.

Wow, in case you missed it, the first target of Shays' rebels was the Springfield Armoury! Now, shouldn't a bunch of Revolutionary War vets just pull their muskets from the mantle? Somehow, this crew felt the need for firearms.

I happen to believe that private ownership of firearms up until the early 1800 was pretty rare. That would point to a lack of concern with private firearm ownership at the time of the ratification of the Constitution and the drafting of the Second Amendment. This is even more important when we think of the civic aspect of the "right to bear arms".

Personally, I think this is something for a historian who is much more prepared for the fallout such a revelation will have on the US mindset than I am or Michael Bellesiles was.