Do you remember when you first glimpsed the real basis of our individual freedom? Did a parent show you? A teacher?
For me, the understanding came like the plot of a great mystery novel. Each clue came hard, but with the power of real things in its magnificent story.
No one in my New York public high school helped. Once a discussion on constitutional rights did try to emerge in an American history class, but it was soon snuffed out when the teacher redirected the discussion into one about what freedoms the government should “allow” us to have.
Some professors in the military college I graduated from gave hints. Professor Jonathan Walters, a Welsh lover of English literature, pointed me to John Stuart Mill’s mid-19th century classic On Liberty. The First Amendment is presented in all its glowing importance in that fine, little book. He then told me I should read John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings greatly impacted the political philosophies of our Founding generation. And he pointed me to the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688-89, which introduced the English Bill of Rights.
This led to the Scottish enlightenment thinkers, such as David Hume and Adam Smith. These explorations soon moved to the Founding Fathers and all they did and said. And, of course, to deeper dives into books that shaped them, such as Plato’s Republic, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws and, of course, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.
All of these works and more influenced James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay when they wrote the Federalist Papers.
Now great worlds were open and I could finally see how Western thinkers began to articulate these rights as being natural, and therefore, everyone is subject to the same moral standard. The Founding Fathers read and understood this concept. Indeed, the bold idea that the individual, via their rights, is paramount to the American experiment. This is why, today, this profound revelation is something the American Left wants to erode, as true individual rights are a fundamental check on government power.
And so, in my awakening youth, I worried Americans wouldn’t learn this stuff, as few have the time to follow those historical bread crumbs on their own.
This would later lead me to research and write Saving the Bill of Rights. And it would eventually take me here. This is why I asked George Mocsary, a professor of law at the University of Wyoming, and Joseph Greenlee, a constitutional attorney, to write a list of 10 things every American should know about their Second Amendment freedom. It is a profound list. It presents important pieces of this enumerated right’s basis every American should be taught.
Which is what we do here at America’s 1st Freedom: We unearth and print the truth about our freedom in the hopes another generation, and then another, will understand their freedom enough to hold it tight.