Friday, March 28, 2014

The Slave's Friend "Bowie Knife" Pamphlet

About 30 years ago, I come across the article pictured above.   It is the start of an article in The Slave's Friend, a pamphlet published by an Anti-Slavery abolitionist society out of New York City.    The article is informative in a number of ways.

At first glance, the words  "The Slave's Friend" and "Bowie Knife" bring together the idea of an armed slave being able to resist oppression.  That actually was the case in Texas, upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in Cockrum v. State in the antebellum South in 1859.   The case, cited in both the Heller decision and the recent Peruta decision out of the Ninth circuit, showed that being armed was an absolute right under the Texas Constitution of 1845, and that even slaves had the right to bear arms in Texas.   While the court ruled that knives such as Bowie knives were especially dangerous and deadly, it also ruled that legal sanctions could not be imposed on their possession or carry, unless the person possessing them used them for an illegal purpose.

Texas was alone in such protections for slaves in the South, however, and the pamphlet was likely written before 1840, when Texas was still an independent republic.

A closer reading  illustrates that even in the antebellum United States, there existed a small number of people who had moral objections to the possession of weapons.   This objection derives from the "progressive elite" theory of crime.   It is interesting that the organization was centered in New York City.  From my recollection of the full pamphlet, the writer expressed particular umbrage to the words "Death to Abolition" that they proclaimed were on some of the blades for sale in New York City, and which they placed on the depiction of the blade illustrated in their pamphlet.

The pamphleteers were involved in the combat of ideas, not in physical combat, so it seems unlikely that they considered that their activities would one day lead to the greatest amount of bloodshed ever experienced by the United States, the Civil War, or if you prefer, the War Between the States.  I suspect that the pamphleteers would have been horrified if you had suggested to them that this would be the result of their efforts.   Many people hoped that slavery could be ended by non-violent means.   In some countries, such as Brazil, it was.

I only hope that a similar short sightedness is overcome by those who are attempting to inflict a degree of slavery on the entire United States by disarming the citizens.  It appears that the same blinders are covering their ability to look at historical examples.   Weapons owners in the United States believe that they are on the side of right, every bit as much as the abolitionists did in the antebellum United States, but we are not a small minority,  We are well on our way to becoming a majority, and we have the Constitution on our side.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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