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Unconventional behavior and the right to bear arms | Letter
Gouverneur Morris had about all the fidgeting about he could take from the diminutive James Madison.
“What?” Morris commanded. “I’m trying to work here.”
“You could have fooled me,” Madison shot back. “You’ve been staring at that blank piece of parchment for over an hour.”
“It’s not blank,” Morris corrected. “Here, look for yourself.”
Madison regarded it. It was not blank, but almost. ‘We, the People,’ it read.
“That’s it? That’s all you’ve done?” Madison asked impatiently. “Why, Dolley could have baked a whole tray of Zingers in the time it’s taken you to write three stupid words.”
“They’re not stupid words,” Morris contended. “They might be the most important words in the whole Constitution. I have to get them precisely right. I mean, should it be simply, ‘We the People,’ or would it be more correct to say, ‘The People and Us,’ or even, ‘Me and the People.’”
“How about, ‘I the Idiot,’” Madison said acidly. “Look, we gave you the shortest assignment of the whole Constitutional Convention –the Preamble. People means ‘people.’ You know who people are, don’t you?”
“So we’re including women and Negroes, then?” Morris asked in mild shock.
Madison glared at Morris in disbelief. “You ARE an idiot.”
An aide to the Convention suddenly burst into the room.
“Excuse me, Mr. Madison, but the Bill of Rights Committee has a question for you about the amendments you wrote.”
“Yes, what is it?” Madison replied curtly. “My time is short.”
That’s not the only thing in this room that’s short, Morris thought drily to himself.
The aide cleared his throat. “The Committee says that for the Second Amendment, you wrote in part: “The right of the people to keep their arms bare.”
“Ah, the Committee wanted to know if you meant to write, ‘the right of the People to keep and bear arms’ instead?” the aide stated.
“How the Hades should I know,” Madison said. “It was late, I was tired. They wanted something about arms. Arms, legs, who cares? So I wrote something about arms. But I didn’t write THAT, that’s for sure. Why would we ever give the people - I mean, ‘white men’ - a right like that? They’d probably just use it to shoot us all for writing this drivel in the first place.”
Morris shook his head. “That’s where you’re wrong, James. I believe future generations will pore over this document with a care and reverence for every word we’ve written. For instance, if you added ‘A well regulated militia’ to that Second Amendment, I bet no one from the future generations would mistake it for granting the right to own firearms to every Tom, Dick or Harry.”
Madison was stunned. “What kind of a meathead from, say, the 21st century is going to want to shoehorn his life and times into a document written by a bunch of 18th century dirt farmers. What arrogance!”
At that moment, Thomas Jefferson entered the room. “I got a right to privacy snuck into the Bill of Rights!” he announced snickering.
“Privacy?” Madison repeated. “I don’t recall even considering such a right.”
“We didn’t,” Jefferson said. “I did it for kicks and to give the Supreme Court something to do for their lifetime appointments. It’s an anagram. You take a certain letter from a certain word from each of the amendments and it spells P-R-I-V-A-C-Y. You have to look for it but it’s there.” Jefferson’s smile was fully self-satisfied.
“You’re all nuts!” Madison thundered. He reached for the pistol he had been careful to conceal due to the strict local Philadelphia gun control laws. Then he smiled. What the hay; it’s in the Constitution apparently, he thought to himself, as he raised the pistol now and aimed the barrel in the general direction of Morris and Jefferson.
Reid Champagne, Kirkland