Saturday, May 9, 2009

Historically speaking, is the militia movement extreme?

Posted at by Glenn Reynolds
May 9, 2009

IN THE MAIL: Robert H. Churchill’s To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant’s Face: Libertarian Political Violence and the Origins of the Militia Movement. By “libertarian,” he’s not really referring to modern libertarians, but to the conception of the American Revolution as a response to a corrupt and overweening state. From the introduction, as part of a discussion of the 1990s militia movement:
It seemed to me as a historian that the concept of extremism begged a question: how do certain ideas, movements and political impulses come to be considered extremist? As a citizen whose political identity was shaped by the late twentieth century, I saw the militias’ assertion of a right to use armed force to change government policy as new, threatening, and beyond the pale of legitimate politics. But as a historian of early America I found achingly familiar their assertion of a right to take up arms to prevent the exercise of unconstitutional power by the federal government. As a historian, then, I was faced with a more specific question: how has the United States as a political society come to view the assertion of that right as extremist?

This book might be profitably read along with Pauline Maier’s From Resistance to Revolution.

Posted at by Glenn Reynolds at 11:00 am
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