Thursday, July 3, 2014

Self Defense and the 4th and 24th of July

What does this time of year bring to your mind? Time off from work? Barbequing with the family? Patriotic day of remembrance? Yes July the 4th is all of those things. Independence day means many things to me.
We tend to forget that to sign the Declaration of Independence was to commit an act of high treason, and the punishment for treason was death. To publicly accuse George III of "repeated injuries and usurpations," to announce that Americans were therefore "Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown," was a move fraught with danger so much that the names of the signers were kept secret for six months
This is what the punishment for High Treason against the King of England entailed:
“That the offender be drawn to the gallows, and not be carried or walk: though usually (by connivance length ripened by humanity into law) a sledge or hurdle is allowed, to preserve the offender from the extreme torment of being dragged on the ground or pavement
2. That he be hanged by the neck and then cut down alive
3. That his entrails be taken out and burned, while he is yet alive
4. That his head be cut off
5. That his body be divided in four parts
6. That his head and quarters be at the king's disposal”
They were risking everything, and they knew it. That is the meaning of the Declaration's soaring last sentence:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
It is fitting that July is also a time of celebration for another group of risk takers. On July 24th, 1847 Brigham Young was heard to say:
"It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on."
Having had relatives who were with Brother Brigham I can say that it took courage and a certain kind of faith to make the long journey to Salt Lake. Some came by ship from Europe and then made the trek to Salt Lake City, Utah. The trip from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake is about 1,297 miles. Most of this trek was by wagon, but many people walked and pulled handcarts the whole way.

“Between twelve and fifteen thousand Mormons were expelled from the state. By the
same ratio of arms to men, between two thousand and twenty-five hundred arms should have been surrendered. Yet records indicate that only 630 guns were relinquished. John D. Lee reported them as "hunting rifles, shotguns and a few muskets, some rude swords, homemade, and a few pistols . . . given up and hauled off by the State authorities."5 That these were all the arms possessed by the Mormons seems highly unlikely.”
From “Frontier Arms of the Mormons”, Page 6, By Harry W. Gibson.

Apparently about 1800 Mormons would not give up their guns to the government. It is no wonder that Utah is such a gun-friendly state with that kind of heritage. This may also be the reason behind LDS members sometimes almost fanatical about gun ownership. Like the founding fathers, the pioneer Mormons knew to keep their new found freedom and security from tyranny, they would have to defend themselves.
During the winter of 1833–34 the Saints still hoped that Governor Daniel Dunklin would assist them in regaining their homes in Jackson County. On 16 December 1833, however, Joseph Smith received a revelation that raised ominous possibilities. The Lord set forth various means by which the Saints were to settle the Missouri dispute, but they were warned that if all peaceful remedies failed they might have to occupy their rightful lands by force (see D&C 101). As events unfolded, the Lord instructed the brethren in Kirtland to raise an army and go to Missouri. What was called Zion’s Camp became a reality.
“The organization of a militia unit was customary in settlements with sufficient population, a practice as old as the Republic. Nauvoo residents were particularly anxious to have their own military protection after having been victims of mob violence and having suffered expulsion from Missouri (see Haun's Mill Massacre; Missouri Conflict). By 1840, they realized that they could not always rely on federal or state authorities for protection from such violence.
The Nauvoo Court Martial, consisting of the legion's commissioned officers, was given extensive authority. Among other things, it could "make, ordain, establish, and execute all such laws and ordinances as may be considered necessary for the benefit, government, and regulation of said Legion; provided [that] said Court Martial shall pass no law or act, repugnant to, or inconsistent with, the Constitution of the United States, or of this State [Illinois]" (History of the Church 4:244).
As part of the state militia, the Nauvoo Legion was at the disposal of the governor of Illinois "for the public defense, and the execution of the laws of the State or of the United States." Significantly, it was also at the disposal of the mayor of Nauvoo for "executing the laws and ordinances of the city corporation" (History of the Church 4:244).
During this important time of year, the 4th of July, and the 24th of July, let us remember the great importance our ancestors put on arming themselves, and defending their liberty. I think it’s interesting that God is included in the founding fathers statement, which words I repeat:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
Happy 4th!
Semper Paratus