This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Semi-automatic Weapons in American history
To the Honourable Continental Congress: May it Please your Honours, I would just informe this Honourable Assembly, that I have discover’d an improvement, in the use of Small Armes, wherein a common small arm, may be maid to discharge eight balls one after another, in eight, five or three seconds of time, & each one to do execution five & twenty, or thirty yards, and after so discharg’d, to be loaded and fire’d with cartridge as usual, which I am ready to prove by experimental proof and can with equal ease fix them so as to discharge sixteen, or twenty, in sixteen, ten, or five seconds of time, which I have kept as yet a secret, thinking that in two, or three Months we might have an army thus equipt, which our enemy should know nothing of, till they should be maid to know it in the field, to their immortal sorrow And if you Gentlemen are desirous to enquire into this im- provement, your Humble Servent, is ready to wait upon you at any time, or place, or he may be waited on at the Widow Fords, in Walnut Street, between second & third street. from your most Obedient Humble Servent Philadelphia April 11th 1777 Joseph Belton
14 years before the authorship and ratification of the second amendment, it is clear that Joseph Belton was speaking of a semi-automatic weapon in his letters to Congress. It is important to note the fact that he was considering the manufacture of obviously semi-automatic weapons for the military.
What Does This All Mean?
This information dispels the notion that our founding fathers had no knowledge of a firearm that could shoot more than one projectile, and do so without being cocked. The letters of Joseph Belton show that there is no ambiguity to either what he wrote about (semi-automatic weapons), or whom he gave his knowledge to (Congress, who later wrote and ratified the second amendment.) If Congress’s understanding of semi-automatic weapons at the time the second amendment was written is still in question, read Belton’s third letter to Congress, June 14, 1777
Letter to Congress, June 14, 1777
Please to inform the Honourable Congress, that as I have heretofore asserted to them, that I can discharge six- teen, or twenty balls from one piece, one charging, by once pul- ing tricker, or at two or three different times, by little more than cocking & priming the same lock two or three different times. And as I mean ever to fulfull all & every one of my Asser- tions, I propose next munday about ten O’Clock A.M. (if it be agreeable to your Honours) in the State House Yard to make the following exhibition (viz) to make five different discharges from one pulling tricker. then again by little more than cocking & priming to make five more different discharges, then by little more than cocking & priming again to make six, all which I will warrant to do execution one hundred yards and think I might safely warrant it would two hundred, after which I can charge & fire with car- trage as usual.—from Your Most Obedient Humbl Ser’t
Phila^da Saturday June 14th 1777
It is safe to conclude that the continental congress foresaw and understood semi-automatic firearms. The link above provides a record of the communication between said Congress, including a letter to John Hancock himself, and Joseph Belton. These letters were read into Congress and logged into the minute’s record. Congress discussed and responded to him. Read about Horatio Gates here and Dav. Rittenhouse here.
Stop Manipulating History
The second amendment has been misinterpreted and maligned for years, as have its writers. As a matter of fact, in 2007, the Columbia School of Law American Constitution Society published a blog post comically suggesting that firearms be limited to those available at the time the second amendment was written. This suggestion is not worth lingering over.
They completely ignored the argument about whether or not the founding fathers could foresee a firearm which can carry multiple projectiles and fire in rapid succession. Clearly, letters from a firearms manufacturer to Congress can dispel that notion. These letters and their subject need to be made public knowledge again.
The Time is Now
It is time to bring awareness to the simple fact that no less than three founding fathers knew of, and were trying to obtain, semi-automatic high capacity firearms from this particular weapons manufacturer. They would have been invaluable in the Revolutionary war for the defeat of the British. It was later decided that his guns were not cost-effective, as he had asked an enormous amount in compensation. Not only did George Washington’s Congress know about these weapons, but they also tried to commission the development of 100 of them.
The thought that the Congress of that day wrote the second amendment with muskets in mind is wholly dispelled when one chooses to educate themselves on the era, and what inventions were in process. For now, we still have historical records. The use of them will significantly enhance the fight to protect the second amendment and the battle to stop the ban on semi-automatic weapons. As the adage says, those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.