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Commas and the "Original" Version of the Second Amendment
The Original Version of the Second Amendment
When Congress developed the proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it was working with separate copies of the amendments that were printed by and for the use of the House and the Senate, respectively. [The Founders' View of the Right to Bear Arms, pp.190, 198] Handwritten changes were made to those copies as the final language emerged within each house of Congress. After final wordings were decided upon and the houses agreed, President Washington sent handwritten parchment copies of the proposed amendments to the thirteen original states for ratification action by their state legislatures.
All About Commas
Ratification by the State Legislatures
After ratification by these legislative bodies, many of the state legislatures prepared a copy of their ratified amendments to be returned to the Washington administration as notification of such ratification. Some apparently did not do so because those particular state legislatures adopted all of the proposed amendments and simply indicated they had taken that action. As for those states that returned copies of the amendments ratified, with respect to the Second Amendment, no two of these are exactly alike regarding the number of commas and the words with leading capital letters within them. One even substituted an ampersand symbol for the word "and" in the second clause of the Second Amendment. These facts illustrate what would be common knowledge to anyone who has read a large amount of Founding Era documents. Punctuation (and leading capitalization of nouns) had little or no interpretive meaning then compared to something written in more modern times. Commas were often used rather profusely then and capitalization of the leading letter in all nouns was not uncommon. In other words, these variations were not viewed at the time as affecting the meaning of the Second Amendment's language in any way.
Regarding commas found in the eight different versions of the Second Amendment returned as ratified from various state legislatures, there was at least one of each with zero, one, two, and three commas. [OSA pp.720, 726, 728, 730, 732] The original sources of the Second Amendment's clauses, the leading Mason Triad clauses in the original state declarations of rights, came in two versions - 'well regulated militia as natural defense' and 'right of the people to bear arms for defense'. [FVRBA pp.65, 72] This simple historical fact makes it evident that the Second Amendment has a fundamentally two clause structure. The fact that the Second Amendment was based upon these two different descriptions of a defensively effective armed civil population made the two clause structure obvious to the Founders no matter how many commas (or caps) a copyist might have added or deleted within its language.
Jefferson's Official Imprint
The argument from those who have insisted that the "original" copy of the Second Amendment from Congress containing three commas must be consulted to fully understand its intent is contradicted by these numerous official versions of the Second Amendment as ratified by the state legislatures as well as by Jefferson's printing. Clearly, Jefferson's official imprint, as the National Archives refers to it, is the official version of the ratified Second Amendment recognized and authenticated by the executive branch of the Federal government itself.
Commas Don't Count
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
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