Charlie, I am heartened to hear the news that my former neighbors in Connecticut are saying no to the state’s ridiculous, oppressive new rifle-registry law. A little resistance from time to time is an excellent thing.
The right to keep and bear arms is a civil right. I think it would be difficult to make the case that those Americans who knowingly and with intention aforethought violated Jim Crow laws were doing anything but their duty as Americans and as human beings. But we seem to have lost a little of our law-breaking spirit. It is always a difficult calculation to make (and, suspecting as I do that I am the only contributor here who celebrates John Brown’s birthday each May, I may not be the first guy it would occur to anybody to ask), but it is worth thinking about.
Anthony, to her credit, refused to pay that fine. She dared the federal government to come and haul her away to prison, and the federal government, lacking the courage of conviction, never did. (Perhaps President Grant simply appreciated her vote.) Anthony was unquestionably a law-breaker, but I find it impossible to conclude that her law-breaking was anything other than a positive good and patriotic.
There are many things about the 19th century Republicans that I prefer to their 21st century counterparts. There is a great deal to be learned from them, and not just for Republicans. But civil disobedience is something that has to be approached with caution. As William F. Buckley wrote in 1969: “Dr. King’s discovery of the transcendent rights of the individual conscience is the kind of thing that killed Jim Crow all right. But it is also the kind of thing that killed Bobby Kennedy.”