James Madison, Comic Books and Other Letters to the Editor

Up in Arms

To the Editor:

I was relieved, near the end of his review of “The Second,” by Carol Anderson (May 30), to come across Randall Kennedy’s rejection of Anderson’s assertion that the Second Amendment was written to appeal to slave owners whose need to bear arms was primarily to protect themselves against the threat of a slave revolt.

James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 46, published in 1788, that the reason to permit citizens to arm themselves was rather to be ready to fight against an armed force sent against the states by the federal government. He guessed that such an army might amount to 30,000 men. “To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands … fighting for their common liberties.”

Robert Davey
Bridgeport, Conn.

To the Editor:

In his review of “The Second,” Kennedy states that Anderson “argues unconvincingly, in the face of formidable scholarship to the contrary, that the aim to protect slavery was the predominant motive behind the Second Amendment.” But Anderson has a point. James Madison drafted the Second Amendment during Virginia’s debate over ratification of the Constitution to appease the Virginia governor Patrick Henry, who feared that if slave states did not retain the right to their own “well regulated Militia,” they would be unable to suppress slave uprisings and pursue runaway slaves.

And, of course, it was “conservative” Justice Antonin Scalia who took a cleaver to the amendment to create the modern N.R.A. interpretation of the Second Amendment, extending the state right to individual citizens.

Tom Miller
Oakland, Calif.

To the Editor:

Kennedy’s review contained either a subtle nod or an unintentional reference to what is perhaps the most important text at the intersection of race and guns ever written. Either way, its import merits explicit acknowledgment.

Of South Carolina’s refusal to arm Black people to fight in the Revolutionary War, Kennedy wrote, “They were more appalled by the prospect of Negroes with guns than of submission to King George.” Kennedy’s turn of phrase winks at Robert F. Williams’s 1962 book “Negroes With Guns.” Raised in Monroe, N.C., Williams promoted a civil rights strategy of armed Black self-defense that reverberated across the country — Huey P. Newton cited the book as foundational to his co-founding of the California-based Black Panther Party.

Matthew W. Hughey
Tolland, Conn.

First Impressions

To the Editor:

I laughed out loud at Ward Sutton’s wonderful Sketchbook of covers (May 23) by “artists who clearly have not read the books.”

But he did a disservice to the original “Classics Illustrated,” the comic books I grew up reading. They were an American comic series featuring adaptations of literary classics like “Les Misérables,” “Moby-Dick,” “Hamlet” and the “Iliad.” Created by Albert Kanter, the series began in 1941 and finished its first run in 1969, producing 169 issues. They were the perfect antidote to Mad magazine.

J. R. Solonche
Blooming Grove, N.Y.

Ailing Aid

To the Editor:

Mona Hanna-Attisha’s review of “The Hospital,” by Brian Alexander (May 30), is spot on in condemning “our tragically bad employer-based model of health care.” But she could have gone further. She could have pointed out that a model of health care could hardly be worse than ours. How does this model go wrong? Let me count the ways.

1. It excludes people who are too sick to work and hence most in need of health care.

2. It locks people into bad marriages.

3. It gives employers incentive to discriminate against job applicants with chronic illnesses and to invade employees’ privacy by monitoring their personal health habits.

How much worse could a health care model get?

Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.

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