Letter: Chesterton’s Fence

Dear Editor,

GK Chesterfield’s 1929 “Chesterton’s Fence” was mentioned to me the other day. The tale is simple so I’ll paraphrase: two men walking down a road come across a fence that stretched across the road, halting their forward movement. The young reformer says “Just tear down the fence and we’ll be on our way.” The older gentleman says “No, don’t remove the fence, until we learn why it was constructed in the first place.” In America, the Bill of Rights that accompany our constitution are often debated and argued with some deemed as unnecessary. Using Chesterton’s Fence structure, perhaps we should study the historical post digging of each Bill of Right. The second amendment; “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Is considered a strong fence against governmental oppression. But what brought this fence into play? In 1765, the Stamp Act initiated a concern of British taxation without representation upon the original colonies. Followed by the Parliament’s subsequent claim that they could do whatever needed to affirm power over their colonies. British Crown George the third was intent on driving his message down that road, fence or no fence; by quartering soldiers in the colonies. Was the colonists’ response – Don’t tread on me? No, as historical newspapers and writing clearly show, the colonists weren’t upset as “Americans” losing their freedom because they as English Citizens had the right to “bear arms” due to the English Bill of Rights. (1) It was instead the “unfair taxation, raising and keeping a standing army within the Kingdom in time of peace unless Parliament consented, and other concerns” that colonists warned as against English law and hence fence post holes were trenched. It took a revolution to rebuild the fence that was broken by Britain. The second amendment was added to our constitution afterwards and provided a barrier to protect and maintain three primary rights: personal security, personal liberty and private property. Again, significantly, this information can be found in newspaper archives. Boston Gazette, Post, Chronicle yr. 1768, and New York Journal to name a few. Thanks to many an editor over the years of holding freedom to speak sacredly. Might be good to leave that Second Amendment fence in place. Just a humble opinion as a cattle farmer’s wife; there’s always a wild bull out there that needs a solid fence.

Dorothy Goodman



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