Our Bill of Rights is one of the greatest documents ever written.
We have the finished document, but we know so little about the wise discussion that occurred among the founding fathers that led to the final product. Until now! Here is the actual transcript, just discovered during some housecleaning and renovation of Founder’s Hall at the College of William and Mary. It is dated Jan. 15, 1790, a few months after James Madison wrote the first draft of these first ten amendments.
It seems Madison was hosting his buddies, the Founding Father’s Poker Club, at his house for their weekly game.
Joining Madison were George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Here is the actual transcript just discovered!
Madison: Hey boys, nasty out there tonight! Listen, before we deal the first hand, I need your help with this Bill of Rights Second Amendment thing. I think it’s too vague. Just a few minutes of your help before we order the pizza.
Franklin: Oh James, not this again. I’m too old for this. I could croak right here tonight. Please, just deal.
Madison: No, just a few minutes please. I promise. That’s it. In fact, if we do this, I can write this meeting off as a deduction on my taxes as “work related.” Tell you what. Give me just 15 minutes and I’ll buy the beer and pizza. You guys owe nothing.
Jefferson: Woah! No wonder they call you Slick Jimmy. Always an angle. OK, good by me.
Voices: Yeah,OK……… What the hell……. I’m in ……… OK, 15 minutes.
Jefferson: OK, but no anchovies on the pizza.
Madison: Great, thanks. So here’s the draft for number 2: “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.” Do you think that’s specific enough or should we spell it out in more detail? Will folks be clear about what we mean? Could folks go a little crazy and start buying three or four muskets for whatever reason, and not pay attention to the militia thing?
Washington: Why would anyone need more than one musket? If the poop hits the fan and the militia calls, you grab your gun and you go! Given all the other stuff you’re gonna have to pack, how are you gonna carry two or three more guns? It’s not like your rucksack has wheels on it!
Adams: Wait a minute, Hamilton isn’t here yet. Maybe we should wait for him for this conversation. He always has something to say.
Voices: Oh geez……. No, don’t wait for him…… We’ll be here all night… Forget it, he’ll go off on one of his banking jags…… or why Burr is an idiot.
Franklin: What about this “arms” thing? Could that open up a can of worms?
Adams: Yeah, that could be a problem. Will folks know what we mean? Like, we used to use that blunderbuss gun thing, but now the musket has been invented. Much better. I gotta believe future inventions will happen, too. Maybe we should just say “musket” and not open things up to whatever comes along. I’m hearing some nasty stuff is in the pipeline.
Franklin: Good point, John. Let’s just say “muskets” and maybe add that electric taser thing I’ve been playing with. Pretty effective, pretty safe, and easy to put in the rucksack.
Jefferson: When is the pizza coming? (pause) You know, like I’ve said, to keep this republic and democracy thing on track, you gotta have a rebellion every 20 years or so, in case the government starts getting too uppity and powerful. What if the government gets new arms and the citizens don’t keep up? It won’t be a fair fight.
What if the government gets, like, six-shot Colt Revolvers? Your musket won’t be worth diddly squat. Look, we’ve made America great so far. It’s likely we will have to make it great again. Gotta be ready.
Madison: Tom has a point there. And what if that crazy farmer down the road gets a black market Colt revolver at a gun show, and kills one of your best pigs for a winter’s meat? You’re gonna have to protect your family, for sure, and deter that from ever happening again with something that will scare the bejesus out of him, like a Winchester Carbine or maybe even an AK-47 kind of thing.
Washington: Times change, gotta keep up.
Franklin: Woah, boys. I say just muskets and tasers. Things could get really out of hand if we open up this Pandora’s box. We’ve all seen people do some really stupid, crazy things when they get scared. Remember that witch stuff up in Salem?
Washington: I disagree, Ben. You gotta maintain the advantage. I suggest no more than one musket, one revolver and one AK-47 per citizen…… and maybe one Abrams tank. Now you’re talkin’ Arms! Let’s see the government, or that crazy pig farmer, mess with that kind of stuff! Gotta protect yourself.
Jefferson: What about one guillotine, too? I brought one back from France with me… one nasty sucker. And no ugly wounds or life-long injuries or disabilities to tax the health-care system. That thing works every time. ……(pause) Geez, where is that pizza, Jimmy?
Adams: You know, maybe we should get some perspectives beyond our own. We’re just a bunch of high- brow, land-owning white boys. Tom, what about your mistress Sally? She can give you both a woman’s and slave’s point of view on this!
Jefferson: No way, man. Not a good idea, not a good time. She doesn’t even believe in live ammo any more. She won’t even talk to me until I agree to only shoot blanks.
Washington: I could ask Martha.
Franklin: What good is that? She doesn’t even vote!
(Footsteps at front door, door swings open, Alexander Hamilton arrives.)
Hamilton: Hey boys! It’s bitchin’ out there! Good fire in here, though. Thanks. Look, I brought the pizza – no anchovies, just like Tom likes it. But I disagree with Tom about the anchovies. Let me explain why….
Franklin (holding up his hand): Alex. We do not want to hear you make a federal case about this. Just sit down and shut up.
Madison: Guys, we gotta get back to this arms thing. Keep it to muskets or open it up to the wonders of technology and innovation? Bump stocks? What about grenade launchers? They will be here before you know it.
Washington: Or ICBM’s?
Jefferson: If that pig farmer gets his hands on a nuke, shouldn’t I get to have two or three? That wouldn’t be so mad, would it? (pause) Hey, Alex, don’t eat the whole thing! Jesus, Burr is right. As soon as you get into the room, it’s all about you.
Hamilton: My good sir, perhaps I can explain the value of my approach. When one is eating pizza, the overarching needs of the larger group are important, but…
Franklin (glaring): Shut up. And get me a beer.
Adams: Jimmy, we’ve been at this almost 20 minutes — five more than you promised. Let’s wrap this up and get to the poker game we came here for. Sometimes it’s fine for these documents to be good enough. In this America experiment, they don’t have to be great again and again.
Washington: I agree. We have to give our citizens some credit. I can’t lie to you, this whole thing is a pain. Let them use their common sense, for crying out loud. We can’t do everything for them.
Franklin: You know, George is right. This perpetual word-smithing is a waste. I just don’t see it. If people cannot see the value of what is right in front of their nose, and also see out into the future as it unfolds, then it’s their problem, and they will get what they deserve. Boys, I say leave the draft just as it is. It works.
Jefferson: That’s it, then. Done. Jimmy, deal the cards. Alex, give me that slice.
Hamilton: But If I may….
Franklin: Somebody get me a gun.
Allan Polack lives in West Hartford.