In Max Boot’s Invisible Armies, pp. 224-5, he states that once the first KKK was disbanded, the “work” was kept up by gun clubs founded around the South at that time. As I’ve said before, the KKK is the oldest terrorist organization in the world, as far as I know; and if you discount the hiatus between the disbandment of the first Klan and its resurrection in 1915, it certainly must be the oldest. It is also one of the few terrorist organizations to succeed in its goal, since total segregation was in place by the time the first Klan was disbanded and the terror of these gun clubs assured the goal was tended well.
Going back to my reasoning as laid out in the Magnum Opus, if we go back to these gun clubs, which had the same members as the Klan (see Boot), and see the Klan’s Confederate veteran members as evolving out of the old slave patrols and militias organized to prevent the much-feared slave rebellions, then we can again trace an unbroken line of transmission back from the present day enthusiasm for ad hoc militias and shooting clubs to the militias and slave patrols of old.
The objection to this, it seems to me, is not founded on any evidence that this sort of activity, designed to terrorize Blacks whether slave or not, ever stopped in this country, but on the reluctance to see motives like keeping Blacks in their place and presenting a show of force to remind Blacks of who’s boss in the minds of every-day Americans who belong to organized and armed groups. While no one imagines that every person who enjoys shooting and hunting is a covert Klansman or even that they harbor animosity toward Blacks, Jews, immigrants, etc., it takes little imagination to construct the mind-set of militia members as they rail against the federal government and declare “zones” free from federal intrusion.
Growing up I heard the word “unreconstructed”; who would deny what that goes back to and what that implies? It is a minor example of how the attitude of a mass of White people in this country have refused to commit to the ideals of the Constitution and to reconcile themselves to their defeat in the Civil War and in the Supreme Court. As late as 2016 we could comfortably deny this, but the outpouring of support for Trump and the nature of its expression make clear the this one third of the country, voting over and over for Republican candidates as a White power bloc, carries within it the old patterns I laid out in the Magnum Opus.
March 21 More evidence. The NY Review of Books has a review of several books on guns in the U.S. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, in Loaded, writes: Neither party seems to have any idea what the 2nd Amendment was originally about.” The reviewer, Adam Hochschild, goes on: …. the amendment was written with militias in mind, she says, but, during and after the colonial era, just what were those militias? They were ot merely upstanding citizens protecting themselves against foreign tyrants like King George III. They also search for runaway slaves and seized land from Native Americans, often by slaughter. …. [authorities put] the Appalachian-Allegheny mountain range off-limits to white settlement.
Many well-armed settlers, however, thirsted for the land and crossed the mountains to take it. ….. As settlement expanded across the Great Plains, US Army troops took over the job of suppressing the doomed Native American resistance, but militias had long preceded them.
The militias also kept slaves in line. Dunbar-Ortiz quotes a North Carolina legal handbook of 1860 on such duties: “The patrol shall visit the negro houses in their respective districts as often as may be necessary, and may inflict a punishment, not exceeding 165 lashes, on all slaves they may find off their owner’s plantations… [and] shall be diligent in apprehending all runaway negroes.” If a captured slave behaved “insolently” the militia could administer up to 39 lashes. Some militias, such as the Texas Rangers, did double duty , both seizing land and hunting down escaped slaves. After the Civil War, when the South was still awash in guns and ammunition, militias morphed easily into the KKK – and into private rifle clubs; by 1876 South Carolina alone had more than 240. [cf. Boot and later in the review: “The early militias are one strand of ancestry Dunbar-Ortiz identifies for gun enthusiast groups like the NRA.”]
The reviewer Hochschild makes a jump many Americans won’t: in citing a militia group protesting federal control of lands turning a site of Native American artifacts into a latrine, he writes: “It is not hard to see the continuity with militias of 200 years ago.” Hochschild may have been influenced by his visit to gun show; he describes the far Right attitudes he finds there. But those people do not represent the warp and woof of the Right in the US.