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January 27, 2023

Funny Papers Again Column | History at a Glance: Amendments and Compromises

‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right to bear Arms, shall not be infringed’; Second Amendment, Constitution of the United States of America.

These words, and the thoughts behind them, were added to the constitution and ratified in 1791 — 232 years ago. It goes without saying that much has changed in the United States since single load weapons were the norm, weapons today are a bit more advanced than the muskets shouldered and pistols holstered by the majority of gun owners of the time. At the time the framers of the constitution envisioned a safeguard against domestic turmoil, including any unconstitutional actions on the part of local, state or federal governments and that safeguard would be in the form of a militia.

But after the forming of National Guard units in each state the legal position of gun ownership changed as the need for a militia was no longer necessary; or so some thought. Others held the position that national guard units are under the control of state and, in certain circumstances, federal government and as such could be used as an oppressive force assembled against the citizenry so well-regulated militias are as pertinent today as they were two plus millennium ago.

And, in a country where guns are as accessible as hammers, there are, understandably, numerous militias inside the borders; most of them are religious or politically motivated; indeed, the two are often both the foundation stones of modern American militias.

These armed and trained armies are established throughout the country, but there are seven militias recognized as having a national presence, they are Constitutional Sheriffs, Oath Keepers, Not Effing (word substitute) Around Coalition, Three Percenters, Proud Boys, Bugaloo Movement and, of course, the Ku Klux Klan. There are 38 militias with statewide presence located in 18 states. All members of these organizations are admittedly conservative, right-wing politically aligned troops and supporters.

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What does Henry Clay have to do with local history, you ask? Well, here’s your answer: significant input. Though Mr. Clay had never visited California, let alone Monterey County, his ability as a negotiator and compromiser has a lasting influence on local government, hypothetically speaking. It was Mr. Clay, who was a powerhouse in American politics and society during the first half of the 19th Century as senator from Kentucky, secretary of state, speaker of the house and as leading proponent of compromise over bloodshed, which he accomplished by his masterful handling of the national slavery debate in both the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and later the Compromise of 1850.  

If you recall American history, you know that the issue of slavery was becoming a heated issue in the years 1817-19 and when Missouri sought to enter the union as a slave state there was an uproar in the north where stirrings of abolitionism were becoming more prominent. Enter Mr. Clay and others to debate the issue finally falling upon a solution amenable to both northern and southern interests; to wit Missouri was allowed to enter as a slave state and Maine was formed and added as a free state. Then, an imaginary line was drawn across the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, this line followed Latitude 36 degrees 30 minutes north of the Equator.

This compromise was then challenged 30 years later when the issue of slavery was now dominating the body politic, and once again Henry Clay stepped into the political arena and after some debate the Compromise of 1850 was the result. Of the five major points of that later legislation, one was that California would be allowed to enter the union as a free state and was allowed to do so using those boundaries established. This meant the state came in as it exists today, not split in half as was debated.

The significance of this is that Greenfield is situated, according to most references, at 36 degrees 32 minutes North and King City is situated at 36 degrees 21 minutes North. Had Mr. Clay not prevailed and California had been admitted as a dual state, then the line separating free states from slave states would cut through the Valley, it would pass over El Camino Real somewhere between Hobson Avenue and Lagomarsino Avenue. And wouldn’t that have been an interesting situation?

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I was sure Monterey-Salinas Transit knew of my suggestion that KC have a local bus line running through the city on a regular basis when Route 34 was recently implemented. This is a circuitous route running every 30 minutes from 6:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. with timed stops starting at Third and Lynn, King City Center on Canal, San Antonio and Bedford and back to Third and Lynn. My suggestion was the result of watching many field workers walking to shopping, laundry, dining, entertainment, etc., and felt that something could and should be done to provide transport for those whose weekly work hours don’t leave many hours of personal time.

But, now get this, this new route only operates on weekdays. Weekdays! Anyone who has lived in this part of the world for more than a couple seasons knows field workers only have, usually, Saturday afternoons and Sundays off. To not operate on weekends is inane. If it is a matter of cost to run seven days a week, then cut Tuesday and Thursday from the schedule and add Saturday and Sunday. Or is that too logical?

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I have just finished re-reading the book “Farmworker’s Daughter; Growing up Mexican in America” by Rose Castillo Guilbault (Heydey Books, Berkeley, Ca, 2005). For those unaware, Rosela del Castillo, as she was known during her King City years, and I were members of KCHS Class of 1970, and it was obvious back then she was a special talent. I really would recommend that every student in town read this book for reasons they will discover.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist

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