For over a year, I've been working to prepare a documentary which will cover the core of the Bill of Rights, the first two amendments. I've got some background in the field: click here for my article "The Second Amendment and the Historiography of the Bill of Rights," published in the Journal of Law and Politics.

[Okay, before you say, "aha, he's Moore's competitor," let me point out: (1) my idea and his are night and day in content, style, and focus and (2) I'm told it takes upward of a million just to promote a film for the Oscars, which rules me out rather nicely. We're working in different worlds, here. He doesn't do constitutional history, and I don't do cartoons.]

We'll go into First Amendment freedom of speech, to show how threats to that right are nothing new. At the beginning of the 19th century, for instance, Congress passed sedition acts, which made it a federal crime to utter "scandalous" words about the President or Congress. Newspapermen and Congressmen went to jail. One fellow got a two year sentence for putting up a "liberty pole" with very mild criticism, just placards reading "No standing army" and "peace and retirement to the president" (i.e., no second term).

We'll go into the Second Amendment, and lay out its origins and evolution. There will be some surprises here. Just one example: after Madison introduced his Bill of Rights in Congress, a friend and leading Federalist published an article in support and explanation that was carried in many newspapers. He sent a copy to Madison, who responded that the bill of rights was already indebted to the man's pen. His explanation of the Second Amendment was that it guaranteed citizens in the right to keep and carry "their private arms." Click here for an image.

Speaking of surprises -- why do we refer to evolution of these rights? Some top-rank constitutional law experts (i.e., Prof. Akhil Amar of Yale Law School) convincingly argue that the Bill of Rights evolved via the 1868 adoption of the 14th Amendment, which forbade any State to infringe the "privileges and immunities" of American citizenship, and that for many constitutional rights the intent of "the Framers" in 1868 is more important than the intent of "the Framers" in 1789.

What is important there is that the 1868 Framers -- the Reconstruction Congresses -- took an even more robust view of Americans' rights than did the First Congress. [You see what I mean when I say that Moore's approach, style and content has no overlap with what I have in mind.]

They took this robust view with respect to the First Amendment, because abolitionists (i.e., some of the congressmen themselves) had frequently been denied freedom of speech before the war [in one state it was a capital offense to discuss abolition, even to a white audience], and blacks were often denied freedom of speech and assembly after it.

They took this view with regard the Second Amendment, because many States had enacted laws forbidding blacks to own arms, and were disarming both blacks and Union veterans in order to leave them vulnerable to Klan violence. And, yes, the Congressmen came out and said exactly that. A few samples from the legislative history of the period:

"In many counties they [the Klan] have preceded their outrages upon him by disarming him, in violation of his right as a citizen to 'keep and bear arms,' which the Constitution expressly says shall never be infringed." House Committee Report on Protection of Loyal and Peaceable Citizens in the South.

"Said counties were under sway of powerful combinations, popularly known as the 'Ku Klux Klan,' the objects of which were, by force and terror, to prevent all political actions not in accord with the views of the members, and to deprive colored citizens of the right to bear arms and of the right to a free ballot." President (and future NRA president) Ulysses S. Grant, message to Congress, April 19, 1872.

"Sir, I find in the Constitution of the United States an article which declares that 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.' For myself, I shall insist that the reconstructed rebels of Missisippi respect the Constitution in their local laws before I will even consider their claims to represention in Congress.... Congressman Sydney Clarke, 1866.

"The United States shall guarantee to each state a republican form of government, says the Constitution. ... A government where no law shall be made prohibiting the free exercise of religion; where the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; where the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects shall not be violated." Congressman Roswell Hart, 1866

So far, we've filmed on a shoestring, but still managed to get twelve top-flight law professors on camera.... people like Gene Volokh of UCLA, Glenn Reynolds of U. Tenn., and Randy Barnett of Boston Univ.. Not to mention compiled about five shelf feet of research, including never-before shown materials from the Library of Congress Rare Books Collection, and colonial era newspapers. As soon as we can find the funding, we'll be filming Joyce Malcolm, the leading expert on the English view of the right to arms, plus the two top experts on the 14th Amendment.

One last note: I don't have Moore's $4 million in backing. I'm working for free, and the camera team and video edit team expect cash up front. I've got about 80% filmed, but have to hit the fundraising route again. Anyone who could spare ten or twenty dollars toward to this end, please click below.