The original definition of felony was “a serious crime punishable by over a year in prison”. In theory, felonies are actively committed. Prison or death are supposed to be reasonable punishments for misdeeds wilfully perpetrated. Two problems arise in practice.
The first problem, the more widespread of the two, is that the definition of “felonious misdeed” has grown to encompass such horrible actions as filling in a small runoff pond on a farm, possession of a feather from particular bird species, or making a true statement to police that they think to be false.
The second problem has been with us for almost as long. In 1933, F.D. Roosevelt’s executive order prohibited simple possession of gold coins, bullion or certificates. In 1934, simple possession of many kinds of firearms and their accessories was effectively prohibited through punitive taxes amounting to the cost of a car per item. To keep a $2 rimfire sound muffler, a person was supposed to by a $200 tax stamp. Every one of those laws made people into felons overnight, with no action required by the newly appointed criminal. A person ignorant of the new law or executive order would still be subject to imprisonment with no regard for the lack of ill intent.
To me, this adds up to a perversion of justice. To the politicians of Virginia, this is the game plan. They are not shy about using the military to enforce his plan, either.
The recent terrorist event in the zoo previously known as Great Britain illustrated the unfortunate decline of that people. On the one hand, brave residents went after the perpetrator of violence with all available tools. On the other, the sole available weapon was a narwhal tusk in its original shape, not even fashioned into a proper spear. That’s Paleolith-level tool, no better than those available to Neanderthals.
It’s symptomatic that the would-be mass murderer continued the rampage until the zoo-keepers known as “bobbies” showed up with German submachine guns and Austrian pistols to shoot him. Good for the British subjects for taking the fight to the foe. My sympathy to them for having to do that with completely inadequate tools, for having been stripped even of bronze age implements like knives and even of paleolithic tools like non-metallic blades.
Kipling’s book “The Light That Failed” set around 1880 shows even ten-year-old kids of very modest means able to buy and carry modern firearms. A hundred and forty years later, even the adult specimens of the British herd have no such right or ability.
As with other island species that evolved away from the ability to defend themselves, or even to recognize newly imported predators upon encounter, the residents of the British Isles are in trouble. The trouble doesn’t come as much from the imported terrorists, for their depredations are opportunistic and not statistically significant yet, as from the domestic zoo-keepers using the specter of the Islamic hobgoblins to keep the proles scared, clamoring for more surveillance, for more restrictions on tools and behavior, for tighter and more constricting bondage. People elsewhere should learn from their example and pick a more constructive path.
Amusing myself with writing vignettes. Here’s one. Constructive criticism is welcome.
“We can try to fight our way out with just swords in hand and die. Sixty eight men, even in better armor than the savages, won’t get through the thousand waiting for us at the foot of this hill. They only reason they haven’t come up to get us is they don’t know we can’t shoot. Or we can sit here and try to eat that damn gold idol!”
The situation was dire. Yesterday, the five mules that remained of our once-ample supply train fell to the arrows and javelins of the pursuing locals. With them, perished all of our meat and wine, and most of our lead. The gunners burned through the handful of shots they still had in bandoleers to break us out of the ambush. We did get to the hilltop temple, finding the biggest gold idol we’ve ever seen right when we could not shake off its riled-up worshipers.
“Captain, we have just six halberds in the ranks. Everyone else carries arquebuses. What are we supposed to load in them, pebbles?” My second in command was panicking himself into a demotion, but he could hardly be expected to care about rank when our very survival looked so unlikely. “There’s no pebbles here, and they won’t fly straight anyway.”
We had tried pebbles before: at thirty paces, the wood and fabric armor of our foes turned them, whereas a proper bullet went through both the shield and the savage at seventy. In any case, we had no pebbles at the top of this God-forsaken volcanic rock. Without lead, our men had but their dirks to wield against spears and arrows of the painted red men awaiting us on the way out of this trap.
The irony of it all! The gold idol must be eighty pounds of almost pure metal that we can’t bring home. We can’t stay here long either: we have no food, and what water and wine we still have shall run out by morning. Our one full keg of powder holds a dozen charges for every man, and we even have fabric for wads…just no lead. Europe is full of alchemists seeking to turn lead into gold, and here we are, in need of the reverse miracle.
Night is coming, and the mountain cold with it. We are still dressed for the jungle below. I tell the sergeant to make camp around the temple, and to build two fires. One by the wall, leeward, the other on the narrow path going to the top. If out pursuers attack in the night, we would at least see them. Our own fire should keep us warm and give flame for slowmatch or fuse. I fuse the powder keg in case we are overrun.
There’s little vegetation here, so we make fire with the lacquered wood from around the idol. As the splinters catch and flare, we all must draw back from the flames that are hotter than hellfire. Whatever they used on the wood burns hotter than charcoal without even a bellows.
“Cut it!” I shout. “Cut the idol!”
The troops look at me with incomprehension. A captain will get replaced if he cracks under pressure.
“Bring the bullet molds,” I tell them “Put the gold in them.”
The men obey, some nodding their heads at my madness. Wine mixed in with water in a morion quenches the reddish ball. After it cools, I heft it in open hand: it feels much heavier than lead and somehow more significant. I wad the ball with a piece of cloth cut from my own shirt and roll it into an arquebus barrel, over a charge cut by a third. Tamp it in place with the rod, replace the rod. Prime the pan, close it, then light slowmatch.
“Pace something out to thirty steps” I say, and one of the men settles a badly dented breastplate against a rock.
I sit and take careful aim, wishing for a fork rest. In the shifting light of the campfires, the target seems too far away for a true shot. As glowing red dot dips towards the priming powder, I close my eyes and listen to the hiss of ignition. The boom from the muzzle sounds deeper, the push against the spaulder harder than I expected. The smoke drifts off with the breeze, revealing the armor unbreached but caved in as if with an iron fist. Gold wash covers the entire front of the plate.
“Start melting,” I say “Don’t quit while you have the food for the fire.”
By morning, every arquebusier has an even dozen shots. The idol is gone, with mere specs of metal marking the spot. None of the lacquered wood remains in the temple. The ground around the fires is thick with shiny black soot. We light matches, form up, and march slowly and orderly down the narrow path.
Our foes do not wait for us, but climb the narrow path with every kind of sharp and pointy thing in hand. Fortunately, their bows are feeble and carry but thirty paces. We pause at fifty and let loose the first volley. The lieutenant and I stand higher on the path and see yellow streaks appear from the smoke to smite the first rank…and the second. Some in the third fall too. Our bullets arrive streaking gold and leave splashing red. The second volley follows as the smoke lifts. After the third, the path is clear of the living. The dead don’t bother us.
By noon, we reach the grassy plain and march for the cover where our ship awaits. The savages pursue, we reform into ranks when they get too close. They charge, we volley, they recoil, we march again. By the time we reach the water’s edge, all ammunition is gone but what’s in the bores. Our ship rides close, but the enemy swarm is closer. The shipboard cannon can’t reach them without hitting us too. We see the solid shield wall and let loose with everything we’ve got. The last of the golden streaks arced away. Firelocks on the ground, swords out, polearms to the fore!
We broke them. Sixty one of us, most wounded, boarded longboats. Back on deck, the crew wanted to know if we found gold…