MarketInsight | The right to bear arms
The Second Amendment is in the news a lot today. Questions abound. One man, more than any other, is responsible for the amendment and he is probably the most fearsome American “tough guy” many of you have never heard of. From the signing of the Declaration in 1776 to the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that officially ended the war (and ceded Florida back to Spain in the process) the colonies won only four battles. Morgan and his backwoods rifleman won two of them.
Morgan first comes to prominence during the battle of Saratoga in New York. His regiment of “over the mountain” men armed with their Kentucky long rifles harassed the British and Hessians for two days. Unlike their opponents, Morgan’s men aimed their weapons and they aimed them at officers. Time and time again, the British under Simon Fraser charged the American position and each time they were driven back by a withering fire. Finally, Morgan ordered some of his men to climb a tree and shoot Fraser. A man named Timothy Murphy is given credit for firing the fatal shot at a distance of 400 yards.
After the battle, Morgan, who had once been sentenced to 500 lashes for striking a British officer during the French and Indian War, became dissatisfied and left the Army. Five hundred lashes was a sentence that would have killed most lesser men. Morgan himself boasted that he had counted, and he only got 499. The British, he said, still “owed him a lick.” Morgan rejoined the Army after the disastrous American defeat at Camden, South Carolina, setting up what is generally regarded as the most brilliant battle ever fought on American soil.
In January of 1781 at a place called Cowpens in South Carolina, Morgan and his men stood up against the infamous “British Legion” commanded by Banastre Tarleton. We called him “Bloody Ban” and Tarleton was well known for the devastation he caused all over the colonies, but particularly in the South. Some say that the term boogeyman is a corruption of “Bloody Ban.” Tarleton led his men forward, intent on running over the upstart Colonials. Morgan put his sharpshooters in the front line. They competed in two groups to shoot the most officers and win a promised barrel of whiskey. The second line of militia fired two volleys and then withdrew only to form up on the British flanks. The third line, Morgan’s precious Continentals then advanced on Tarleton’s disorganized Legion with bayonets. William Washington, the future President’s nephew, led a Cavalry charge. The British broke and fled; 86 percent of the Legion was either killed or captured.
Many embraced the idea that we had beaten the British because of units like Morgan’s Riflemen. American marksmanship, they argued, had won our independence and must “not be infringed.
So, what does all this have to do with the stock market? Everything! Our country and its stock market are inexorably intertwined. When America is great, the stock market is great.
Scott A. Grant is President of Standfast Asset Management in Ponte Vedra Beach. He welcomes your comments or questions at email@example.com.