"And that said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress...to
prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from
keeping their own arms..." SAM ADAMS, in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer,
Aug. 20, 1789.
"To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always
possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them..."
RICHARD HENRY (LIGHT HORSE HARRY) LEE, writing in Letters from the Federal
Farmer to the Republic (1787-1788)
"On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves
back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested
in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out
of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it
was passed." THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, found
in The Complete Jefferson, p. 322
"The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people
at large or considered as individuals... It establishes some rights of the
individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to
deprive them of." ALBERT GALLATIN of the NY Historical Society, October 7,
"...the people have a right to keep and bear arms." PATRICK HENRY AND GEORGE
MASON, Elliot, Debates at 185
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." THOMAS JEFFERSON, Proposal
for a Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed.
"As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may
attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally
raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their
fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep
and bear their private arms." TENCH COXE in "Remarks on the First Part of the
Amendments to the Federal Constitution," under the pseudonym "A Pennsylvanian"
in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789.
"Last Monday a string of amendments were presented to the lower house; these
altogether respect personal liberty..." Sen. WILLIAM GRAYSON of Virginia in a
letter to Patrick Henry.
"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full
possession of them." ZACHARIA JOHNSON, 3 Elliot, Debates at 646.
"A free people ought...to be armed..." GEORGE WASHINGTON, speech of Jan. 7,
1790 in the Boston Independent Chronicle, Jan. 14, 1790.
"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly
armed." ALEXANDER HAMILTON, the Federalist Papers at 184-8
"The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have
a gun." PATRICK HENRY, 3 Elliot, Debates at 386.
"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise
the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness,
enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others
of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the
mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks." THOMAS
JEFFERSON, Encyclopedia of T. Jefferson, 318 (Foley, Ed., 1967).
"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other
hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and
preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be
preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but
since some will not, others dare not lay them aside... Horrid mischief would
ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them..." THOMAS PAINE, I
Writings of Thomas Paine at 56 (1894)
"Arms in the hands of citizens [may] be used at individual discretion...in
private self-defense..." JOHN ADAMS, A Defense of the Constitutions of the
Government of the USA, 471 (1788)
"A militia, when properly formed are in fact the people themselves...and include
all men capable of bearing arms." RICHARD HENRY (LIGHT HORSE HARRY) LEE,
Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer (1788) at 169.
"What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a
standing army, the bane of liberty." Rep. ELBRIDGE GERRY of Massachusetts, I
Annals of Congress at 750 (August 17, 1789).
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few
public officials." GEORGE MASON, 3 Elliot, Debates at 425-426.
"The right of the people to keep and bear...arms shall not be infringed. A
well regulated militia, composed of the people, trained to arms is the best and
most natural defense of a free country..." JAMES MADISON, 1 Annals of Congress
434 (June 8, 1789).
"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the
people of almost every other nation... Notwithstanding the military establishments
in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public
resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
JAMES MADISON, Federalist Papers, #46.
"Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, the
militia, is put in the hands of Congress?" PATRICK HENRY, 3 Elliot Debates at
"And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from
time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them
take arms... The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the
blood of patriots and tyrants." THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to William S. Smith,
1787, in S. Padover (Ed.), Jefferson, On Democracy (1939), p. 20.
"Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other
terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American... [T]he
unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state
governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the
people." TENCH COXE, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
"Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we
cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? Where is the difference
between having our arms in our possession and under our own direction, and
having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real
object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more
propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands? PATRICK HENRY, 3 Elliot