Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Founding Fathers on the The Right to Bear Arms

Here are some more words from the Founding Fathers on The Bill of Rights of our Constitution. Today the Second Amendment which has been derided and criticized greatly in modern society. I have mixed feelings about it. I don't think the Founding Fathers were thinking of AK-47s, Saturday Night Specials and bombs when this was written. They lived in a different world. I'm sure my ancestors, who helped settle Ohio, had weapons for hunting and to defend themselves in the French and Indian Wars as well as the Revolution although Ohio and western Pennsylvania didn't see much of the latter.

Many Americans feel that the Second Amendment should be repealed. As I said above, I have mixed feelings. However, if you are one of them or one of the fanatics who are rabidly in favor of it, please stop reading now because this post is not to open a forum for debate but to show the thoughts and intent of the Founding Fathers. Disrespectful or abusive comments will not be published.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As usual, I went into research mode to see what the Founding Fathers had to say about this now controversial amendment. I think you'll be interested to see what they had to say. I know that I was as it gave me a better understanding of this amendment. In my not so humble opinion, I think Thomas Jefferson stated the intent of this amendment best in the first quote.

{Disclaimer: If you disagree with these quotes, I'm sorry. I'm only repeating what the men who founded this nation said.}

* The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. -- Thomas Jefferson

* 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 your constant companion of your walks. -- Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785. (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.)

* One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.
-- Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1796. (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, [Memorial Edition] Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.)

* We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles. The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. (Memorial Edition 16:45, Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.)

* No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms. --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776.

* They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. --Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.

* To model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character. --Alexander Hamilton

* [The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. --James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 46.

* To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws. --John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)

* Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that's good. --George Washington, First President of the United States

* 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 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 the law-abiding deprived of the use of them. --Thomas Paine

* 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 Lee, American Statesman, 1788

* The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun. --Patrick Henry, American Patriot

* Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our 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, American Patriot

* Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not. --Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States

* The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that . . . it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Justice John Cartwright, June 5, 1824. ME 16:45.

* The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed. --Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-8

* The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution. --Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States

* There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. --Noah Webster, American Lexicographer

* What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms. --Thomas Jefferson, to James Madison

I think I understand better what the Founding Fathers meant in creating this amendment. They had just fought a difficult war to rid their lives of the tyranny of British rule and were determined to never let that happen again. I see a certain amount of merit in that.

Happy Blogging!!!!!!!!!


  1. I don't believe the 2nd amendment should be repealed, but I certainly think that it should be revised to reflect our current situation and modern weaponry.

  2. It's interesting to see the historical context of the second amendment. The biggest downside about the right to bear arms is that it says nothing about the responsibility. What might have been a given to your founding fathers has been lost somewhere along the way.

  3. I also don't believe that the 2nd Amendment should be repealed. I would rather see strict enforcement of laws with even more onerous penalties for crimes committed using guns. I still think it is still an undeniable fact that guns, alone, don't kill. I am not swayed by the rejoinder that the anti-gun side constantly parades--people kill people with guns. The key part of the phrase, for me, is the 'people kill people' part. But we seem to have a problem holding people responsible for what they do. Financially, socially, or criminally.

  4. thanks for the history lesson, Kay

    I agree that the founding father's had no idea we'd be dealing with AK47s!

    We just need at this time (as always) MODERATION --- why is it we always see to run to the extreme?

  5. Lynette: I agree. My hero, Tom Jefferson, certinly couldn't have anticipated the world we have today. I think he and his fellows understood that because the did allow for changes.

    Jams: Glad to see the Irish weighing in on this! And you are correct. I think responsibility was a matter course to our Founding Fathers and now it's as rare as hen's teeth.

    Mary: I agree. A lot of the problem comes from exactly what you've said.

    Bev: Moderation in this is difficult. Enforcement is the key. When people are irresponsible, they need to bear the consequences of their actions.

  6. Thanks for the thinking post. I LOVE IT. oh, that would be a great blog....THE THINKING POST! hmmmm.....we should start a rambler together....

  7. The problem is not in the amendment, but in the interpretation of it. When the courts try to rule on this, they ought to use common sense, and keep in mind how conditions were when the amendments were written, and then rule accordingly. I have a feeling that if they did that, the list of "arms" that are not strictly needed would be very long.

  8. This was interesting to me. I'm not against guns or the 2nd amendment. But I'm terrified of the irresponsible, careless or angry people who have them. (I could say that about cars, too.)

  9. I'm sorry but I feel guns should be banned. There are far too many irresponsible people out there and we have far too many guns in this country.

  10. "Well Regulated" is written right into the Constitution. I don't think the right to bear arms includes concealed guns or assault weapons. Nor should citizens amass arsenals with which to threaten their families and neighbors.
    However, it is too easy to exterminate groups that have no way of defending themselves against armed aggression, so it may not be a good idea to make the civilian ownership of weapons illegal.
    Regulation's the key.


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