Second Amendment Quotes From the Founding Fathers

As you read these, try to figure out whether or not these people would of signed the constitution if the right to keep arms was not a natural & individual right.

Thomas Jefferson (Wikipedia quote: “principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was one of the most influential Founding Fathers”, signor of the US Constitution)

“What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure. “

A strong body makes a strong mind. As to the species of exercise I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion of your walks. – letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785

Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. – Thomas Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764

“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.” -Letter to Major John Cartwright (June 5 1824)

No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.-Proposed Virginia Constitution, June, 1776.

George Mason (Father of the Bill of Rights)

“When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually…I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor…” – Virginia’s U.S. Constitution ratification convention (June 14-16, 1788), reported in Elliot, Debates of the Several State Conventions 3:380, 3:425

That the People have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free state. Madison’s “the essential and unalienable Rights of the People”, later adopted by the Virginia ratification convention (1788).

James Madison (Father of the Constitution, wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers)

“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” – Federalist No. 46 (1788).

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” -Federalist No. 51 (February 8, 1788).

Alexander Hamilton (wrote most of the Federalist Papers, a primary source for Constitutional interpretation, one of America’s first constitutional lawyers)

“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” – The Federalist Papers at 184-188

Samuel Adams (Signer of the Declaration of Independence & U.S. Constitution)

The Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.

John Adams (wikiquote: “one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States.”, #2 POTUS)

“Here every private person is authorized to arm himself, and on the strength of this authority, I do not deny the inhabitants had a right to arm themselves at that time, for their defense, not for offence.”-As defense attorney for the British soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre. Reported in L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, ed., Legal Papers of John Adams (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1965), 3:248.

“To see that the people be continually trained up in the exercise of arms, and the militia lodged only in the people’s hands.” -Marchamont Nedhams, reported in Adams’, ‘A Defense of the Constitutions of the Government of the United States of America 3:471 (1788); Adams wrote there that “[T]he rule in general is excellent”

“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.” -A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 3:475 (1787-1788).

Thomas Paine (The Father of the American Revolution, author of Common Sense)

…arms…discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. …Horrid mischief would ensue were (the law-abiding) deprived the use of them.

Fisher Ames

“The rights of conscience, of bearing arms, of changing the government, are declared to be inherent in the people.” – Letter to F.R. Minoe, June 12, 1789 (reporting to Minoe on the amendments proposed by Madison)


Noah Webster (Federalist editor)

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”-writing under the nom de plume of “A Citizen of America), An Examination Into the Leading Principles of the Constitution (October 17, 1787).

Melancton Smith

A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms…To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always posses arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle. – Additional Letters From The Federal Farmer, 1788.

Tench Coxe

The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unnecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them. – Delegate to Continental Congress, Oct. 21, 1787.

Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as 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. – Federal Gazette, June 18,1789, A friend of James Madison, writing in support of the Madison’s first draft of the Bill of Rights.

Patrick Henry(promoters of the American Revolution and Independence, leader of antifederalist…. not a founding father but it’s good to hear the opposing point of view at the time)

We should not forget that the spark which ignited the American Revolution was caused by the British attempt to confiscate the firearms of the colonists.

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? –

“Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.- * Virginia’s U.S. Constitution ratification convention (June 5, 1788), reported in Elliot, Debates of the Several State Conventions 3:45.

Finally, this isn’t a quote from a founding father but it helps you understand the structure of the sentence:

A well educated Electorate, being necessary to self-governance in a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.

Is there anyone who would suggest that means only registered voters have a right to read? – Robert Levy, Georgetown University professor


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