"Instances of the licentious and outrageous
behavior of the military conservators of the peace still multiply upon
us, some of which are of such nature and have been carried to so great
lengths as must serve fully to evince that a late vote of this town, calling
upon the inhabitants to provide themselves with arms for their defense,
was a measure as prudent as it was legal. It is a natural right which the
people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the [English] Bill of
Rights, to keep arms for their own defense, and as Mr. Blackstone observes
it is to be made use of when the sanctions of society and law are found
insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression."
"Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense."
"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
Thomas Jefferson, in an early draft of the
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms in his own lands."
"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. 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. And it is not certain that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, that could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it."
Alexander Hamilton, "Concerning the Militia,"
29 Federalist Daily Advertiser, January 10, 1788:
"There is something so far fetched and so extravagant in the idea of danger to liberty from the militia that one is at a loss whether to treat it with gravity or raillery. Where, in the name of common sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow citizens? What shadow of danger can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests? What reasonable cause of apprehension can be inferred from a power in the Union to prescribe regulations for the militia, and to command its services when necessary, while the particular states are to have the sole and exclusive appointment of the officers? If it were possible seriously to indulge a jealousy of the militia upon any conceivable establishment under the federal government, the circumstance of the officers being in the appointment of the states ought at once to extinguish it. There can be no doubt that this circumstance will always secure to them a preponderating influence over the militia."
Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters form
the Federal Farmer, 1788:
"Militias, 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 possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
Trench Coxe, writing as "the Pennsylvanian"
in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 1788:
"The power of the sword, say the minority of Pennsylvania, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for the powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry of America from 16 to 60. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? It is feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress has no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. The 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."
Article 3 of the West Virginia state constitution:
"A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use."
Virginia Declaration of Rights 13 (June
12, 1776), drafted by George Mason:
"That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."
A proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution,
as passed by the Pennsylvania legislature:
"That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own states or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals."