1689 English Bill of Rights
7. That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law
1776 Pennsylvania Constitution
XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms
for the defence of themselves and the state; and
as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous
to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and
that the military should be kept under strict
subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
1777 Vermont Constitution
XV. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State; and, as standing armies, in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
1787 Pennsylvania Minority
7. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves
and their own state, 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; and as
standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not
to be kept up: and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination
to and be governed by the civil powers.
1788 Massachusetts Convention
And that the said Constitution be never construed
to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty
of the press, or the rights of conscience; or
to prevent the people of the United States, who
are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own
1788 New Hampshire Convention
Congress shall never disarm any citizen, unless
such as are or have been in actual rebellion.
1788 Virginia Convention
17th. That the people have a right
to keep and bear to 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; that standing armies, in time
of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore
ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances
and protection of the community will admit; and
that, in all cases, the military should be under
strict subordination to, and governed by, the
1788 New York Convention
That the people have the right to keep and bear
arms; that a well-regulated militia, including
the body of the people capable of bearing arms,
is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a
1790 Rhode Island Convention
XVII. That the people have a right to keep
and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia,
including the body of the people capable of
bearing arms, is the proper, natural, and safe
defence of a free state.
1776 Thomas Jefferson
No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
1778 Zachariah Johnson
The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left
in full possession of them.
1787 Noah Webster
Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they
are in almost every kingdom in 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 band of regular troops that
can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at
the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive
to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy
will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which
appears to them unjust and oppressive.
1787 John Adams
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.
1788 Richard Henry Lee
To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them
1788 Samuel Adams
And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them; or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possessions.
1789 Tench Coxe
As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people 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.
1805 Patrick Henry
The great object is, that every man be armed ... Every one who is
able may have a gun.
1829 William Rawle
The prohibition is general. No clause in the Constitution could by any
rule of construction be conceived to give to Congress a power to disarm
the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some
general pretense by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of
inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be
appealed to as a restraint on both.
1836 Patrick Henry
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?
Federalist Papers 46
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.