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Tenche Coxe: “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have 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.” – Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

Tench Coxe: “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.”, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

Tench Coxe: “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.” 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.

Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.” (spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment, I Annals of Congress at 750, August 17, 1789.)

Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.” Rep. of Massachusetts, I Annals of Congress at 750 (August 17, 1789).

Alexander Hamilton: “…that standing army can never be formidable (threatening) to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in the use of arms.” (Federalist Paper #29)

Alexander Hamilton: “Little more can be aimed at with respect to the people at large than to have them properly armed and equipped.” (Id) {responding to the claim that the militia itself could threaten liberty}” There is something so far-fetched, and so extravagant in the idea of danger of liberty from the militia that one is at a loss whether to treat it with gravity or raillery (mockery). (Id)

Alexander Hamilton: “The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss. It would form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country, to an amount which, calculating upon the present numbers of the people, would not fall far short of the whole expense of the civil establishments of all the States. To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent, would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No.2

Patrick Henry: “The people have a right to keep and bear arms.” (Elliott, Debates at 185)

Patrick Henry: “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?, 3 Elliot Debates 168-169.

Patrick Henry: “The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.” 3 Elliot, Debates at 386.

Thomas Jefferson: “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.”, letter to William S. Smith, 1787, in S. Padover (Ed.), Jefferson, On Democracy (1939), p. 20.

Thomas Jefferson In his Commonplace Book, Jefferson quotes Cesare Beccaria from his seminal work, On Crimes and Punishment: “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: “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.” Encyclopedia of T. Jefferson, 318 (Foley, Ed., 1967).

Thomas Jefferson: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”, Proposal for a Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed. 1950)

Richard Henry Lee: “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…” (LIGHT HORSE HARRY) LEE, writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic (1787-1788)

Richard Henry Lee: “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.” (Additional letters from the Federal Farmer, at 169, 1788)

President James Madison: “…to support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system;… to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics – that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe;…” – President James Madison, First Inaugural address, Saturday, March 4, 1809.

James Madison: “A WELL REGULATED militia, composed of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.” (1st Annals of Congress, at 434, June 8th 1789, emphasis added.

James Madison: “As the greatest danger to liberty is from large standing armies, it is best to prevent them by an effectual provision for a good militia.” (notes of debates in the 1787 Federal Convention)

George Mason: “I ask you sir, who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people.” (Elliott, Debates, 425-426)

Thomas Paine: “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…” I Writings of Thomas Paine at 56 (1894)

William Rawle: “In the second article, it is declared, that a well regulated militia is necessary to a free state; a proposition from which few will dissent. Although in actual war, in the services of regular troops are confessedly more valuable; yet while peace prevails, and in the commencement of a war before a regular force can be raised, the militia form the palladium of the country. They are ready to repel invasion, to suppress insurrection, and preserve the good order and peace of government. That they should be well regulated, is judiciously added. A disorderly militia is disgraceful to itself, and dangerous not to the enemy, but to its own country. The duty of the state government is, to adopt such regulation as will tend to make good soldiers with the least interruptions of the ordinary and useful occupations of civil life. In this all the Union has a strong and visible interest.” – William Rawle, “A View of the Constitution of the United States of America” (1829)

Joseph Story: “The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people.” – Joseph Story. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. 3 vols. Boston, 1833.

Joseph Story (Supreme Court Justice): “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic…”

Sir George Tucker: “The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest possible limits…and [when] the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” – Sir George Tucker, Judge of the Virginia Supreme Court and U.S. District Court of Virginia in I Blackstone COMMENTARIES Sir George Tucker Ed., 1803, pg. 300 (App.)

George Washington: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: Back in the 18th century, a “regular” army meant an army that had standard military equipment. So a “well regulated” army was simply one that was “well equipped” and organized. It does not refer to a professional army. The 17th century folks used the term “standing army” or “regulars” to describe a professional army. Therefore, “a well regulated militia” only means a well equipped militia that was organized and maintained internal discipline. It does not imply the modern meaning of “regulated,” which means controlled or administered by some superior entity. Federal control over the militia comes from other parts of the Constitution, but not from the Second Amendment.

 


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