Freedom and Weapons, History Speaks

Personal Safety, Weapons and History

Safety and Weapons from History’s Perspective 

When considering private citizens and weapons, our Founding Fathers (and Founding Mothers) could not have been more clear in their emphasis on several key ingredients to a solid, successful and free nation.  They distinctly prized Individual Rights and the accompanying Freedom that comes with those Rights.  They were firm in their belief that only a sound and moral citizenry could support real freedom.  They placed faith, family and home high as priorities to support.  Our Founders risked their lives and some lost their lives to support their freedom and be able to hand that freedom down to their children.
Part of the Freedom they cherished included the ability to protect that Freedom.  The U. S. Constitution devotes considerable effort to guard against tyranny, dictators and simple democracy with a system of checks and balances, the electoral college, or carefully chosen powers divided between government branches.  Our Founders also empowered citizens with a means of protesting overreach of government power. They additionally made a priority of allowing all citizens to be able to protect themselves and their loved ones.   Their idea of defense meant citizens being able to defend themselves against any enemy, foreign or domestic, including their own government and they believed that citizens should be armed with weapons.
The consideration of citizen’s protection, their right to personal weapons, was based on timeworn knowledge.  Our Founders were learned people, having studied centuries of history and government.  Their message came from the test of time.  Throughout history the need and right of assured safety for citizens was addressed by many highly-esteemed and learned people.
The words of the past speak to our Founders and they can speak to us today.   Their thoughts and words have been recorded for posterity and form a common sense guidance regarding a free person’s right to defend themselves.  They address the need for the citizens of civilized society to bear weapons.
We can travel through time and hear some of the words that influenced the Founding Fathers…

Lucius Anneaus Seneca

“A sword never kills anybody;

it is a tool in the killer’s hand.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca,

Roman philosopher from the Silver Age of Latin Literature, approx 60 A.D.

The contemporary translation of these words by the Roman Philosopher would be “guns do not kill people, for only people kill people”.   Other related information includes the listing of other weapons and household items, such as hammers, which are used to kill people.   This quote has been borrowed from repeatedly throughout history.

General Pericles

“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.”

– Pericles,

Greek general and statesman from the Golden Age of Greece, approx 430 B. C.


“The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars

and its warriors

will have its thinking done by cowards

and its fighting done by fools.”
– Thucydides,

Considered the best of the ancient Greek historians, approx 431 B.C.

St. Augustine

“Though defensive violence will always be ‘a sad necessity’

in the eyes of men of principle,

it would be still more unfortunate

if wrongdoers should dominate just men.”
– St. Augustine,

Recognized as a doctor of the Christian church, theologian and philosopher

As The United States of America forged its government and the documents that formed the new nation, the words of the Founders spoke to their intent and reason behind their consideration for Individual Rights and Freedom and the Right for Citizens to own weapons.   Their words were documented for the sake of history and can attest to the intent and meaning of the construction of the U. S. Constitution.

A look at a sampling of their words and thoughts delivers their message to us…

George Mason

“To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.”
– George Mason,

referencing advice given to the British Parliament by Pennsylvania governor Sir William Keith, 
The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adooption of the Federal Constitution
June 14, 1788


“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation,
James Madison, Jr.
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.”
– James Madison, 

Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788     

St. George Tucker
“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty…. 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 limits possible.
Wherever standing armies are kept up,
and 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.”
– St. George Tucker, 

Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1803

“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature.
Thomas Jefferson
They 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, 

Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776

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.”
– Tench Coxe,   

Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789


Samuel Adams

“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States

who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
– Samuel Adams, 

Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788


“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered,
Joseph Story
as the palladium of the liberties of a republic;
since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers;
and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance,
enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”
– Joseph Story, 

Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833


Patrick Henry
“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 ruined….
The great object is that every man be armed.   Everyone who is able might have a gun.”
– Patrick Henry, 

Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778

“The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people;

that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
– Thomas Jefferson,

Letter to to John Cartwright, 5 June 1824  (image above)

The long study of history be the Founding Fathers and especially their study of governments and the loss of freedom by citizens inspired the Founding Fathers in their creation of the U. S. Constitution.  Of particular interest is their observation that citizens’ loss of the right to own weapons was a forerunner to the loss of their freedom.

The study of more recent history again displays a similar pattern of a citizens’ loss of the right to own weapons and the subsequent loss of freedom.  That subject will be addressed in a future article for The Founding Project.

-The Founding Project Admin Staff Writer                                                 

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