Safety and Weapons from History’s Perspective
“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.
“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.”
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.”
Considered the best of the ancient Greek historians, approx 431 B.C.
“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…
“To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.”
– George Mason,
“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.”
– James Madison,
Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788
“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.
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
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
“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,
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
“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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