Last Updated: Sunday, 26 January 2002 08:40

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Historical Quotes About Second Amendment


A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.


Quotes on The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

You remember from history classes that Patrick Henry said "Give me Liberty or give me death!" but did you ever hear any other quotes by Henry? How about "The great object is, that every man be armed."? Yes, he said that too. As you'll see, there are a great number of famous people who supported the idea that the citizens not only keep firearms, but use them as well. Here are the quotes on the Second Amendment which I have copied from another 2nd Amendment Page.




"Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms.... The right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible. "

     -- Senator Hubert H. Humphrey

"The right is general. It may be supposed from the phraseology of this provision that the right to keep and bear arms was only guaranteed to the militia; but this would be an interpretation not warranted by the intent. The militia, as has been explained elsewhere, consists of those persons who, under the laws, are liable to the performance of military duty, and are officered and enrolled for service when called upon.... [I]f the right were limited to those enrolled, the purpose of the guarantee might be defeated altogether by the action or the neglect to act of the government it was meant to hold in check. The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is, that the people, from whom the militia must be taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms, and they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose. But this enables the government to have a well regulated militia; for to bear arms implies something more than mere keeping; it implies the learning to handle and use them in a way that makes those who keep them ready for their efficient use; in other words, it implies the right to meet for voluntary discipline in arms, observing in so doing the laws of public order." [emphasis added]
     -- Thomas M. Cooley (1824-1898),
     Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and author of the leading nineteenth-century works on constitutional law.


"The great object is, that every man be armed."

     -- Patrick Henry

"That the people have a Right to mass and to bear arms; 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..."

     -- George Mason

"Are we at last brought to such an humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? Where is the difference between having our arms under our own 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?"

     -- Patrick Henry    [3 J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions 45, 2d ed. Philadelphia, 1836]

"To disarm the people (is) the best and most effectual way to enslave them."

     -- George Mason     3 Elliot, Debates at 380

"... who are the militia, if they be not the people of this country...? I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers."

     -- George Mason    Elliot, Debates at 425-426:

"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 powers to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article [the Second Amendment] in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

    -- Tench Coxe     in "Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution.", under the pseudonym "A Pennsylvanian" in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 18 June 1789 at 2 col. 1

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.... O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people!"

    - Patrick Henry

"No free government was ever founded or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defense of the state.... Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen."

    -- State Gazette (Charleston), September 8, 1788

"While the people have property, arms in their hands, and only a spark of noble spirit, the most corrupt Congress must be mad to form any project of tyranny."

    -- Rev. Nicholas Collin, Fayetteville Gazette (N.C.), October 12, 1789

"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? 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 birth-right 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. "

    -- Tench Coxe    Pennsylvania Gazette, February 20, 1788  [emphasis added]

"Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. 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."

    -- Noah Webster
An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, 1787 [emphasis added]

"The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unnecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them"

    -- Tench Coxe, An American Citizen IV, October 21, 1787

"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 possesions."

    -- Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788

"... whereas, 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..."

    -- Richard H. Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer 53, 1788

"... of the liberty of conscience in matters of religious faith, of speech and of the press; of the trail by jury of the vicinage in civil and criminal cases; of the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus; of the right to keep and bear arms.... If these rights are well defined, and secured against encroachment, it is impossible that government should ever degenerate into tyranny."

    -- James Monroe

"... the loyalists in the beginning of the late war, who objected to associating, arming and fighting, in defense of our liberties, because these measures were not constitutional. A free people should always be left... with every possible power to promote their own happiness."

    -- Pennsylvania Gazette, April 23, 1788

"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them."

- Zachariah Johnson 3 Elliot, Debates at 646

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.... 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."

    -- Thomas Jefferson, in letter to William S. Smith, 1787

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