Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The right of every individual to keep arms for his defence"

...Besides the reported adjudications of the Supreme Court of the United States, the sources which have been resorted to are, the contemporaneous exposition of the Constitution by the authors of "The Federalist;" that portion of the "Lectures" of the late Chancellor of this State, Mr. Kent, which relate to the subject; Mr. Rawle's "View of the Constitution;'' and the more elaborate "Commentaries" of Mr. Justice Story. To all these works the Author acknowledges his obligations, although he must lament that the last mentioned invaluable repository of Constitutional learning did not reach him in time to consult it more at large; and in regard to the abridgment of it lately published by the learned commentator, " for the use of Colleges andHigh Schools," it may be observed, that both from its size and mode of execution it seems to aim at more select and limited objects than those proposed by the present treatise....

...2. Universally, in the American States, open the establishment of independent Governments, which secured the enjoyment of

1. The inalienable natural rights of individuals.

2. The political and civil privileges of the citizens, designed for maintaining, or substituted as equivalents for, natural rights....

...28. Amongst these institutions was the Common Law of England, which, before the American Revolution, had been generally established as the municipal code of the British Provinces, so far as it was applicable to their situation and circumstances; and the benefit of it was claimed by the first general Congress as a branch of those " indubitable rights and liberties" to which the respective Colonies were entitled.

29. By this system of Law, the absolute and inalienable rights of the Colonists as individuals, were recognized and secured to them ; their relative rights, or political and civil privileges as members of society, regulated and maintained ; and offences against public justice investigated and punished.

30. The most essential of these privileges were those natural rights which are common to all mankind, and which, in virtue of certain fundamental laws of England, were held to be the peculiar birthright and inheritance of every British subject.

31. They consist either of that portion of natural liberty which is not required by the Laws of society to be surrendered for the public benefit; or, of those civil privileges which society engages to provide in lieu of them....

...33. The subordinate privileges of a similar character, to which the Colonists were entitled in lieu of those natural rights surrendered for the general benefit, were,

1. The constititution, powers, and privileges of their provincial assemblies, which were intended to preserve the Legislative power exercised over them in due health and vigour, and to prevent the enactment of Laws destructive to general liberty.

2. The limitation of the King's prerogative by certain arid notorious bounds; which was designed as a guard upon the Executive power by retaining it within the rules established by fundamental Laws.

3. The right of applying to the Courts of justice for the redress of injuries, and of having justice administered impartially and speedily; the most valuable incidents to which were the right of trial by jury; and the benefit of the writ of Habeas Corpus, as the most effectual security of the right of personal liberty.

4. The right of petitioning the King, or either branch of the Legislature, for the redress of grievances; and,

5. The right of every individual to keep arms for his defence, suitable to his condition and degree; which was the public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation.* ....

...37. The same natural, political, and civil rights and privileges which had been declared to be the inalienable inheritance of the People as citizens of the respective States, were, on their becoming parties to the federal compact, expressly asserted to belong to them as citizens of the Union....


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