"There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading but by derivation and absorption and adoption from nature itself; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right. When weapons reduce them to silence, the laws no longer expect one to wait their pronouncements. For people who decide to wait for these will have to wait for justice, too--and meanwhile they must suffer injustice first. Indeed, even the wisdom of a law itself, by sort of tacit implication, permits self-defense, because it is not actually forbidden to kill; what it does, instead, is to forbid the bearing of a weapon with the intention to kill. When, therefore, inquiry passes on the mere question of the weapon and starts to consider the motive, a man who is used arms in self-defense is not regard is having carried with a homicidal aim."-- Marcus Tulius Cicero, (106-53 BC). In a prepared speech for the trial of T. Annius Milo in 52 B.C.
"The First Law of Nature is that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war."
- Thomas Hobbs, "Leviathan", (Outlines the Laws of Nature), 1651.
At the time of the founding of America as a British colony. The laws of the American Colonial governments and rights of the people were, in part, founded upon the English Constitution, Common Law, and various charters and compacts.
The first recording of the Liberties of the American people, in the Massachusetts colony, was in 1641. In this document lawful self defense is defined. In addition, you will discover clear indication of the origins of our present day Constitution. As well as proof that our early colonial laws were indeed founded on the laws of God and that America has always been a Christian nation:
4. If any person committ any wilfull murther, which is manslaughter, committed upon premeditated malice, hatred, or Crueltie, not in a mans necessarie and just defence, nor by meere casualtie against his will, he shall be put to death.
- The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, 1641
"The obligations of the law of nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have by human laws known penalties annexed to them, to inforce their observation. Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions, must, as well as their own and other men's actions, be conformable to the law of nature, i.e. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental law of nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good, or valid against it."
- John Locke, "The Second Treatise of Government" - Chapter 11 - Of the Extent of the Legislative Power. (1690).
As early as the mid-1700's the colonists were becoming dissatisfied with the arbitrary rule, of both the crown and many of the various colonial governments. The rights of the people were left up to the interpretations of the crown, as well as to the various state and municipal governments. Which of course was just cause for increasing discontent on the part of the colonists.
The first apparent major breakthrough, as far as the American Right to Keep and Bear Arms is concerned. Was by Mr. Samuel Adams, in a collaborative work with Benjamin Franklin, titled 'The Rights of the Colonists', (actual title; 'The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting'). In the report, dated Nov. 20, 1772, Adams and Franklin assert that Self-Preservation is the First Law of Nature and that it was not only a right but a duty;
Natural Rights of the Colonists as Men.
Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.
All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please; and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another.
When men enter into society, it is by voluntary consent; and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions and previous limitations as form an equitable original compact.
Every natural right not expressly given up, or, from the nature of a social compact, necessarily ceded, remains....
...In the state of nature every man is, under God, judge and sole judge of his own rights and of the injuries done him. By entering into society he agrees to an arbiter or indifferent judge between him and his neighbors; but he no more renounces his original right than by taking a cause out of the ordinary course of law, and leaving the decision to referees or indifferent arbitrators...
...The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.
In the state of nature men may, as the patriarchs did, employ hired servants for the defence of their lives, liberties, and property; and they should pay them reasonable wages. Government was instituted for the purposes of common defence, and those who hold the reins of government have an equitable, natural right to an honorable support from the same principle that "the laborer is worthy of his hire." But then the same community which they serve ought to be the assessors of their pay. Governors have no right to seek and take what they please; by this, instead of being content with the station assigned them, that of honorable servants of the society, they would soon become absolute masters, despots, and tyrants...
In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave...
The Rights of the Colonists parallels very closely, with the words of a cousin of Samuel - Mr. John Adams, which were written almost ten years previously;
"Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would."
- Boston Gazette, Sept. 5, 1763
And, Samuel Adams has written on the topic previously as well in 1769;
"...This was the fate of a race of Kings, bigotted to the greatest degree to the doctrines of slavery and regardless of the natural, inherent, divinely hereditary and indefeasible rights of their subjects.--At the revolution, the British constitution was again restor'd to its original principles, declared in the bill of rights; which was afterwards pass'd into a law, and stands as a bulwark to the natural rights of subjects. "To vindicate these rights, says Mr. Blackstone, when actually violated or attack'd, the subjects of England are entitled first to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law--next to the right of petitioning the King and parliament for redress of grievances--and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence." These he calls "auxiliary subordinate rights, which serve principally as barriers to protect and maintain inviolate the three great and primary rights of personal security, personal liberty and private property": And that of having arms for their defence he tells us is "a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression."--How little do those persons attend to the rights of the constitution, if they know anything about them, who find fault with a late vote of this town, calling upon the inhabitants to provide themselves with arms for their defence at any time; but more especially, when they had reason to fear, there would be a necessity of the means of self preservation against the violence of oppression...."
- Boston Gazette, 27 Feb. 1769.
The well respected Judge Blackstone, referred to earlier by Samuel Adams, seemed to think that it was a Natural Right;
"This law of nature, being coeval [existing at the same time - ed.] with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original."
"Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered [permitted] to contradict these."
"...The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute I W. & M. st.2. c.2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression."
- William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765–1769.
As did Mr. Jefferson early in his legal career;
"Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the Author of nature, because necessary for his own sustenance."
- Thomas Jefferson, Legal Argument, 1770. FE 1:376.
As well as George Mason;
"The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth."
- George Mason, 1772 [Robin v. Hardaway, General Court of Virginia]
The first President of our country seemed to concur about the Law of Nature as well;
"...That our Ancestors, when they left their native Land, and setled in America, brought with them (even if the same had not been confirmed by Charters) the Civil- Constitution and Form of Government of the Country they came from; and were by the Laws of Nature and Nations, entitled to all it's Privileges, Immunities and Advantages; which have descended to us their Posterity, and ought of Right to be as fully enjoyed, as if we had still continued within the Realm of England...."
- George Washington, "Fairfax County Resolves", July 18, 1774
"Shall we, after this, whine and cry for relief, when we have already tried it in vain? Or shall we supinely sit and see one province after another fall a prey to despotism? If I was in any doubt, as to the right which the Parliament of Great Britain had to tax us without our consent, I should most heartily coincide with you in opinion, that to petition, and petition only, is the proper method to apply for relief; because we should then be asking a favor, and not claiming a right, which, by the law of nature and our constitution, we are, in my opinion, indubitably entitled to."
- George Washington, July 20, 1774 letter to Bryan Fairfax. [The Modern English Collection at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center.]
And, here is yet another from Thomas Jefferson;
"...That these are our grievances which we have thus laid before his majesty with that freedom of language and sentiment which becomes a free people, claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate. Let those flatter, who fear: it is not an American art. To give praise where it is not due, might be well from the venal, but would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature. . . . . The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them...."
- Thomas Jefferson, July 1774, "A Summary View of the Rights of British America".
[The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Edited by Julian P. Boyd et al. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950.]
The convictions of John Adams on the subject, were just as strong some eleven years later;
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1,
John Adams' Notes of Debates
Coll. Lee - "The Rights are built on a fourfold foundation--on Nature, on the british Constitution, on Charters, and on immemorial Usage....”
(Lee. Cant see why We should not lay our Rights upon the broadest Bottom, the Ground of Nature)."
(John) Jay - "It is necessary to recur to the Law of Nature, and the british Constitution to ascertain our Rights."
[1 Adams recalled in his autobiography that the committee debates revolved around two points. "1. Whether We should recur to the Law of Nature, as well as to the British Constitution and our American Charters and Grants. Mr. Galloway and Mr. Duane were for excluding the Law of Nature. I was very strenuous for retaining and insisting on it, as a Resource to which We might be driven, by Parliament much sooner than We were aware...]. - Adams, Diary (Butterfield), 2:128-31.
[Note 1: 1 The Committee to "state the rights &c" met on the 8th, entered into the subject, and adjourned. John Adams says the Committee sat all day, "and a most ingenious, entertaining debate we had." This debate is summarized in his Works, II, 370. Another meeting was held on the 9th. "Agreed to found our rights upon the laws of Nature, the principles of the English Constitution, and charters and compacts; ordered a Sub-Committee to draw up a Statement of Rights." (Ward.) Galloway and Duane were for excluding the law of nature; John Adams insisted on retaining it. A second question was the authority to be conceded to Parliament; "whether we should deny the authority of Parliament in all cases; whether we should allow any authority to it in our internal affairs; or whether we should allow it to regulate the trade of the Empire with or without any restrictions" Adams. The sub-committee, of which John Adams and John Rutledge were members, held sessions from the 10th to the 14th, and then reported to the great Committee, where the affair hung so long that other members of Congress were "jealous." On the 22d. a report was made to Congress.
On the 14th the great Committee appointed a sub-committee to "state the infringements of our rights." The report was laid before Congress on the 24th.]
- Journals of the Continental Congress, WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 1774
This was further evidenced by Samuel Ward in the September 9, 1774 entry in his diary;
"...The Comee. met, agreed to found our Rights upon the Laws of Nature, the Principles of the english Constitution & Charters & Compacts; ordered a Sub. Comee. to draw up a State of Rights."(1)
1 John Adams' diary for this day consists of the terse entry: "Attended my Duty upon Committees. Dined at home." Adams, Diary (Butterfield), 2:131.
- [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1 AUGUST 1774 - AUGUST 1775.]
The same sentiment was echoed some 8 days later;
2. That it is an indispensable duty which we owe to God, our country, ourselves and posterity, by all lawful ways and means in our power to maintain, defend and preserve those civil and religious rights and liberties, for which many of our fathers fought, bled and died, and to hand them down entire to future generations.
3. That the late acts of the British parliament for blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the established form of government in this colony, and for screening the most flagitious violators of the laws of the province from a legal trial, are gross infractions of those rights to which we are justly entitled by the laws of nature, the British constitution, and the charter of the province.
- Journals of the Continental Congress, SEPTEMBER 17, 1774, A. M.
Mr. Henry gave what can be very well considered as one of the best descriptions here;
"Mr. Henry for it. Says that a preparation for Warr is Necessary to obtain peace--That America is not Now in a State of peace--That all the Bulwarks, of Our Safety, of Our Constitn. are thrown down, That We are Now in a State of Nature--That We ought to ask Ourselves the Question should the planns of Nonim [portatio] n & Nonexp [oratio] n fail of success--in that Case Arms are Necessary, & if then, it is Necessary Now. Arms are a Resource to which We shall be forced, a Resource afforded Us by God & Nature, & why in the Name of both are We to hesitate providing them Now whilst in Our power."
- Silas Deane's Diary, [Oct. 3, 1774]. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1 AUGUST 1774 - AUGUST 1775]
This was followed very closely by an address dated October 11-18? 1774 to the People of Great Britain and Ireland by Mr. John Jay;
"...It has been already observed that the ostensible reasons which have been assigned for this Attempt to destroy natural, constitutional, chartered, and antient rights, is for the purpose of raising a revenue to protect and defend the Colonies, to support Government and the Administration of Justice here and to reimburse Great Britain the Expence of defending the Colonies in the last war. The two former reasons are sufficiently answered by stating the notorious facts, that from the first Settlement of the Colonies until the late War they sustained these Expences themselves...."
(It should be noted that Mr. Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Nominated by President George Washington).
This was declared by the newly formed Continental Congress;
“...The good people of the several colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North- Carolina and South-Carolina, justly alarmed at these arbitrary proceedings of parliament and administration, have severally elected, constituted, and appointed deputies to meet, and sit in general Congress, in the city of Philadelphia, in order to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted: Whereupon the deputies so appointed being now assembled, in a full and free representation of these colonies, taking into their most serious consideration, the best means of attaining the ends aforesaid, do, in the first place, as Englishmen, their ancestors in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties, DECLARE,
“That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS:
Resolved, N.C.D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent....“
- Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, Oct. 14, 1774
And it was, once again, resolved two months later;
In Provincial Congress,
Cambridge, December 5, 1774.
THAT the Proceedings of the American Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia on the Fifth of September last, and reported by the honourable Delegates from this Colony, have with the Deliberation due to their high Importance been considered by us, and the American Bill of Rights therein contained, appears to be formed with the greatest Ability and Judgment, to be founded on the immutable Laws of Nature and Reason, the Principles of the English Constitution, and respective Charters and Constitutions of the Colonies; and to be worthy of their most vigorous Support, as essentially necessary to Liberty--Likewise the ruinous and iniquitous Measures, which in Violation of these RIGHTS at present convulse and threaten Destruction to America, appear to be clearly pointed out, and judicious Plans, adopted for defeating them.
Mr. Hamilton asserts te Right quite nicely here:
"Self-preservation is the first principle of our nature. When our lives and properties are at stake, it would be foolish and unnatural to refrain from such measures as might preserve them because they would be detrimental to others. . . . . . that the united strength of the several members might give stability and security to the whole body, and each respective member; so that one part cannot encroach upon another without becoming a common enemy, and eventually endangering the safety and happiness of all the other parts."
- Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton - "A FULL VINDICATION.", Dec. 15, 1774, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 1.
And here we find what may very well be the origin of "well-regulated militia";
"...Threatened with the Destruction of our antient Laws & Liberty, and the Loss of all that is dear to British Subjects & Freemen,--justly alarmed with the Prospect of impending Ruin,--firmly determined, at the hazard of our Lives, to transmit to our Children & Posterity those sacred Rights to which Ourselves were born; & thoroughly convinced that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Gentlemen Freeholders & other Freemen, is the natural Strength, and only safe & stable Security of a free Government..."
- George Mason, Feb. 6, 1775 letter to General George Washington. [Letters to Washington and Accompanying Papers. Published by the Society of the Colonial Dames of America. Edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton.]
It turns out that John & Samuel Adams, and Mr. Franklin were not alone in the idea that the Rights of Man were derived from the Laws of Nature. As shown by Mr. Alexander Hamilton here:
"You, Sir, triumph in the supposed illegality of this body; but, granting your supposition were true, it would be a matter of no real importance. When the first principles of civil society are violated, and the rights of a whole people are
invaded, the common forms of municipal law are not to be regarded. Men may then betake themselves to the law of nature; and, if they but conform their actions, to that standard, all cavils against them, betray either ignorance or dishonesty. There are some events in society, to which human laws cannot extend; but when applied to them lose all their force and efficacy. In short, when human laws contradict or discountenance the means, which are necessary to preserve the essential rights of any society, they defeat the proper end of all laws, and so become null and void."
- The Farmer Refuted, 23 Feb. 1775, Papers 1:86--89, 121--22, 135--36
Mr. Robert Treat Paine wrote in a Feb. 25, 1775 letter to Stephen Collins;
"...With regard to the particular matter of moving the Guns &c, any person who attends to the Current of affairs must know the reason of it was the forbidding Arms & Ammunition being imported, & the Conduct of Administration wearing so hostile an Appearance as to loudly call upon the natural inherent principle of Self preservation. Those who hold the Doctrines of passive Obedience & non resistance will fault their Conduct, whilst others who view these transactions as Connected with the rights of mankind & Englishmen, will have more liberal apprehensions from them. But our Enemys omitt no opportunitys to asperse the Whiggs; & even the Whiggs who are at a distance from the scene of action, dont Sufficiently Consider the difficult Scituation of their Freinds, who in the Centre of action are Continually impressed, & in danger of being shackled & rendered unable to Struggle by patience & remissness, or of giving Offence & causing Divisions by any Enterprize which might save them. They who wish well to our Common Cause will Consider all Circumstances before they form a judgment, & they who are unfreindly will stick at nothing to reproach us...."
As well as by Mr. Patrick Henry in his famous speech 'Give me Liberty or Give me Death', on March 23, 1775;
“There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free - if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending - if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained - we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable - and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.”
And yet again by Mr. George Mason;
"We came equals into this world, and equals shall we go out of it. All men are by nature born equally free and independent. To protect the weaker from the injuries and insults of the stronger were societies first formed; when men entered into compacts to give up some of their natural rights, that by union and mutual assistance they might secure the rest; but they gave up no more that the nature of the thing required."
- George Mason, "Remarks on Annual Elections for the Fairfax Independent Company", April 17-26, 1775
And again, by the House of Magistrates in Rhode Island in instructions to one their Delegates on Aug.26,1775;
"Whereas notwithstanding the humble and dutiful petition of the last Congress to the King, and other wise and pacific measures taken for obtaining a happy reconciliation between Great Britain and the Colonies, the ministry lost to every sentiment of justice, liberty and humanity continue to send troops and ships of war into America, which destroy our trade, plunder and burn our towns and murder the good people of these colonies. Resolved, That this Colony most ardently wishes to see the former friendship, harmony and intercourse between Britain and these Colonies restored, and a happy and lasting connection established between both countries upon terms of just and equal liberty and will concur with the other colonies in all proper measures for obtaining those desirable blessings; and as every principle divine and human requires us to obey that great and fundamental law of nature, self preservation, until peace shall be restored upon constitutional principles; this colony will most heartily exert the whole power of government in conjunction with the other colonies for carrying on this just and necessary war, and bringing the same to a happy issue, and amongst other measures for obtaining this most desirable purpose, this Assembly is persunded, that the building and equipping an American fleet, as soon as possible, would greatly and essentially conduce to the preservation of the lives, liberty and property of the good people of these Colonies and therefore instruct their delegates to use their whole influence at the ensuing congress for building at the Continental expence a fleet of sufficient force for the protection of these colonies, and for employing them in such manner and places as will most effectually annoy our enemies, and contribute to the common defence of these colonies, and they are also instructed to use all their influence for carrying on the war in the most vigorous manner, until peace, liberty and safety are restored and secured to these Colonies upon an equitable and permanent basis."
- Journals of the Continental Congress, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1775.
Here is what a very influential character in early American history had written on the subject;
"You may assure them that we shall hold their Rights as dear as our own, and on their Union with us, exert our utmost Endeavours to obtain for them and their Posterity the Blessings of a free Government, and that Security to their Persons* and Property which is derived from the British Constitution. And you may further declare that we hold sacred the Rights of Conscience, and shall never molest them in the free Enjoyment of their Religion."
- John Hancock, Oct. 11, 1775 letter to Philip Schuyler. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2. Library of Cogress - American Memory.] John Hancock graduated from Harvard, and was the first President of the Continental Congress. In addition he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
* - "That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law". - English Bill of Rights 1689.
And here is yet another from Mr. John Adams;
"Who expected to live to see the Principles of Liberty Spread and prevail so rapidly, human Nature exerting her whole Rights, unshackled by Priests or Kings or Nobles, pulling down Tyrannies like Sampson, and building up, what Governments the People think best framed for human Felicity. God grant the Spirit, success."
- John Adams, Nov. 5, 1775 letter to James Warren. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2.]
And here we have a letter to General George Washington concerning "the common natural rights of Mankind";
"You may be assured that I will do Colo. Read [Reed] all the service that I can in the way you desire We have a Ship here in 6 weeks from London, that brought the original letter of which the inclosed is a copy. Tis from a well informed, sensible friend, and may be relyed on. All the other letters from London join in confirming it to be the fixt determination of K and Court to leave undone nothing that they can do, to compel implicit obedience in America. One very sensible letter that I have seen, mentions that Gen. Amherst had recommended (& 'twas said it would be executed) to remove the Army this winter from Boston to Long Island, in order to get amply supplied by ravaging N. Jersey, N. York, and Rhode Island. Should this be attempted, I suppose you will be furnished with an opportunity of giving them a genteel parting salute. And besides, I should suppose that a winter favorable for us, would expose them to ruin from a timely, strong attack, of superior numbers on that naked Island. It seems that immense stores of Indian goods are sent to Canada in order to bribe the Indians to an early and vigorous attack on all our frontiers next Spring. God grant that Colo. Arnolds success and Montgomeries may frustrate this diabolical part of their infernal plan against the common natural rights of Mankind!"
- Richard Henry Lee, Nov. 13, 1775 letter to George Washington. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2]
Here is a letter from three of the Delegates from Congress declaring the Law of Nature;
"The Congress having done us the honour to Appoint us as a Committee to Confer with the General and yourself on the measures Necessary to be taken for the reinlistment of the Army, as also to Conciliate the affections of the Canadians and to remove as far as in us lay every Objection that the good people of that Province might have to a Union with the thirteen Colonies, who are Strugling in the Glorious Cause of freedom, We arrived here a few days Since in prosecution of that design; but are extreamly happy to find that General Schuyler and yourself have in a Great measure by your prudence and foresight anticipated our business, and renderd a Journey into Canada in some measure unnecessary at present which indeed we rather decline on Account of the Advanced season of the year and the improbability of your being able to lend us any assistance, while the enemies of the Natural Rights of man continue their hostilities against our fellow Subjects in that Province, and Confine your Attention to those Military opperations which are Necessary to procure their Relief."
"We cannot help however expressing the ardent wishes of the Congress that you would Cherish the first dawnings of liberty among a people, who have early testified their sense of its Value if we may be Admitted to Judge from the Assistance they afforded you in repelling its enemies. That you would assure them that the Honble. the Congress have thro us declared that they hold their Rights as dear as their own, and that on their Uniting with them they will exert their utmost endeavours to procure, for them and their posterity the blessing of a free government and that Security to their property and persons which is derived from the British Constitution-that they hold Sacred the rights of Conscience, and will never disturb them in the free enjoyment of their Religion."
- Jno Langdon, Rob. R. Livingston & Rob. T. Paine, Nov. 30, 1775 letter to Richard Montgomery. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2.]
As well as in a letter to a man whom was later appointed as one of the original justices of the Supreme Court;
"That day, I hope, is not at a great distance, when retired from the bustle of publick life, I shall enjoy all the sweets of domestick retirement & private friendship. I am weary of politicks, it is a study that corrupts the human heart, degrades the Idea of human nature, and drives men to expedients that morality must condemn. Deep stratagems, dark disguise, Fiction, falsehood, are but the fair side of the picture of a perfect, politician-a Machiavel-a Hobbs-a Richlieu-a North. No, my Friend, the Science of politicks is not to be learned in the principles of the laws of nature and Nations, it is wrote only in the recesses of the mind of princes, and Vice assumes another name, when it ministers to the strength and importance of the state. The black part of the Character is ascribed to this and Virtues if any there are, are the personal property of the prince. Hide the picture ! 'tis a horrid one."
- William Hooper, Jan. 6th 1776 letter to James Iredell. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3. Library of Congress.]
John Dickinson touched upon the subject here;
"...These Efforts were soon attended with such Effect, that the British Army still confined within the Town of Boston & its Environs, and the Fleet sent to cooperate with it, finding the Fruits of their plundering our seacoasts too precarious and dangerous, Ships of war began to seize our vessels, carry them to Boston & take out their Cargos of provisions. It therefore became expedient to make some Regulations to prevent their receiving such supplies, which have been effectual.
"The war being thus prosecuted against these Colonies by Sea as well as by Land, Several armed vessels have been fitted out by us, and many considerable Captures have been made of Transports loaded with warlike Stores and Provisions for the army in Boston.
"Upon this same Principle of self preservation, founded on the Laws of Nature, and justified by the Laws of Nations, We approved of an Expedition into Canada, against the British Forces in that Province. With such a dangerous Caution did We proceed in this important Measure, that when the proposal was first made in Congress, it was rejected: But sometime after, receiving undoubted Intelligence that Governor Carleton was by every Artifice exciting our fellow subjects in Canada & the Indians to commence Hostilities, and that Administration entertained Designs and Expectations of putting these Colonies between two Fires, and even of carrying on the War by the worst of Assassinations, even those of Women & Children, in letting loose & enflaming the Tribes of Barbarians, with whom Mercy is a Reproach, We judged, that We should be impardonably criminal with Regard to You, who had put your Lives into our Hands, if We hesitated any longer to frustrate as much as We could the cruel Machinations of your Enemies...."
- John Dickinson, "To the Inhabitants of America", Jan. 24? 1776. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3.]
Mr. James Wilson laid out the principle in his work "address to the inhabitants of these Colonies" on Feb. 13, 1776;
"...The Sentence of universal Slavery gone forth against you is; that the British Parliament have Power to make Laws, without your Consent, binding you in All Cases whatever. Your Fortunes, your Liberties, your Reputations, your Lives, every Thing that can render you and your Posterity happy, all are the Objects of the Laws: All must be enjoyed, impaired or destroyed as the Laws direct. And are you the Wretches, who have Nothing that you can or ought to call your own? Were all the rich Blessings of Nature, all the Bounties of indulgent Providence poured upon you, not for your own Use; but for the Use of those, upon whom neither Nature nor Providence hath bestowed Qualities or Advantages superior to yours? ..."
As well as by the Continental Congress on March 23, 1776;
"...And whereas the parliament of Great Britain hath lately passed an Act, affirming these colonies to be in open rebellion, forbidding all trade and commerce with the inhabitants thereof, until they shall accept pardons, and submit to despotic rule, declaring their property, wherever found upon the water, liable to seizure and confiscation; and enacting, that what had been done there by virtue of the royal authority, were just and lawful acts, and shall be so deemed; from all which it is manifest, that the iniquitous scheme, concerted to deprive them of the liberty they have a right to by the laws of nature and the English constitution, will be pertinaciously pursued. It being therefore necessary to provide for their defence and security, and justifiable to make reprisals upon their enemies, and otherwise to annoy them, according to the laws and usages of Nations, the Congress, trusting that such of their friends in Great Britain (of whom it is confessed there are many entitled to applause and gratitude for their patriotism and benevolence, and in whose favour a discrimination of property cannot be made) as shall suffer by captures, will impute it. to the authors of our common calamities, Do Declare and Resolve, as followeth, to wit:...."
"...Resolved, That all ships and other vessels, their tackle, apparel, and furniture, and all goods, wares, and merchandizes, belonging to any inhabitant or inhabitants of Great Britain, taken on the high seas, or between high and low water mark, by any armed vessel, fitted out by any private person or persons, and to whom commissions shall be granted, and being libelled and prosecuted in any court erected for the trial of maritime affairs, in any of these colonies, shall be deemed and adjudged to be lawful prize; and after deducting and paying the wages of the seamen and mariners on board of such captures, as are merchant ships and vessels, shall be entitled to, according to the terms of their contracts, until the time of the adjudication, shall be condemned to and for the use of the owner or owners, and the officers, marines, and mariners of such armed vessel, according to such rules and proportions as they shall agree on: Provided always, that this resolution shall not extend to any vessel bringing settlers arms, ammunition or warlike stores to and for the use of these colonies, or any of the inhabitants thereof, who are friends to the American cause, or to such war-like stores, or to the effects of such settlers...."
And again, by Govorner Jonathan Trumbull on the 18th of June, 1776;
BY THE HONORABLE
Governor and Commander in Chief of the English Colony of Connecticut in New-England.
The Race of Mankind was made in a State of Innocence and Freedom, subjected only to the Laws of God the Creator, and through his rich Goodness, designed for virtuous Liberty and Happiness here and forever; and when moral Evil was introduced into the World, and Man had corrupted his Ways before God, Vice and Iniquity came in like a Flood, and Mankind became exposed, and a prey to the Violence, Injustice and Oppression of one another. God, in great Mercy, inclined his People to form themselves into Society, and to set up and establish civil government for the Protection and Security of their Lives and Properties from the Invasion of wicked Men: But through Pride and Ambition, the King's and Princes of the World, appointed by the People the Guardians of their Lives and Liberties, early and almost universally, degenerated into Tyrants, and by Fraud or Force betrayed and wrested out of their Hands the very Rights and Properties they were appointed to protect and defend....In this distressing Dilemma, having no Alternative but absolute Slavery, or successful Resistance; this, and the United American Colonies, have been constrained by the over-ruling Laws of Self preservation, to take up Arms for the Defence of all that is sacred sacred and dear to Freemen, and make their solemn Appeal to Heaven for the Justice of their Cause, and resist Force by Force....
Further evidence of the Laws of Nature being the basis of our government, can be found in the Declaration of Independence, of which there are known to be at least three different drafts. As it turns out, the Declaration included input from both John and Samuel Adams, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson:
First, and Reported Drafts;
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a one people to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the equal and independent Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes, which impell them to the Change.
We hold these Truths to be self evident; that all Men are created equal and independent; that from that equal Creation they derive Rights inherent and unalienable; among which are the Preservation of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these Ends, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the governed...
hitherto remained, & to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with other another and to assume among the powers of the earth the equal & independent separate and equal station to which the laws of nature & of nature's god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the change the separation.
We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable self-evident; that all men are created equal,& independent; that from that equal creation they derive in they are endowed by their creator with equal rights some of which are certain [inherent &] inalienable rights; that among which these are the preservation of life,& liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government...
Independence, as declared on July 4, 1776:
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...
General George Washington seemed to concur that our Rights are derived from God and Nature:
"...I perceive that Congress have been employed in deliberating on measures of the most interesting Nature. It is certain that it is not with us to determine in many instances what consequences will flow from our Counsels, but yet it behoves us to adopt such, as under the smiles of a Gracious and all kind Providence will be most likely to promote our happiness; I trust the late decisive part they have taken, is calculated for that end, and will secure us that freedom and those priviledges, which have been, and are refused us, contrary to the voice of Nature and the British Constitution. Agreeable to the request of Congress I caused the Declaration to be proclaimed before all the Army under my immediate Command, and have the pleasure to inform them, that the measure seemed to have their most hearty assent; the Expressions and behaviour both of Officers and Men testifying their warmest approbation of it. I have transmitted a Copy to General Ward at Boston, requesting him to have it proclaimed to the Continental Troops in that Department...."
- General George Washington, July 10, 1776 letter to Continental Congress. [The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.]
That the Rights of man, based upon the Laws of Nature, were accepted as the basis for which our government(s) were erected, can readily be shown as well:
"Congress proceeding to take into farther consideration the expediency of inviting, from the service of his Britannic majesty, such foreigners as are engaged therein, and expecting that, among the officers having command in the said foreign corps, there may be many of liberal minds, possessing just sentiments of the rights of human nature, and of the inestimable value of freedom, who may be prompted to renounce so dishonourable a service, by the feelings of humanity, and a just indignation at the office to which they are devoted by an infamous contract between two arbitrary sovereigns, and at the insult offered them, by compelling them to wage war against an innocent people, who never offended them, nor the nation to which they belong, but are only contending for their just rights; and willing to tender to them also, as they had before done to the soldiers of their corps, a participation of the blessings of peace, liberty, property and mild government..."
- Journals of the Continental Congress, August 27, 1776.
"...In humanity they figure still worse than They do in arms. Their ravages in the Jersies, until They were checked and driven back, beggars all description. Rapes, Murders, and devastation marked their steps in such a manner as would have disgraced the Savages of the Wilderness. The old English esteem for valor seems quite done away, and in several instances where young Americans displaid heroic spirit, and happened to fall in to their power, they have butchered them in cold blood in a most cruel and barbarous manner. They have been so frequently shameless in this way, after remonstrance has been in vain made to Gen. Howe, that the patience of our Soldiery is exhausted, and it appears as if no more prisoners will be taken, until Mr. Howe & his people learn the practice of humanity. I have received two letters from [ ....] (1) But he thinks strongly in favor of Great Britain. Was it not the most unrelenting and cruel persecution of us that forced us from her, and are we not compelled upon the clearest principles of self preservation to seek from Strangers what our kindred denied us? Must a great Continent be buried in ruin because the people of England cannot rouse from a lethargy which suffers the most abandoned of Men to trample upon the rights of human nature? It is decreed above, and we are parted Forever. Every Friendly American Nerve will now be strained to procure the active interference of France, by which, under God, the liberty of North America must be secured...."
- Richard Henry Lee, Feb. 17, 1777 letter to Arthur Lee. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 6.]
"...At the same time he trusts that the Spanish nation will receive no inconsiderable retribution from the freedom of that commerce the monopoly of which contributed so much to strengthen and aggrandize her rival and her foe; nor can anything give more lasting satisfaction to the royal mind than the reflection of having employed those means which God has put into his hands in assisting an oppressed people to vindicate those rights and liberties which have been violated by twice six years of incessant injuries and insulted supplications; those rights which God and nature, together with the convention of their ancestors and the constitution of their country, gave to the people of the States. Instead of that protection in those rights which was the due return for sovereignty exercised over them, they have seen their defenseless towns wantonly laid in ashes, their unfortified country cruelly desolated, their property wasted, their people slain; the ruthless savage, whose inhuman war spares neither age nor sex, instigated against them; the hand of the servant armed against his master by public proclamation, and the very food which the sea that washes their coast furnishes forbidden them by a law of unparalleled folly and injustice. Proinde quasi injuriam facere id demure esset imperio uti. Nor was it enough that for these purposes the British force was exhausted against them, but foreign mercenaries were also bribed to complete the butchery of their people and the devastation of their country. And that nothing might be wanting to make the practices equivalent to the principles of this war, the minds of these mercenaries were poisoned with every prejudice that might harden their hearts and sharpen their swords against a people who not only never injured or offended them, but who have received with open arms and provided habitations for their wandering countrymen. These are injuries which the Americans can never forget. These are oppressors whom they can never again endure. The force of intolerable and accumulated outrages has compelled them to appeal to God and to the sword. The King of Spain, in assisting them to maintain that appeal, assists in vindicating the violated rights of human nature. No cause can be more illustrious, no motive more magnanimous."
- Arthur Lee, March 17, 1777, Letter to Florida Blanca, [The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2]
This one is perhaps my personal favorite;
"I am sorry that our Assembly had not repealed or so farr altered the Law respecting Inoculation, or that People from the Principles of Self Preservation were not laid under a necessity of Violating it. The Law of Self Preservation certainly will justify Violating a Law not founded on Moral Principles but of supposed Conveniency only, but no Laws ought to Exist which are merely political when it is clearly known that they will not be observed as Laws of that Nature are supposed to be the Symtoms of the Want either of Power or Wisdom or perhaps both. I was fully Satisfied in my own mind that the same would be the Effect of limiting the Prices of the Articles of Living. In my Judgment the most despotic Government that ever existed since the Days of Nimrod could never carry such a Law into Execution, but I have done nothing to Prejudice the Scheme this Way as it was adopted by our State. Tho' I tho't it was founded upon every Principle of Impolicy. But why am I eternally dabbling in Politicks. Would to God that the Knaves and Oppressors of this World would cease their Villany, so that each one might Return to domestick Injoyment, and possess unenvied that Peace, which cannot be had in any Other Circumstances of Life."
- Oliver Wolcott, March 22, 1777 letter to Laura Wolcott. [Delegates to Congress: Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Volume 6.]
"...This city is still threatened with an invasion but whether the threats will be executed or not, is a matter of doubt with me. A plan of correspondence between this City and the enemy has lately been discovered. 7 or 8 of the Traitors are under close confinement. Some of them will no doubt be hanged. This is disagreeable business, but if we dont hang them they'll hang us, and self preservation, you know, is the first law of nature. A considerable quantity of the goods will be saved from the ship blown up near the Capes, as mentioned in my last. She had a valuable cargo on board 400 lbs. of powder, 2500 stand of arms and a considerable quantity dry goods amounting in the whole to 250,000 livres for account of the public besides private property to a large amount-but the greatest loss is the life of the Captain whose bravery on this occasion is without example...."
- William Whipple, April 19, 1777 Letter to John Langdon. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 6.]
"Inclosed with this you have an Evening post, (1) containing some of the tender Mercies of the Barbarians to their Prisoners.
"If there is a Man, Woman or Child in America, who can read these Depositions, without Resentment, and Horror, that Person has no soul or a very wicked one.
Their Treatment of Prisoners, last Year added to an Act of Parliament, which they have made to enable them to send Prisoners to England, to be there murthered, with still more relentless Cruelty, in Prisons, will bring our Officers and Soldiers to the universal Resolution to conquer or die.
"This Maxim, conquer or die, never failed to raise a People who adopted it, to the Head of Man kind.
"An Express from Portsmouth last night brought Us News of the Arrival of Arms and ordnance enough to enable Us to take Vengeance of these Foes of Human Nature."(2)
RC (MHi). Adams, Family Correspondence (Butterfield), 2:231.
1 Probably a copy of the Pennsylvania Evening Post, May 3, 1777, which contained the last installment of the congressional report on British and German barbarity in New Jersey during the preceding campaign. See Adams to Abigail Adams, April 27, 1777, and JCC, 7:276-79.
2 See Committee for Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners at Paris, May 2, 1777, note 3.
- John Adams to Abigail Adams, May 4. 1777. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 7. Library of Congress, American Memory.]
"When obliged to take this first Step the People proceeded with the utmost Caution. No tumult or disorder appeared, every man was impressed with an awful Sense of the Necessity he was under of Exercising that Right which Nature gave to every Man, and which the British Constitution expressly Assented, that of Consulting and resolving Concerning his Safety and Happiness, and each was determined to Exercise it no farther than the Necessity pressingly required."
- Delegates in Congress, May 29, 1777 address to Inhabitants of the United States.
“Pursued by the injustice and the vengeance of the King and Parliament Great Britain, these United States have been compelled to engage in a bloody and expensive war. Amidst much great every distress that they have yet experienced may befal them, it will be their consolation to appeal to Heaven for the rectitude of their measures; since they have her influence they have had recourse to arms, not from ambition or the lust of power, but to resist actual invasion and boundless rapine, and to secure to themselves and to their Posterity the common rights and privileges of human nature: the blessings of freedom and safety that they have had recourse to arms."
- Journals of the Continental Congress, Nov. 22, 1777
"Being sufficiently settled as to the principle on which I shall found my opinion, it is unnecessary for me to give an account of the law of nature and nations, or to heap up citations from the numerous writers on that subject. But that what I shall say may have the greater force, I beg it may be observed, that the law of nature and nations is nothing else but the law of general reason, or those obligations of duty from reason and conscience, on one individual to another, antecedent to any particular law derived from the social compact, or even actual consent. On this account, it is called the law of nature; and because there are very rarely to be found any parties in such a free state with regard to each other, except independent nations, therefore it is also called the law of nations. One nation to another is just as man to man in a state of nature. Keeping this in view, a person of integrity will pass as sound a judgment on subjects of this kind, by consulting his own heart, as by turning over books and systems. The chief use of books and systems is, to apply the principle to particular cases and suppositions differently classed, and to point out the practice of nations in several minute and special particulars, which unless ascertained by practice, would be very uncertain and ambiguous...."
- John Witherspoon, Jan. 8, 1778 Speech to Congress. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 8.]
"...The Commander in Chief again takes occasion to return his warmest thanks to the virtuous officers and soldiery of this Army for that persevering fidelity and Zeal which they have uniformly manifested in all their conduct. Their fortitude not only under the common hardships incident to a military life, but also under the additional sufferings to which the peculiar situation of these States have exposed them, clearly proves them worthy the enviable privelege of contending for the rights of human nature, the Freedom and Independence of their Country. The recent Instance of uncomplaining Patience during the scarcity of provisions in Camp is a fresh proof that they possess in an eminent degree the spirit of soldiers and the magninimity of Patriots. The few refractory individuals who disgrace them. selves by murmurs it is to be hoped have repented such unmanly behaviour, and resolved to emulate the noble example of their associates upon every trial which the customary casualties of war may hereafter throw in their way. Occasional distress for want of provisions and other necessaries is a spectacle that frequently occurs in every army and perhaps there never was one which has been in general so plentifully supplied in respect to the former as ours. Surely we who are free Citizens in arms engaged in a struggle for every thing valuable in society and partaking in the glorious task of laying the foundation of an Empire, should scorn effeminately to shrink under those accidents and rigours of War which mercenary hirelings fighting in the cause of lawless ambition, rapine and devastation, encounter with cheerfulness and alacrity, we should not be merely equal, we should be superior to them in every qualification that dignifies the man or the soldier in proportion as the motive from which we act and the final hopes of our Toils, are superior to theirs. Thank Heaven! ..."
- George Washington, General Orders, Head-Quarters, V. Forge, Sunday, March 1, 1778. [The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.]
"The citizens of the United States of America are engaged in a just and necessary war--a war in which they are not the only persons interested. They contend for the rights of human nature, and therefore merit the patronage and assistance of all mankind. Their success will secure a refuge from persecution and tyranny to those who wish to pursue the dictates of their own consciences, and to reap the fruits of their own industry.
"That kind Providence, who from seeming evil often produces real good, in permitting us to be involved in this cruel war, and you to be compelled to aid our enemies in their vain attempts to enslave us, doubtless hath in view to establish perfect freedom in this new world, for those who are borne down by the oppression and tyranny of the old."
- Journals of the Continental Congress,April 29, 1778.
"Friends and Countrymen: Three years have now passed away, since the commencement of the present war: a war without parallel in the annals of mankind. It hath displayed a spectacle, the most solemn that can possibly be exhibited. On one side, we behold fraud and violence laboring in the service of despotism; on the other, virtue and fortitude supporting and establishing the rights of human nature...."
"...Trust not to appearances of peace or safety. Be assured that, unless you persevere, you will be exposed to every species of barbarity. But, if you exert the means of defence which God and nature have given you, the time will soon arrive when every man shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid...."
- AN ADDRESS OF THE CONGRESS TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. MAY 8, 1778.
"...I am no way discouraged, but I am grieved to find our councils and our public deliberations conducted in the manner they are at present. The very name of Congress was a great while sacred almost as that of the Divinity in these States. You as well as I know how much weakness, to say nothing more, lay concealed from the first behind the sacred vail from the view of the public. I tremble for the consequences when Americans, who have served their country with the highest reputation at home and abroad, shall be forced by the injuries and abuse which they receive, in vindication of themselves, to draw this vail and hold up to the open view of their countrymen certain individuals who have by one circumstance or another greatly influenced the deliberations of Congress. Self-Defense is the first law of nature. I hope and am sure I shall not be driven to this extremity whilst so many appear resolved to see justice done me...."
- Silas Deane, Sept. 14, 1778 letter to John Hancock. [The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Vol. 2. Library of Congress - American Memory.]
"It is not only vain, but wicked, in a legislator to frame laws in opposition to the laws of nature, and to arm them with the terrors of death. This is truly creating crimes in order to punish them."
- Thomas Jefferson, The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, 1900 - 4538. LAWS OF NATURE, Opposition to. -- JCE4538. Note on Crimes Bill. Washington ed. i, 159. Ford ed., ii, 218. (1779).
"[While] certain forms of government are better calculated than others to protect individuals in the free exercise of their natural rights, and are at the same time themselves better guarded against degeneracy, yet experience hath shown that, even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."
- Thomas Jefferson, Diffusion of Knowledge Bill. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, 1900 - 3537. GOVERNMENT, Perversion. -- JCE3537 Ford ed., ii, 220. (1779).
"...I thank God that I am of no party and have no brothers or relations to serve, but I am convinced that Mr. Lee has acted in this matter merely because I would not become the enemy of the venerable, the wise, and good Franklin, whose heart as well as head does and will always do honor to human nature...."
"...I pledge myself to you and to America that my zeal [derives] new ardor from the oppositions it meets with, and I live but to overcome them and to prove myself no mock patriot, but a true friend to the rights of human nature upon principles of disinterested philanthropy. Of this I have already given some proofs, and I will give more. Let not, therefore, the virtuous Senate of America be misled by the insinuations of fallen ambition. Should anything be said to my disadvantage, all I ask is a suspension of judgment until I can appear before Congress to answer for myself."
- John Paul Jones, June 27, 1780 letter to Morris. [The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Vol. 3]
"...Who was it but the armed yeomanry of the Country that opposed his march and so often forced him to measure back his steps with such speed? And yet at this time the people were in a great degree in a state of nature, being free from all restraints of government. In South Carolina a civil government was wholly suspended, North Carolina was in such confusion and tumult by the sudden invasion, that government had no time to exert itself and the people were left to act from the immediate impulses of their own minds. The case was the same in Virginia when the Assembly retired from Richmond to Charlotteville and from thence across the mountain to Augusta. And yet as fast as the people could arm themselves they repaired to the continental standard and joining the few continental troops in the field voluntarily and bravely exposed their lives in defence of their rights and liberties and could a sufficient number of arms have been procured and put into the hands of the volunteer militia, his lordship would have sooner been convinced to his Cost of the rediculous absurdity of such assertions...."
- Charles Thomson, July 11, 1781 letter to John Jay. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 17.]
"Be assured that when contemptible discord, with its odious attendants, artifice and imposture, could effectuate nothing, absolutely nothing, at the moment when the present war broke out, to prejudice in the least the fidelity of the citizens of the Amstel, or to shake them in the observation of their duties, the inconveniences and the evils that a war naturally and necessarilly draws after it, will not produce the effect neither; yes, we will submit more willingly to them, accordingly as we shall perceive that the means that God and nature have put into our hands are more and more employed to reduce and humble a haughty enemy."
- John Adams, letter to Livingston*, March 19, 1782, The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Vol. 5. [* - MSS. Dep. of State; 3 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 562.]
"...If ever any circumstances were capable of recalling to the minds of the people of these provinces the most lively remembrance of the cruel situation to which their forefathers found themselves once reduced, under the oppressive yoke of Spanish tyranny, it was, no doubt, that terrible and critical moment when the Colonies of North America, groaning under the intolerable weight of the chains with which the boundless ambition of Great Britain had loaded them, were forced into a just and lawful war to recover the use and enjoyment of that liberty to which they were entitled by the sacred and unalienable laws of nature...."
- The deputies from Schiedam, The Hague, July 5, 1782. Requested John Adams to transmit from them to Congress the enclosed compliment. [The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 5. J. Adams to Livingston.]
"The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God.
- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia. Washington ed. viii, 400. Ford ed., iii, 263. (1782). [The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, 1900.]
"Sir: The result of the proceedings of the grand convention of the officers, which I have the honor of enclosing to your Excellency for the inspection of Congress, will, I flatter myself, be considered as the last glorious proof of patriotism which could have been given by men who aspired to the distinction of a patriot army; and will not only confirm their claim to the justice, but will encrease their title to the gratitude of their country."
"Having seen the proceedings on the part of the army terminate with perfect unanimity, and in a manner entirely consonant to my wishes; being impressed with the liveliest sentiments of affection for those who have so long, so patiently, and so cheerfully suffered and fought under my immediate direction; having from motives of justice, duty and gratitude, spontaneously offered myself as an advocate for their rights; and having been requested to write to your Excellency, earnestly entreating the most speedy decision of Congress upon the subjects of the late address from the army to that honorable body; it now only remains for me to perform the task I have assumed, and to intercede in their behalf, as I now do, that the sovereign power will be pleased to verify the predictions I have pronounced of, and the confidence the army have reposed in the justice of their country."
"And here I humbly conceive it is altogether unnecessary (while I am pleading the cause of an army which have done and suffered more than any other army ever did in the defence of the rights and liberties of human nature) to expatiate on their claims to the most ample compensation for their meritorious services, because they are perfectly known to the whole world, and because, (although the topics are inexhaustible) enough has already been said on the subject...."
- General George Washington, Head-Quarters, Newburgh, 18th March, 1783.
"...While the General recollects the almost infinite variety of Scenes thro which we have passed, with a mixture of pleasure, astonishment, and gratitude; While he contemplates the prospects before us with rapture; he can not help wishing that all the brave men (of whatever condition they may be) who have shared in the toils and dangers of effecting this glorious revolution, of rescuing Millions from the hand of oppression, and of laying the foundation of a great Empire, might be impressed with a proper idea of the dignifyed part they have been called to act (under the Smiles of providence) on the stage of human affairs: for, happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this steubendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Indipendency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions. The glorius task for which we first fleu to Arms being thus accomplished, the liberties of our Country being fully acknowledged, and firmly secured by the smiles of heaven, on the purity of our cause, and the honest exertions of a feeble people (determined to be free) against a powerful Nation (disposed to oppress them) and the Character of those who have persevered, through every extremity of hardship; suffering and danger being immortalized by the illustrious appellation of the patriot Army: Nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty Scene to preserve a perfect, unvarying, consistency of character through the very last act; to close the Drama with applause; and to retire from the Military Theatre with the same approbation of Angells and men which have crowned all their former vertuous Actions."
- George Washington, General Orders April 18, 1783.
"Let it be remembered finally, that it has ever been the pride and boast of America, that the rights for which she contended, were the rights of human nature. By the blessing of the author of these rights, on the means exerted for their defence, they have prevailed against all opposition, and form at this time the basis of thirteen independent states. No instance has heretofore occurred, nor can any instance be expected hereafter to occur, in which the unadulterated forms of Republican government can pretend to so fair an opportunity of justifying themselves by their fruits. In this view the citizens of the United States are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society. If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude and all the other virtues qualities which ennoble the character of a nation, and fulfil the ends of government, be the fruits of our establishments, the cause of liberty will acquire a dignity and lustre which it has never yet enjoyed; and an example will be set which cannot fail to but have the most favourable influence on the rights of mankind. If on the other side, our governments should be unfortunately blotted with the reverse of these cardinal and essential qualities virtues, the great cause which we have engaged to vindicate will be dishonored and betrayed; the last and fairest experiment in favour of the rights of human nature will be turned against them, and their patrons and friends exposed to be insulted and silenced by the sycophants votaries of tyranny and usurpation."
- James Madison, Journals of the Continental Congress, Address to the States, by the United States Congress Assembled. April 26, 1783.
"...While I give you these assurances, (General Washington), and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner, to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favour, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained. Let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions which were published to you two days ago; and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man, who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our country; and who wickedly attempts to open the flood-gates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in blood...."
"...Resolved unanimously, That, at the commencement of the present war, the officers of the American army engaged in the service of their country from the purest love and attachment to the rights and liberties of human nature, which motives still exist in the highest degree; and that no circumstances of distress or danger shall induce a conduct that may tend to sully the reputation and glory which they have acquired, at the price of their blood and eight years' faithful services...."
- Journals of the Continental Congress, April 29, 1783.
"...All property, indeed, except the savage's temporary cabin, his bow, his match coat, and other little acquisitions absolutely necessary for his subsistence, seems to me the creature of public convention. Hence the public has the right of regulating descents and all other conveyances of property, and even of limiting the quantity and uses of it. All the property that is necessary to a man for the conservation of the individual and the propagation of the species is his natural right, which none can justly deprive him of; but all property superfluous to such purposes is the property of the public, who by their laws have created it, and who may, therefore, by other laws, dispose of it whenever the welfare of the public shall demand such disposition. He that does not like civil society on these terms, let him retire and live among savages. He can have no right to the benefits of society who will not pay his club towards the support of it...."
- Benjamin Franklin, Dec. 25, 1783 letter to Robert(?) Morris. [The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 6.]
The following, (circa 1783), was "DEDICATED TO HIS EXCELLENCY GENERAL WASHINGTON";
"...Thus I think I have fully shewn from the law of God, the law of nature, the custom of nations, the lawfulness of the use of defensive arms, in order to defend our rights, liberties civil and religious, when attacked by tyrants; at least I think it will convince all but such as are determined not to be convinced. Especially, I think it appears clear from scripture practices, reproofs, promises, precepts, and prayers, this truth has been proven; although I allow that other precious truths are more natively deduced, yet this great truth by unstrained and unconstrained consequence, may, and is also, clearly inferred."
- DEFENSIVE ARMS VINDICATED AND THE LAWFULNESS OF THE AMERICAN WAR MADE MANIFEST.
The Rights of the people in America are therefore irrefutably based upon the Laws of Nature. This precedent continued from the Confederated government, into the present Constitutional government. Witness;
"Mason--The Executive negatives both Brs of the Legislatr and each Br. has a negative on the other--and the Genl. Gov. have a neg. on the State Legislature--these regulations are necessary on the principles of self Defence--it is an instinctive principle in nature, and in a proper degree every being professes this power. If the State Legislatures are deprived of the Election of the 2d. or 1st Br. of the natil. Legislature the States are destitute of this principle of self protection--I wish them to continue & I shall not agree to deprive them of the power of a constitutional self Protection..."
- The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, [Farrand's Records, Volume 1] YATES. June 25th, 1787.
"The question is, not what rights naturally belong to man, but how they may be most equally and effectually guarded in society. And if some give up more than others, in order to obtain this end, there can be no room for complaint. To do otherwise, to require an equal concession from all, if it would create danger to the rights of some, would be sacrificing the end to the means. The rich man who enters into society along with the poor man gives up more than the poor man, yet, with an equal vote, he is equally safe. Were he to have more votes than the poor man, in proportion to his superior stake, the rights of the poor man would immediately cease to be secure. This consideration prevailed when the Articles of Confederation were formed..."
- Roger Sherman, June 28th, 1787, Delegate from Connecticut. [The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 5]
"...The power of self-defence was essential to the small states. Nature had given it to the smallest insect of the creation. He could never admit that there was no danger of combinations among the large states. They will, like individuals, find out and avail themselves of the advantage to be gained by it...."
- Oliver Ellsworth, June 29, 1787. [The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution. Elliot's Debates, Volume 5.]
"Taking the opinions to be the same on this point, and he was sure if there was any room for change, it could not be on the side of the majority, the question will be shall less than 1/4 of the U. States withdraw themselves from the Union; or shall more than 3/4 . renounce the inherent, indisputable, and unalienable rights of men, in favor of the artificial systems of States....Can we forget for whom we are forming a Government? Is it for men, or for the imaginary beings called States? Will our honest Constituents be satisfied with metaphysical distinctions?"
- James Wilson, The Debates in the Federal Convention, Sat. June 30, 1787.
"Mr. MADISON thought the regulation of the militia naturally appertaining to the authority charged with the public defence...."
- August 18. (1787), The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Vol. 5]
"...Your prediction of what would happen in Congress was exactly verified. It was with us, as with you, this or nothing; & this urged with a most extreme intemperance. The greatness of the powers given, & the multitude of Places to be created, produces a coalition of Monarchy men, Military Men, Aristocrats, and Drones whose noise, imprudence & zeal exceeds all belief---;Whilst the Commercial plunder of the South stimulates the rapacious Trader. In this state of things, the Patriot voice is raised in vain for such changes and securities as Reason and Experience prove to be necessary against the encroachments of power upon the indispensable rights of human nature...."
- Richard Henry Lee, Oct. 1, 1787 letter to George Mason. [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24.]
"...I suppose my dear Sir, that the good people of the U. States in their late generous contest, contended for free government in the fullest, clearest, and strongest sense. That they had no idea of being brought under despotic rule under the notion of "Strong government," or in form of elective despotism: Chains being still Chains, whether made of gold or iron."
"The corrupting nature of power, and its insatiable appetite for increase, hath proved the necessity, and procured the adoption of the strongest and most express declarations of that Residuum of natural rights, which is not intended to be given up to Society; and which indeed is not necessary to be given for any good social purpose. In a government therefore, when the power of judging what shall be for the general welfare, which goes to every object of human legislation; and where the laws of such Judges shall be the supreme Law of the Land: it seems to be of the last consequence to declare in most explicit terms the reservations above alluded to. So much for the propriety of a Bill of Rights as a necessary bottom to this new system--It is in vain to say that the defects in this new Constitution may be remedied by the Legislature created by it. The remedy, as it may, so it may not be applied--And if it should a subsequent Assembly may repeal the Acts of its predecessor for the parliamentary doctrine is "quod leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant" 4 Inst. 43. Surely this is not a ground upon which a wise and good man would choose to rest the dearest rights of human nature."
- Richard Henry Lee to Samuel Adams, Letter of 5 Oct. 1787. [The Letters of Richard Henry Lee. Edited by James Curtis Ballagh. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan Co., 1911--14.]
"It was absolutely necessary to carry arms for fear of pirates, &c. and ... their arms were all stamped with peace, that they were never to be used but in case of hostile attack, that it was in the law of nature for every man to defend himself, and unlawful for any man to deprive him of those weapons of self defence."
- Boston Independent Chronicle, Oct. 25, 1787.
"WHEN the people of America reflect that they are now called upon to decide a question, which, in its consequences, must prove one of the most important that ever engaged their attention, the propriety of their taking a very comprehensive, as well as a very serious, view of it, will be evident.
"Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government...."
- John Jay, The Federalist No. 2, Independent Journal, October 31, 1787. (President George Washington nominated Mr. Jay as the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court on September 24, 1789.)
"But it is not necessary, for this purpose, that individuals should relinquish all their natural rights. Some are of such a nature that they cannot be surrendered. Of this kind are the rights of conscience, the right of enjoying and defending life, &c. [S]o in forming a government on its true principles, the foundation should be laid in the manner I before stated, by expressly reserving to the people such of their essential rights, as are not necessary to be parted with."
- "Brutus", New York Journal, Nov. 1, 1787.
"Unless the people are considered in these two views, we shall never be able to understand the principle on which this system was constructed. I view the states as made for the people, as well as by them, and not the people as made for the states; the people, therefore, have a right, whilst enjoying the undeniable powers of society, to form either a general government, or state governments, in what manner they please, or to accommodate them to one another, and by this means preserve them all. This, I say, is the inherent and unalienable right of the people; and as an illustration of it, I beg to read a few words from the Declaration of Independence, made by the representatives of the United States, and recognized by the whole Union."
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
"This is the broad basis on which our independence was placed: on the same certain and solid foundation this system is erected...."
"...The power and business of the state legislatures relate to the great objects of life, liberty and property; the same are also objects of the general government."
"Certainly, the citizens of America will be as tenacious in the one instance as in the other. They will be interested, and I hope will exert themselves, to secure their rights not only from being injured by the state governments, but also from being injured by the general government...."
"...It is laid before the citizens of the United States, unfettered by restraint; it is laid before them to be judged by the natural, civil, and political rights of men. By their fiat, it will become of value and authority; without it, it will never receive the character of authenticity and power...."
"...I am sorry that it could be extended no farther; but so far as it operates, it presents us with the pleasing prospect that the rights of mankind will be acknowledged and established throughout, the Union...."
- James Wilson, Dec. 4, 1787. The debates in the Several State Conventions. [Elliot's Debates, Volume 2] (Mr. Wilson signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and later a Supreme Court Justice).
"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms of legal authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo. The smaller the extent of the territory, the more difficult will it be for the people to form a regular or systematic plan of opposition, and the more easy will it be to defeat their early efforts. Intelligence can be more speedily obtained of their preparations and movements, and the military force in the possession of the usurpers can be more rapidly directed against the part where the opposition has begun. In this situation there must be a peculiar coincidence of circumstances to insure success to the popular resistance."
- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #28, Dec. 26, 1787.
"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this even an era in their history."
- John Adams, "Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States", 1787.
“ . . . demonstrated the impracticability of forming a bill, (Amendments - Bill of Rights), in a national constitution, for securing individual rights, and showed the inutility of the measure, from the ideas, that no power was given to Congress to infringe on any one of the natural rights of the people by this Constitution; and, should they attempt it without constitutional authority, the act would be a nullity, and could not be enforced.”
- Theophilus Parsons, Jan., 1788. The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (MASSACHUSETTS), on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 2]
"Constitutions of civil government are not to be framed upon a calculation of existing exigencies, but upon a combination of these with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs. Nothing, therefore, can be more fallacious than to infer the extent of any power, proper to be lodged in the national government, from an estimate of its immediate necessities."
- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, Jan. 4, 1788.
"...Thus, Mr. President, an attention to the situation of England will shew that the conduct of that country in respect to bills of rights, cannot furnish an example to the inhabitants of the United States, who by the revolution have regained all their natural rights, and possess their liberty neither by grant nor contract. In short, Sir, I have said that a bill of rights would have been improperly annexed to the federal plan, and for this plain reason, that it would imply that whatever is not expressed was given, which is not the principle of the proposed constitution.""
- Samuel Tenny, ("Alfredus" Essay 1), Jan. 18, 1788, quoting "Speech of Mr. [James] Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention on the subject of a Bill of Rights". [Freeman’s Oracle, Exeter, 18 January 1788.]
"....The express authority of the people alone could give due validity to the Constitution....
"...The first question is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the transcendent law of nature and of nature's God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed. Perhaps, also, an answer may be found without searching beyond the principles of the compact itself...."
"...A compact between independent sovereigns, founded on ordinary acts of legislative authority, can pretend to no higher validity than a league or treaty between the parties. It is an established doctrine on the subject of treaties, that all the articles are mutually conditions of each other; that a breach of any one article is a breach of the whole treaty; and that a breach, committed by either of the parties, absolves the others, and authorizes them, if they please, to pronounce the compact violated and void...."
"It is one of those cases which must be left to provide for itself. In general, it may be observed, that although no political relation can subsist between the assenting and dissenting States, yet the moral relations will remain uncancelled. The claims of justice, both on one side and on the other, will be in force, and must be fulfilled; the rights of humanity must in all cases be duly and mutually respected; whilst considerations of a common interest, and, above all, the remembrance of the endearing scenes which are past, and the anticipation of a speedy triumph over the obstacles to reunion, will, it is hoped, not urge in vain moderation on one side, and prudence on the other."
- James Madison, The Federalist No. 43, Jan. 23, 1788.
"...The limits of a letter would not suffer me to go fully into an examination of them; nor would the discussion be entertaining or profitable, I therefore forbear to touch upon it. With regard to the two great points (the pivots upon which the whole machine must move,) my Creed is simply,
1st. That the general Government is not invested with more Powers than are indispensably necessary to perform the functions of a good Government; and, consequently, that no objection ought to be made against the quantity of Power delegated to it.
2ly. That these Powers (as the appointment of all Rulers will for ever arise from, and, at short stated intervals, recur to the free suffrage of the People) are so distributed among the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, into which the general Government is arranged, that it can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an Oligarchy, an Aristocracy, or any other despotic or oppressive form, so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the People.
I would not be understood my dear Marquis to speak of consequences which may be produced, in the revolution of ages, by corruption of morals, profligacy of manners, and listlessness for the preservation of the natural and unalienable rights of mankind; nor of the successful usurpations that may be established at such an unpropitious juncture, upon the ruins of liberty, however providently guarded and secured, as these are contingencies against which no human prudence can effectually provide. It will at least be a recommendation to the proposed Constitution that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of Tyranny, and those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any Government hitherto instituted among mortals, hath possessed. We are not to expect perfection in this world; but mankind, in modern times, have apparently made some progress in the science of government. Should that which is now offered to the People of America, be found on experiment less perfect than it can be made, a Constitutional door is left open for its amelioration...."
- George Washington, letter to Marquis De LaFayette, Feb. 7, 1788.
"...It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government. This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of every class of citizens, will be diminished: and consequently the stability and independence of some member of the government, the only other security, must be proportionately increased. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradnally induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful...."
- James Madison, The Federalist No. 51 Feb. 6, 1788.
“We have one, sir, that all men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into society, they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity. We have a set of maxims of the same spirit, which must be beloved by every friend to liberty, to virtue, to mankind: our bill of rights contains those admirable maxims."
- Patrick Henry, The Debates in the Several State (Virginia) Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3] Friday, June 6, 1788.
"The supporters of the Constitution claim the side of being firm friends of the liberty and the rights of mankind. They say that they consider it as the best means of protecting liberty. We, sir, idolize democracy. Those who oppose it have bestowed eulogiums on monarchy. We prefer this system to any monarchy, because we are convinced that it has a greater tendency to secure our liberty and promote our happiness. We admire it, because we think it a well-regulated democracy. It is recommended to the good people of this country: they are, through us, to declare whether it be such a plan of government as will establish and secure their freedom."
"Permit me to attend to what the honorable gentleman (Mr. Henry) has said. He has expatiated on the necessity of a due attention to certain maxims--to certain fundamental principles, from which a free people ought never to depart. I concur with him in the propriety of the observance of such maxims."
"...Look at the great volume of human nature. They will foretell you that a defenceless country cannot be secure. The nature of man forbids us to conclude that we are in no danger from war, The passions of men stimulate them to avail themselves of the weakness of others."
- John Marshall, June 10, 1788, The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (Virginia), on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution. [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3]. (Mr. Marshall joined the Culpeper Minutemen and was appointed as a lieutenant. He later attained the rank of captain. Mr. Marshall was also the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving from February 4, 1801 until his death).
Mr. Marshall later stated;
"Also, the conditions and circumstances of the period require a finding that while the stated purpose of the right to arms was to secure a well-regulated militia, the right to self-defense was assumed by the Framers."
- John Marshall, [As quoted in Nunn v. State, 1 Ga. 243, 251 (1846); State v. Dawson, 272 N.C. 535, 159 S.E.2d 1, 9 (1968).]
"How can that government be strong which depends on humble supplications for its support? Does a government which is dependent for its existence on others, and which is unable to afford protection to the people, deserve to be continued? But the honorable gentleman has no objections to see little storms in republics; they may be useful in the political as well as in the natural world. Every thing the great Creator has ordained in the natural world is founded on consummate wisdom: but let him tell us what advantages convulsions, dissensions, and bloodshed, will produce in the political world. Can disunion be the means of securing the happiness of the people in this political hemisphere? The worthy member has enlarged on our bill of rights."
"Let us see whether his encomiums on the bill of rights be consistent with his other arguments. Our declaration of rights says that all men are by nature equally free and independent. How comes the gentleman to reconcile himself to a government wherein there are an hereditary monarch and nobility? He objects to this change, although our present federal system is totally without energy. He objects to this system, because he says it will prostrate your bill of rights. Does not the bill of rights tell you that a majority of the community have an indubitable right to alter any government which shall be found inadequate to the security of the public happiness? Does it not say "that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles"? Have not the inadequacy of the present system, and repeated flagrant violations of justice, and the other principles recommended by the bill of rights, been amply proved? As this plan of government will promote our happiness and establish justice, will not its adoption be justified by the very principles of your bill of rights?"
- George Nicholas, June 10, 1788, The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (Virginia), on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution. [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3].
"If the clause stands as it is now, it will take from the state legislatures what divine Providence has given to every individual--the means of self-defence. Unless it be moderated in some degree, it will ruin us, and introduce a standing army."
- George Mason, The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (Virginia), June 14, 1788
"It will be a desirable thing to extinguish from the bosom of EVERY MEMBER of the community, ANY apprehensions that there are those among his countrymen who wish to DEPRIVE them of the LIBERTY for which they VALIANTLY FOUGHT and
HONORABLY BLED. And if there are Amendments desired of such a nature as will NOT INJURE the Constitution, and they can be ingrafted so as to give satisfaction to the DOUBTING part of OUR FELLOW-CITIZENS, the friends of the Federal Government will evince that SPIRIT of deference and concession for which they have hitherto been distinguished....We ought NOT TO DISREGARD their inclination, but, on PRINCIPLES of amity and moderation, CONFORM to their wishes, and expressly DECLARE THE GREAT RIGHTS OF MANKIND SECURED under this CONSTITUTION."
- James Madison, Debates on the Bill of Rights, House of Representatives, June 8th, 1789.
In view of the evidence above, it is then made quite clear that the Right of the People to keep and Bear Arms is beyond contention. And that this right is an individual God-given, Natural and Inherent Right that is Unalienable. The right was supposed to receive the protection, rather than regulation or interference, from the government. For there had long been fears expressed, quite validly as it turns out, that government could and would become tyrannical:
"In short some Individauls from too much Zeal not tempered Sufficiently with wisdom and foresight, from apprehensions too lively and Judgements a little defective, from a busy Enterprising Disposition not quite enough Controll'd by caution and Circumspection or from some other defect of Capacity very frequently gave too much importance to trifling objects (15) and generally Suggested and urged the Exercise of acts of mere arbitrary power as remedies on every Occasion. Of late this Disposition was become more extensive, and appeared more frequently, and whoever spoke of the Internal Police or rights of the States as restraining the power of Congress was generally exposed to Sarcasm or ridicule. State Necessity was urged on all Such Occasions as Sufficient to Justify every act of power. I who am firmly persuaded that arbitrary Power has a Natural tendency to abuse, and am therefore Jealous of it in any Hands, who have marked the force and progress of precedents and have observed that those which have happened under the direction of Virtuous men have given Authority to Corrupt men to Violate the rights of mankind have always Considered this propensity as dangerous so far as it tended to Establish Precedents of such acts of Power exercised by Congress as are repugnant to or Inconsistent with the purposes of its Institution and the rights of the States."
- Thomas Burke, Letter to the North Carolina Assembly, April 29, 1778,
"The great object is, that every man be armed. But can the people afford to pay for double sets of arms, &c.? Every one Who is able may have a gun. But we have learned, by experience, that, necessary as it is to have arms, and though our Assembly has, by a succession of laws for many years, endeavored to have the militia completely armed, it is still far from being the case. When this power is given up to Congress without. limitation or bounds, how will your militia be afraid? You trust to chance; for sure I am that that nation which shall trust its liberties in other hands cannot long exist. If gentlemen are serious when they suppose a concurrent power, where can be the impolicy to amend it? Or, in other words, to say that Congress shall not arm or discipline them, till the states Shall have refused or neglected to do it? This is my object. I only wish to bring it to what they themselves say is implied. Implication is to be the foundation of our civil liberties; and when you speak of arming the militia by a concurrence of power, you use implication. But implication will not save you, when a strong army of veterans comes upon you. You would be laughed at by the whole world, for trusting your safety implicitly to implication.
"The argument of my honorable friend was, that rulers might tyrannize. The answer he received was, that they will not. In saying that they would not, he admitted they might. In this great, this essential part of the Constitution, if you are safe, it is not from the Constitution, but from the virtues of the men in government. If gentlemen are willing to trust themselves and posterity to so slender and improbable a chance, they have greater strength of nerves than I have."
- Patrick Henry, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Virginia, June 14, 1788. [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3]
"I incline to think that unless some such alterations & provisions as these are interposed for the security of Those Essential Rights of Mankind Without Which Liberty Cannot Exist, we shall soon find that the New plan of Government will be far more inconvenient than anything sustained under the present Government."
- Richard Henry Lee to Elbridge Gerry, (Concerning the Bill of Rights), 9/29/1787. [American Memory, Library of Congress, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875 Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24, Page 452]
"A bill of rights is only an acknowledgment of the preëxisting claim to rights in the people. They belong to us as much as if they had been inserted in the Constitution...."
- George Nicholas
"...Mr. GEORGE MASON still thought that there ought to be some express declaration in the Constitution, asserting that rights not given to the general government were retained by the states. He apprehended that, unless this was done, many valuable and important rights would be concluded to be given up by implication. All governments were drawn from the people, though many were perverted to their oppression. The government of Virginia, he remarked, was drawn from the people; yet there were certain great and important rights, which the people, by their bill of rights, declared to be paramount to the power of the legislature. He asked, Why should it not be so in this Constitution? Was it because we were more substantially represented in it than in the state government? If, in the state government, where the people were substantially and fully represented, it was necessary that the great rights of human nature should be secure from the encroachments of the legislature, he asked if it was not more necessary in this government, where they were but inadequately represented? He declared that artful sophistry and evasions could not satisfy him. He could see no clear distinction between rights relinquished by a positive grant, and lost by implication. Unless there were a bill of rights, implication might swallow up all our rights."
- George Mason, June 16, 1788, The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (Virginia), on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution. [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3].
"I still think that a bill of rights is necessary. This necessity arises from the nature of human societies. When individuals enter into society, they give up some rights to secure the rest. There are certain human rights that ought not to be given up, and which ought in some manner to be secured. With respect to these great essential rights, no latitude ought to be left. They are the most inestimable gifts of the great Creator, and therefore ought not to be destroyed, but ought to be secured.
Samuel Spencer, July 29, 1788. [Debates in the Convention of the State of NO. Carolina, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution. Library of Congress.]
"...Self defence is a primary law of nature, which no subsequent law of society can abolish; this primæval principle, the immediate gift of the Creator, obliges every one to remonstrate against the strides of ambition, and a wanton lust of domination, and to resist the first approaches of tyranny, which at this day threaten to sweep away the rights for which the brave sons of America have fought with an heroism scarcely paralleled even in ancient republicks...."
- Elbridge Gerry, Observations On the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions. By a Columbian Patriot. Sic transit gloria Americana. [Boston: 1788.]
"...Had the convention entered on the work, they must have comprehended within it everything, which the citizens of the United States claim as a natural or a civil right. An omission of a single article would have caused more discontent, than is either felt or pretended, on the present occasion. A multitude of articles might be the source of infinite controversy, by clashing with the powers intended to be given. To be full and certain, a bill of rights might have cost the convention more time, than was expended on their other work. The very appearance of it might raise more clamour than its omission,--I mean from those who study pretexts for condemning the whole fabric of the constitution.--"What! (might they say) did these exalted spirits imagine, that the natural rights of mankind depend on their gracious concession. If indeed they possessed that tyrannic sway, which, the kings of England had once usurped, we might humbly thank them for their magna charta, defective as it is. As that is not the case, we will not suffer it to be understood, that their new-fangled federal head shall domineer with the powers not excepted by their precious bill of rights. What! if the owner of 1,000 acres of land thinks proper to fell one half, is it necessary to take a release from the vendee of the other half? Just as necessary is it for the people to have a grant of their natural rights from a government which derives everything it has, from the grant of the people.""
"The restraints laid on the state legislatures will tend to secure domestic tranquility, more than all the bills, or declarations, of rights, which human policy could devise. It is very justly asserted, that the plan contains an avowal of many rights. It provides that no man, shall suffer by expost facto laws or bills of attainder. It declares, that gold and silver only shall be a tender for specie debts; and that no law shall impair the obligation of a contract."
- Alexander Contee Hanson, 1788, "Aristides, Remarks on the Proposed Plan of a Federal Government" [Ford, Paul Leicester, ed. Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, Published during Its Discussion by the People, 1787--1788.]
" That it is a rule of natural, as well as municipal law, that in questions de damno evitando melior est conditio possidentis. If this maxim be just, where each party is equally innocent, how much more so, where the loss has been produced by the act of the creditor? For a nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society...."
- U.S. Supreme Court, Hoare v. Allen 2 U.S. 102 (Dall.) April Term, 1789.
"It is a fortunate thing that the objection to the Government has been made on the ground I stated; because it will be practicable, on that ground, to obviate the objection, so far as to satisfy the public mind that their liberties will be perpetual, and this without endangering any part of the Constitution, which is considered as essential to the existence of the Government by those who promoted its adoption...."
"In some instances they assert those rights which are exercised by the people in forming and establishing a plan of Government. In other instances, they specify those rights which are retained when particular powers are given up to be exercised by the Legislature. In other instances, they specify positive rights, which may seem to result from the nature of the compact. Trial by jury cannot be considered as a natural right, but a right resulting from a social compact which regulates the action of the community, but is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature."
- James Madison, June 8, 1789 House of Representatives, Amendments to the Constitution 8 June
"...If their ideas should succeed, a principle of mortality will be infused into a government which the lovers of mankind have wished might last to the end of the world. With a mixture of the executive and legislative powers in one body, no government can long remain uncorrupt. With a corrupt executive, liberty may long retain a trembling existence. With a corrupt legislature, it is impossible: the vitals of the Constitution would be mortified, and death must follow in every step. A government thus formed would be the most formidable curse that could befall this country. Perhaps an enlightened people might timely foresee and correct the error; but if a season was allowed for such a compound to grow and produce its natural fruit, it would either banish liberty, or the people would he driven to exercise their unalienable right, the right of uncivilized nature, and destroy a monster whose voracious and capacious jaws could crush and swallow up themselves and their posterity.
- Fisher Ames, House of Representatives, June 16, 1789.The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 4]
"Let these truths sink deep into our hearts: that the people are the masters of their rulers and that rulers are the servants of the people ― that men cannot give to themselves what they own from nature ― that a free government is no more than a few plain directions to a number of servants, how to take care of a part of their master's property ― and that a master reserves to himself the exclusive care of all that property, and of every thing else which he has not committed to the care of those servants."
- "One of the People", Federal Gazette (PHILADELPHIA), July 2, 1789.
"...What is true of every member of the society individually, is true of them all collectively, since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of individuals...."
"...No. They have the same rights over the soil on which they were produced, as the preceding generations had. They derive these rights not from their predecessors, but from nature...."
"...but that between society and society, or generation and generation there is no municipal obligation, no umpire but the law of nature. We seem not to have perceived that, by the law of nature, one generation is to another as one independant nation to another...."
- Thomas Jefferson, Sept. 6, 1789 letter to James Madison, [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]
The authors, of three of the last above listed quotes, played a major role in convincing Mr. James Madison, (the main author of the Bill of Rights), that their fears were valid. Which is what lead to our Bill of Rights. The contention, that the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is an individual one. And, that it was supposed to be placed beyond the reach of ANY government interference, is proven in the Preamble to the Bill of Rights itself;
The Conventions of a number of the States having, at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, and as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;
Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States; all or any of which articles, when ratified by three-fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the said Constitution, namely:
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.
"The Constitution, in the present case, is the great law of the people, who are themselves the sovereign legislature; and the preamble is in these words--
"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,
establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence,
promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and
our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for
the United States of America."
"These are the great objects for which the Constitution was established; and in administering it, we should always keep them in view. And here it is remarkable, that, although common defence and general welfare are held up, in the preamble, amongst the primary objects of attention, they are again mentioned in the 8th section of the 1st article, whereby we are enjoined, in laying taxes, duties, &c., particularly to regard the common defence and general welfare. Indeed, common sense dictates the measure; for the security of our property, families, and liberties--of every thing dear to us--depends on our ability to defend them. The means, therefore, for attaining this object, we ought not to omit a year, a month, or even a day, if we could avoid it; and we are never provided for defence unless prepared for sudden emergencies."
- Elbridge Gerry, House of Representatives, February 7, 1791, [Elliot's Debates, Vol. 4]
"But however great the variety and inequality of men may be with regard to virtue, talents, taste, and acquirements; there is still one aspect, in which all men in society, previous to civil government, are equal. With regard to all, there is an equality in rights and in obligations; there is that "jus aequum," that equal law, in which the Romans placed true freedom. The natural rights and duties of man belong equally to all. Each forms a part of that great system, whose greatest interest and happiness are intended by all the laws of God and nature. These laws prohibit the wisest and the most powerful from inflicting misery on the meanest and most ignorant; and from depriving them of their rights or just acquisitions. By these laws, rights, natural or acquired, are confirmed, in the same manner, to all; to the weak and artless, their small acquisitions, as well as to the strong and artful, their large ones. If much labour employed entitles the active to great possessions, the indolent have a right, equally sacred, to the little possessions, which they occupy and improve."
- James Wilson, 1791, "Lectures on Law". [The Works of James Wilson. Edited by Robert Green McCloskey. 2 vols. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.]
"The defence of one’s self, justly called the primary law of nature, is not, nor can it be abrogated by any regulation of municipal law. This principle of defence is not confined merely to the person; it extends to the liberty and the property of a man: it is not confined merely to his own person; it extends to the persons of all those, to whom he bears a peculiar relation -- of his wife, of his parent, of his child, of his master, of his servant: nay, it extends to the person of every one, who is in danger; perhaps, to the liberty of every one, whose liberty is unjustly and forcibly attacked. It becomes humanity as well as justice."
- James Wilson, 'Of the Natural Rights of Individuals', 1790-1792, (Signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, Congressman, Delegate to the Constitutional Convention and Supreme Court Justice).
"But our right is built on ground still broader, more unquestionable, to wit,
"3. On the law of Nature & Nations.
"If we appeal to this, as we feel it written in the heart of man, what sentiment is written in deeper characters, than that the Ocean is free to all men, & the Rivers to all their inhabitants? Is there a man, savage or civilized, unbiassed by habit, who does not feel & attest this truth? Accordingly, in all tracts of country united under the same political society, we find this natural right universally acknoleged & protected by laying the navigable rivers open to all their inhabitants. When their rivers enter the limits of another society, if the right of the upper inhabitants to descend the stream is in any case obstructed, it is an act of force by a stronger society against a weaker, condemned by the judgment of mankind...."
"...It is a principle that the right to a thing gives a right to the means without which it could not be used, that is to say, that the means follow their end. . . . This principle is rounded in natural reasons, is evidenced by the common sense of mankind..."
- Thomas Jefferson, March 18, 1792 [Official] letter to George Washington. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]
"...The Law of nations, by which this question is to be determined, is composed of three branches,
1. The Moral law of our nature.
2. The Usages of nations.
3. Their special Conventions.
"The first of these only, concerns this question, that is to say the Moral law to which Man has been subjected by his creator, & of which his feelings, or Conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his creator has furnished him. The Moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature, accompany them into a state of society & the aggregate of the duties of all the individuals composing the society constitutes the duties of that society towards any other; so that between society & society the same moral duties exist as did between the individuals composing them while in an unassociated state, their maker not having released them from those duties on their forming themselves into a nation. Compacts then between nation & nation are obligatory on them by the same moral law which obliges individuals to observe their compacts. There are circumstances however which sometimes excuse the non-performance of contracts between man & man: so are there also between nation & nation. When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non-performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes self-destructive to the party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligation to others. For the reality of these principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head & heart of every rational & honest man. It is there Nature has written her moral laws, & where every man may read them for himself. He will never read there the permission to annul his obligations for a time, or for ever, whenever they become "dangerous, useless, or disagreeable." Certainly not when merely useless or disagreeable, as seems to be said in an authority which has been quoted, Vattel, 2. 197, and tho he may under certain degrees of danger, yet the danger must be imminent, & the degree great. Of these, it is true, that nations are to be judges for themselves, since no one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another. But the tribunal of our consciences remains, & that also of the opinion of the world. These will revise the sentence we pass in our own case, & as we respect these, we must see that in judging ourselves we have honestly done the part of impartial & vigorous judges...."
- Thomas Jefferson, April 28, 1793 letter to George Washington. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]
"...You think, Sir, that this opinion is also contrary to the law of nature and usage of nations. We are of opinion it is dictated by that Law and usage; and this had been very maturely inquired into before it was adopted as a principle of conduct. But we will not assume the exclusive right of saying what that law and usage is. Let us appeal to enlightened and disinterested Judges...."
"...For by nature's law, man is at peace with man, till some aggression is committed, which, by the same law, authorizes one to destroy another as his enemy...."
- Thomas Jefferson, June 17, 1793 letter to Edmond C. Genet. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]
Gentlemen,--The war which has taken place among the powers of Europe produces frequent transactions within our ports and limits, on which questions arise of considerable difficulty, & of greater importance to the peace of the U. S. These questions depend for their solution on the construction of our treaties, on the laws of nature & nations, & on the laws of the land; and are often presented under circumstances which do not give a cognizance of them to the tribunals of the country. Yet their decision is so little analogous to the ordinary functions of the Executive, as to occasion much embarrassment & difficulty to them. The President would therefore be much relieved if he found himself free to refer questions of this description to the opinions of the Judges of the Supreme court of the U. S. whose knolege of the subject would secure us against errors dangerous to the peace of the U. S. and their authority ensure the respect of all parties. He has therefore asked the attendance of such of the judges as could be collected in time for the occasion, to know, in the first place, their opinion, Whether the public may, with propriety, be availed of their advice on these questions? and if they may, to present, for their advice, the abstract questions which have already occurred, or may soon occur, from which they will themselves strike out such as any circumstances might, in their opinion, forbid them to pronounce on. I have the honor, &c...."
- Thomas Jefferson, to John Jay and Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, Philadelphia, July 18, 1793.
"One great advantage of the Christian religion is that it brings the great principle of the law of nature and nations--Love your neighbor as yourself, and do to others as you would that others should do to you,--to the knowledge, belief, and veneration of the whole people. Children, servants, women, and men, are all professors in the science of public and private morality. No other institution for education, no kind of political discipline, could diffuse this kind of necessary information, so universally among all ranks and descriptions of citizens. The duties and rights of the man and the citizen are thus taught from early infancy to every creature. The sanctions of a future life are thus added to the observance of civil and political, as well as domestic and private duties. Prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, are thus taught to be the means and conditions of future as well as present happiness."
- John Adams, Dairy entry dated August 14, 1796. [John Adams diary 46, various loose folded sheets, 6 August 1787 - 10 September 1796 (with gaps), 2 July - 21 August 1804. Adams Family Papers on The Massachusetts Historical Society website.]
"THE Commander in Chief takes the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of his Fellow Citizens to the Military security of the Commonwealth. The Militia, the natural defence of all free States, is our best hope on every occasion of sudden or unexpected danger--that of Massachusetts, whether in the field of Hostility, or on the domestic Parade, has ever been distinguished for its good Order, Subordination and Discipline; without these essential qualifications, all its efforts would have been feeble, and all its strength but a shadow: But so long as they shall be recognized as habitual traits in the Military Character of our Citizens, the power of the State will be respected, and appear formidable in the eyes of military Men.
"Self-defence is the first law of nature, and applies to nations as well as individuals; and to provide for that defence is the duty of every nation, even when in the most profound Peace..."
- William Donnison, Adjutant general, General orders. Head-quarters, Boston, June 13th, 1797.
"These are solemn but painful truths; and yet we recommend it to you not to forget the possibility of danger from without, although danger threatens us from within. Usurpation is indeed dreadful; but against foreign invasion, if that should happen, let us rise with hearts and hands united, and repel the attack with the zeal of freemen who will strengthen their title to examine and correct domestic measures, by having defended their country against foreign aggression.
"Pledged as we are, fellow-citizens, to these sacred engagements, we yet humbly, fervently implore the Almighty Disposer of events to avert from our land war and usurpation, the scourges of mankind; to permit our fields to be cultivated in peace; to instil into nations the love of friendly intercourse; to suffer our youth to be educated in virtue, and to preserve our morality from the pollution invariably incident to habits of war; to prevent the laborer and husbandman from being harassed by taxes and imposts; to remove from ambition the means of disturbing the commonwealth; to annihilate all pretexts for power afforded by war; to maintain the Constitution; and to bless our nation with tranquillity, under whose benign influence we may reach the summit of happiness and glory, to which we are destined by nature and nature's God.
- Attest, JOHN STEWART, C. H. D. 1799, January 23d. Agreed to by the Senate. H. BROOKE, C.S., Address to The People.
"It is a rule of law that, in order to ascertain the import of a contract, the evident intention of the parties, at the time of forming it, is principally to be regarded. Previous to the formation of this Constitution, there existed certain principles of the law of nature and nations, consecrated by time and experience, in conformity to which the Constitution was formed."
- Mr. Elliot, Debate in U.S. House of Representatives, Oct. 25, 1803. (The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution), [Elliot's Debates, Volume 4]
"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government...."
"....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. Whenever 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, United States District Court Judge, Blackstone's Commentaries, (1803).
“The law of nature is immutable; not by the effect of an arbitrary disposition, but because it has its foundation in the nature, constitution, and mutual relations of men and things. While these continue to be the same, it must continue to be the same also. This immutability of nature's laws has nothing in it repugnant to the supreme power of an all-perfect Being. Since he himself is the author of our constitution; he cannot but command or forbid such things as are necessarily agreeable or disagreeable to this very constitution. He is under the glorious necessity of not contradicting himself. This necessity, far from limiting or diminishing his perfections, adds to their external character, and points out their excellency.
“The law of nature is universal. For it is true, not only that all men are equally subject to the command of their Maker; but it is true also, that the law of nature, having its foundation in the constitution and state of man, has an essential fitness for all mankind, and binds them without distinction.
“This law, or right reason, as Cicero calls it, is thus beautifully described by that eloquent philosopher. "It is, indeed," says he, "a true law, conformable to nature, diffused among all men, unchangeable, eternal. By its commands, it calls men to their duty: by its prohibitions, it deters them from vice. To diminish, to alter, much more to abolish this law, is a vain attempt. Neither by the senate, nor by the people, can its powerful obligation be dissolved. It requires no interpreter or commentator. It is not one law at Rome, another at Athens; one law now, another hereafter: it is the same eternal and immutable law, given at all times and to all nations: for God, who is its author and promulgator, is always the sole master and sovereign of mankind."
- James Wilson, [The Works of the Honourable James Wilson, L.L.D.; Chap. III Of the Law of Nature] (1804). Mr. Wilson signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. In addition, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
"I think there does not exist a good elementary work on the organization of society into civil government; I mean a work which presents in one full and comprehensive view the system of principles on which such an organization should be founded, according to the rights of nature. For want of a single work of that character, I should recommend Locke on Government, Sidney, Priestley's Essay on the First Principles of Government, Chipman's Principles of Government, and the Federalist; adding, perhaps, Beccaria on Crimes and Punishments, because of the demonstrative manner in which he has treated that branch of the subject."
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Norvell. [Washington ed. v, 90. Ford ed., ix, 71. < W. 1807 >. The Modern English Collection at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center.]
"Spain, under all her disadvantages, physical and mental, is an encouraging example of the impossibility of subduing a people acting with an undivided will. She proves, too, another truth not less valuable, that a people having no king to sell them for a mess of pottage for himself, no shackles to restrain their powers of self-defence, find resources within themselves equal to every trial. This we did during the Revolutionary war, and this we can do again, let who will attack us, if we act heartily with one another. This is my creed. To the principles of union I sacrifice all minor differences of opinion. These, like differences of face, are a law of our nature, and should be viewed with the same tolerance."
- Thomas Jefferson, July, 1811 letter to William Duane. [Washington ed. v, 603. The Modern English Collection at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center.]
"...It is well worthy of publication for the instruction of our citizens, being profound, sound, and short. Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him; every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him; and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right. The trial of every law by one of these texts, would lessen much the labors of our legislators, and lighten equally our municipal codes...."
- Thomas Jefferson, June 7, 1816 Letter to Francis W. Gilmer. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]
"...In this progress, which the rights of nature demand, and nothing can prevent, marking a growth rapid and gigantic, it is our duty to make new efforts for the preservation, improvement, and civilization of the native inhabitants. The hunter state can exist only in the vast uncultivated desert. It yields to the more dense and compact form, and greater force, of civilized population; and of right it ought to yield, for the earth was given to mankind to support the greatest number of which it is capable, and no tribe or people have a right to withhold from the wants of others more than is necessary for their own support and comfort...."
"...A difference of opinion has existed from the first formation of our constitution, to the present time, among our most enlightened and virtuous citizens, respecting the right of Congress to establish such a system of improvement. Taking into view the trust with which I am now honored, it would be improper, after what has passed, that this discussion should be revived, with an uncertainty of my opinion respecting the right. Disregarding early impressions, I have bestowed on the subject all the deliberation which its great importance, and a just sense of my duty required, and the result is, a settled conviction in my mind, that Congress do not possess the right. It is not contained in any of the specified powers granted to Congress; nor can I consider it incidental to, or a necessary mean, viewed on the most liberal scale, for carrying into effect any of the powers which are specifically granted. In communicating this result, I cannot resist the obligation which I feel, to suggest to Congress the propriety of recommending to the states the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution, which shall give to Congress the right in question. In cases of doubtful construction, especially of such vital interest, it comports with the nature and origin of our institutions, and will contribute much to preserve them, to apply to our constituents for an explicit grant of the power...."
-President James Monroe, Dec. 2, 1817 message to U.S. House and Senate. [Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1873.]
"...It is prohibited by the laws of nature, which are equally binding on governments and individuals. The right to introduce and establish slavery in a free government does not exist."
"The Declaration of Independence declares, as self-evident truths, "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."
"The constitution of the United States, and of the several states, have recognized these principles as the basis of their governments: and have expressly inhibited the introduction or extension of slavery, or impliedly disavowed the right."
"...Nor can a community made up of masters and slaves ever enjoy the blessings of liberty, and the benefits of a free government: these enjoyments are reserved for a community of freemen, who are subject to none, but to God and the laws...."
- Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Dec. 9, 1820.
"On the part of the defendants, it was insisted, that the uniform understanding and practice of European nations, and the settled law, as laid down by the tribunals of civilized states, denied the right of the Indians to be considered as independent communities, having a permanent property in the soil, capable of alienation to private individuals. They remain in a state of nature, and have never been admitted into the general society of nations.f..."
"...By the law of nature, they had not acquired a fixed property capable of being transferred. The measure of property acquired by occupancy is determined, according to the law of nature, by the extent of men's wants, and their capacity of using it to supply them.l It is a violation of the rights of others to exclude them from the use of what we do not want, and they have an occasion for. Upon this principle the North American Indians could have acquired no proprietary interest in the vast tracts [Page 21 U.S. 543, 570] of territory which they wandered over; and their right to the lands on which they hunted, could not be considered as superior to that which is acquired to the sea by fishing in it."
- U.S. Supreme Court, [JOHNSON v. M'INTOSH, 21 U.S. 543 (Wheat.), March 10, 1823]
"We appealed to those of nature, and found them engraved on our hearts. Yet we did not avail ourselves of all the advantages of our position. We had never been permitted to exercise self-government. When forced to assume it, we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had entered little into our former education. We established however some, although not all its important principles. The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press."
- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Major John Cartwright, June 5, 1824. [The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.]
"What is this 'obligation of contracts,' which is prohibited from being impaired by any act of State legislation? We answer, it is the civil obligation, the binding efficacy, the coercive power, the legal duty of performing the contract. The constitution meant to preserve the inviolability of contracts, as secured by those eternal principles of equity and justice which run throughout every civilized code, which form a part of the law of nature and nations, and by which human society, in all countries and all ages, has been regulated and upheld."
- U.S. Supreme Court, OGDEN v. SAUNDERS, 25 U.S. 213 (1827). 25 U.S. 213 (Wheat.). Feb. 19, 1827.
"The right of self-defense in these cases is founded in the law of nature, and is not, and cannot be superceded by the law of society. In those instances, says Sir Michael Foster, the law, with great propriety, and in strict justice, considers the individual to be under the protection of the law of nature."
- James Kent, 1763–1847, [Commentaries on American Law - Vol. II, Lect. XXIV, Of the Absolute Rights of Persons, (1826-30)]. Chief Judge N.Y. Supreme Court, First Professor of Law at Columbia College.
"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in General Assembly met, That the constitution of the United States is not a treaty or compact between sovereign States, but a form of government emanating from, and established by, the authority of the people of the United States of America...."
"...Resolved, That, in cases of gross and intolerable oppression, which, in a Government like that of the United States can be little else than a hypothesis, the natural right of self-defence remains; but which must, in the nature of things, be an appeal to arms, and subject to all the consequences of resistance to the constituted authorities. In such a case, the measure is revolutionary, and the result remains in the hands of the A. Almighty.
"Resolved, That the Convention of South Carolina can have no other or greater right to annul or resist the laws of Congress, than any assemblage of an equal number of individuals in any part of the United States; nor can any assemblage, however large, have any other or greater right for such a purpose, than belongs to each individual citizen, considered as a constitutional measure...."
- Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Feb. 4, 1833.
"The next amendment is: '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.'"
"The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence 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. 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, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, p. 3:746-7, 1833.
"Self-preservation, the first law of our nature, should not be forgotten in the support of a man hostile to our peculiar institutions; and whose inevitable fall, in the approaching election, will bury beneath its ruins the hopes of the Republican party."
- "XIMENES", MR. CALHOUN--MR. VAN BUREN--TEXAS. [1839?]. [The Library of Congress - American Memory - An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera]
"..."Resolved, That we have a right to expect the General Government will extend to this member of the Union, by negotiation or by arms, the protection of her territorial rights, guarantied by the federal compact, and thus save her from the necessity of failing back upon her natural and reserved rights of self defence and self-protection--rights which constitutions can neither give nor take away...."
- State of Maine, April 10&15, 1840 Resolutions sent to U.S. Congress. [Journal of the Senate of the United States of America.]
"Self-protection is the first law of Nature--life first; property next. Nearly all the conveniences of life depend on property...."
"...Now, we say, we demand only justice, and that we will have. The First Municipality requires our title deeds; we point to the map, and to the great God of Nature."
- Jacob Barker, Political candidate for Congress from New Orleans in a Speech at Lafayette. [1848?]. [The Library of Congress - American Memory - An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera]
"Nations, like individuals in a state of nature, are equal and independent, possessing certain rights, and owing certain duties to each other, arising from their necessary and unavoidable relations; which rights and duties there is no common human authority to protect and enforce. Still, they are rights and duties, binding in morals, in conscience, and in honor, although there is no tribunal to which an injured party can appeal but the disinterested judgment of mankind, and ultimately the arbitrament of the sword."
"Among the acknowledged rights of nations is that which each possesses of establishing that form of government which it may deem most conducive to the happiness and prosperity of its own citizens; of changing that form as circumstances may require; and of managing its internal affairs according to its own will. The people of the United States claim this right for themselves, and they readily concede it to others. Hence it becomes an imperative duty not to interfere in the government or internal policy of other nations; and, although we may sympathize with the unfortunate or the oppressed everywhere in their struggles for freedom, our principles forbid us from taking any part in such foreign contests. We make no wars to promote or to prevent successions to thrones; to maintain any theory of a balance of power; or to suppress the actual government which any country chooses to establish for itself. We instigate no revolutions, nor suffer any hostile military expeditions to be fitted out in the United States to invade the territory or provinces of a friendly nation. The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act towards other nations as we wish them to act towards us; and justice and conscience should form the rule of conduct between governments, instead of mere power, self-interest, or the desire of aggrandizement. To maintain a strict neutrality in foreign wars, to cultivate friendly relations, to reciprocate every noble and generous act, and to perform punctually and scrupulously every treaty obligation--these are the duties which we owe to other states, and by the performance of which we best entitle ourselves to like treatment from them; or if that, in any case, be refused, we can enforce our own rights with justice and a clear conscience."
"...I am happy in being able to say that no unfavorable change in our foreign relations has taken place since the message at the opening of the last session of Congress. We are at peace with all nations, and we enjoy in an eminent degree the blessings of that peace in a prosperous and growing commerce, and in all the forms of amicable national intercourse. The unexampled growth of the country, the present amount of its population, and its ample means of self protection, assure for it the respect of all nations, while it is trusted that its character for justice, and a regard to the rights of other states, will cause that respect to be readily and cheerfully paid."
- President Millard Fillmore, Washington, December 2, 1850. [Journal of the Senate of the United States of America.]
"The argument is, that this construction of the act (p.501)deprives the defendant of the natural right of self-defence, and such could not have been the meaning of the Legislature...."
- Justice Caruthers, delivered the opinion of the court Sept., 1857 in Day v. State, 37 Tenn. (5 Sneed) 495 (1857). [Concerning a state law which declares in part; "any person shall maliciously draw, or attempt to draw, any (p.500)bowie-knife, Arkansas tooth-pick, or any knife or weapon that shall in form, shape, or size resemble a bowie or Arkansas tooth-pick, from under his clothes, or any place of concealment about his person, for the purpose of sticking, cutting, awing, or intimidating any other person..."]
“Self-preservation is the first instinct of nature, and therefore any state of society in which the sword is all the time suspended over the heads of the people must at last become intolerable.”
- President James Buchanan, Washington City, December 19, 1859. [Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, TUESDAY, December 27, 1859.]
Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois.
Daniel F. Coffey to John G. Nicolay, Sunday, February 08, 1863 (Fear of revolution in Illinois)
Griggsville Ill February 8th 1863
Friend Nichally Sir
it has now Become a Settled fact that we are to have a Blooddy Revolution in old pike & through the central & Southern portions of the State, unless prompt measures are adopted to prevent the Same, our own County as you are aware have turned out allmost to a man Such as would be accepted by the Government to fight its Battles & Sustain its Laws, I mean the union portion, the disloyal are at Home and out number us two to one and have been largely ReEnforced by Sevearl Hundred from Missouri Bushwhackers & Bridge Burners that ware Driven from that State & took Refuge here they together with the coperhead Democrats have many Lodges of the K. G. C.s1 with a membership of over 2000, well armed and have Resolved to resist the Government, disarm Union men & Claim the right to appropriate the property of Union men, and are now discussing in their secrit meeting the pallicy of Rising in mass at an Early day, Say (Feb 22d) all of the above facts can be fully proven to you or in a court of Justice; We are organizing and arming our old men & Boys & Such as are not in the army and are determined to resist them to the death this of course is without authority of Law other than the Law of Nature, as thare is no law of the State to meet the amergency & we have nothing to Hope from our Ledgislature; now Sir what Shall we doe, can we have our County declared to be under Martial law with a Military Government, or can we be Supported with armes &c in Short what must we doe, what is done must be done Quickly, but rest assured that we will, come, what may, we will do our duty & hope by the Help of God to triumph Even it costs the last life. please lay this matter before before the president. the pressing necessity of the case must be my excuse for claiming a moment of your allreddy overtaxed time may God Bless you, the president, and our Country, Excuse the bad writing as it is done in Hury & confusion but without undue Excite[mnt?]
yours D F Coffey capt Griggsville (Guards & Former Capt Co B 68 Ill)...
[Note 1 This is an abbreviation for the Knights of the Golden Circle--a clandestine, pro-Confederate organization in the North.]
"...The right to take life in the defense of property, as well as of person and habitation, is a natural right, but the law limits its exercise to the prevention of forcible and atrocious crimes, of which burglary is one...."
"...It is clear that in the absence of any statutory provision making the offense of breaking and entering a shop in the night season burglary, and by the early and strict rules of the common law, a man may not take life in prevention of such a crime. Those rules recognize a right in every man to defend his property, as well as person and habitation, by taking the life of the aggressor, as a natural right; but they also limit and restrain the exercise of that right to the prevention of a certain class of forcible and atrocious crimes, of which breaking a shop in the night season is not one at common law.(p.483)
"The class of crimes in prevention of which a man may, if necessary, exercise his natural right to repel force by force to the taking of the life of the aggressor, are felonies which are committed by violence and surprise; such as murder, robbery, burglary, arson, breaking a house in the day time with intent to rob, sodomy and rape. Blackstone says: "Such homicide as is committed for the prevention of any forcible and atrocious crime is justifiable by the law of nature; and also by the law of England, as it stood as early as the time of Bracton;" and he specifies, as of that character, those which we have enumerated. No others were specified by Hale or Hawkins, who wrote before him on the Pleas of the Crown, or have been specified by any writer since. Mr. East, in his Pleas of the Crown, and Mr. Foster, from whom Judge Swift quotes the law on this subject in his Digest, (vol. 2, page 283,) state the rule thus: "A man may repel force by force in defense of his person, habitation or property against one who manifestly intends or endeavors by violence and surprise to commit a known felony, such as murder, rape, robbery, arson, burglary and the like, upon either. In these cases he is not obliged to retreat, but may pursue his adversary until he has secured himself from all danger, and if he kill him in so doing it will be justifiable self defense." 1 East P. C., 271; Foster C. L., 259...."
- State v. Moore, 31 Conn. 479 (1863).
"Resolved, That the existing relation between the Union and the rebel States constitutes a condition of public war, with all the consequences attaching thereto under the law of nature and of nations."
- Thomas Williams, resolution submitted on March 14, 1864 in the U.S. House of Representatives. [Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States. Library of Congress - American Memory.]
"We are taught that self preservation is the first law of nature --as for myself I have nothing to consile more than regret that I am so unfortunate as to know a man who is politticaly right -- but morally wrong. [F]or nearly three years I managed to escape his vile intrigues, he is trying to make some persons think I did the same thing to "you, and the Secretary of War" you, and you know this is false-- As for the Secretary of war I have never seen him a moment of my life only attending to official duties -- and a more gentlemanly man I have seldom met. Now no other gentlemen in Wash. has ever given me a cause to slap them, he tells women this to justify himself still he would not have it get in the papers."
- C. G. Scott to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, Aug. 25, 1864. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. [The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress]
"...Mr. McClurg submitted the following preamble and resolution, viz:
"Whereas it is the opinion of this house that the continued contumacy in the seceding States renders it necessary to exercise congressional legislation in order to give the loyal citizens of those States protection in their natural and personal rights, enumerated in the Constitution of the United States, and, in addition thereto, makes it necessary to keep on foot a large standing army to secure the present enjoyment of those rights, to maintain the authority of the national government, and to keep the peace; and whereas the country is already heavily burdened by a war debt incurred to defend the nationality against an infamous rebellion, and it is neither just nor politic to inflict this vast additional expense on the peaceful industry of the nation: Therefore,
"Resolved, That it be referred to the Joint Committee of Fifteen of the Senate and House to ascertain whether such contumacy be clearly manifest; and if so, to inquire into the expediency of levying contributions on the disloyal inhabitants of such seceding States to defray the extraordinary expenses that will otherwise be imposed on the general government, and that said committee be instructed to report by bill or otherwise.
"The same having been read,
"Mr. McClurg moved the previous question.
"Mr. Finck moved that the preamble and resolution be laid on the table; which motion was disagreed to.
"The question then recurring on the demand for the previous question, the House refused to second the same.
"Mr. Schenck moved that the preamble and resolution be referred to the Select Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
"And the question being put,
"It was decided in the affirmative,
"Yeas ... 102
"Nays ... 27
"Not voting ... 54 ..."
- Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, MONDAY, February 26, 1866.
"The second amendment to the federal constitution, as well as the constitutions of many of the states, guaranty to the people the right to bear arms. This is a natural right, not created or granted by the constitutions."
- Henry Campbell Black, Handbook of American Constitutional Law, 1895.
"...As the object of the first eight amendments to the Constitution was to incorporate into the fundamental law of the land certain principles of natural justice which had become permanently fixed in the jurisprudence of the mother country, the construction given to those principles by the English courts is cogent evidence of what they were designed to secure and of the limitations that should be put upon them. This is but another application of the familiar rule that where one State adopts the laws of another, it is also presumed to adopt the known and settled construction of those laws by the courts of the State from which they are taken...."
"...There is no such restriction, however, upon the applicability of Federal statutes. The Sixth Article of the Constitution declares that "this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding...."
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Henry B. Brown. [Brown v. Walker, 161 U.S. 591 (1896).]
"..."The freedom of thought, of speech, and of the press; the right to bear arms; exemption from military dictation; security of the person and of the home; the right to speedy and public trial by jury; protection against oppressive bail and cruel punishment, are, together with exemption from self-crimination, the essential and inseparable features of English liberty. Each one of these features had been involved in the struggle above referred to in England within the century and a half immediately preceding the adoption of the Constitution, and the contests were fresh in the memories and traditions of the people at that time."
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field, in dissent. [Brown v. Walker, 161 U.S. 591 (1896).]
In closing, it should be plain for all to see, that our governments, at all levels, have exceeded their Constitutionally delegated authority. In Constitutional terms, this is what is known as Usurpation. It is illegal, and defeats the purposes for which our government was formed to begin with. The government has no legal authority, whatsoever, over the Right of We The People to Keep and Bear Arms. As shown here:
"It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A CONSTITUTION is, in FACT, and MUST be regarded by the judges, as a FUNDAMENTAL law."
- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #78
The following examples of correct legal decisions bear the above assertion(s) out:
"The language of the second amendment is broad enough to embrace both Federal and State governments--nor is there anything in its terms which restricts its meaning. The preamble which was prefixed to these amendments shows, that they originated in the fear that the powers of the general government were not sufficiently limited. Several of the States in their act of ratification recommended that further restrictive clauses should be added. And in the first session of the first Congress, ten of these amendments having been agreed to by that body, and afterwards sanctioned by three-fourths of the States, became a part of the Constitution. But admitting all this, does it follow that because the people refused to delegate to the general government the power to take from them the right to keep and bear arms, that they designed to rest it in the State governments? Is this a right reserved to the States or to themselves? Is it not an inalienable right, which lies at the bottom of every free government? We do not believe that, because the people withheld this arbitrary power of disfranchisement from Congress, they ever intended to confer it on the local legislatures. This right is too dear to be confided to a republican legislature...."
"...We are of the opinion, then, that so far as the act of 1837 seeks to suppress the practice of carrying certain weapons secretly, that it is valid, inasmuch as it does not deprive the citizen of his natural right of self-defence, or of his constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But that so much of it, as contains a prohibition against bearing arms openly, is in conflict with the Constitution, and void; and that, as the defendant has been indicted and convicted for carrying a pistol, without charging that it was done in a concealed manner, under that portion of the statute which entirely forbids its use, the judgment of the court below must be reversed, and the proceeding quashed."
- Judge Lumpkin, Nunn v. The State of Georgia, AMERICUS, JULY TERM, 1846
"There is no such thing as a natural right to vote. There are three classes of rights: natural, such as those recognized in the Declaration of Independence; civil, such as the rights of property; and political rights. Society has nothing to do with natural rights except to protect them. Civil rights belong equally to all. Every one has the right to acquire property, and even in infants the laws of all governments preserve this. But political rights are matters of practical utility. A right to vote comes under this class. If it was a natural right, it would appertain to every human being, females and minors. Even the Dorr men excluded all under twenty-one, and those who [Page 48 U.S. 1, 29] had not resided within the State during a year. But if the State has the power to affix any limit at all to the enjoyment of this right, then the State must be the sole judge of the extent of such restriction. It can confine the right of voting to freeholders, as well as adults or residents for a year. The boasted power of majorities can only show itself under the law, and not against the law, in any government of laws. It can only act upon days and in places appointed by law."
- Justice Joseph Story, U.S. Supreme Court, Luther v. Borden, Jan. Term, 1849.
"The maintenance of the right to bear arms is a most essential one to every free people and should not be whittled down by technical constructions."
- State vs. Kerner, 181 N.C. 574, 107 S.E. 222, at 224 (1921)
"It is the duty of the courts to be watchful for the Constitutional rights of the citizen and against any stealthy encroachments thereon."
- Boyd vs. United States, 116 US 616
"It is well settled that the Constitutional Rights protected from invasion by the
police power, include Rights safeguarded both by express and implied prohibitions in the Constitutions."
- Tiche vs. Osborne, 131 A. 60
"Disobedience or evasion of a Constitutional Mandate cannot be tolerated, even though such disobedience may, at least temporarily, promote in some respects the best interests of the public."
- Slote vs. Examination, 112 ALR 660
"As a rule, fundamental limitations of regulations under the police power are found in the spirit of the Constitutions, not in the letter, although they are just as efficient as if expressed in the clearest language."
- Mehlos vs. Milwaukee, 146 NW 882
"The claim and exercise of a Constitutional right cannot be converted into a crime."
- Miller v. U.S. 230 F 2nd 486, 489.
"Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them."
"...In some unknown number of cases, the Court's rule will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets and to the environment which produced him, to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him. As a consequence, there will not be a gain, but a loss, in human dignity. The real concern is not the unfortunate consequences of this new decision on the criminal law as an abstract, disembodied series of authoritative proscriptions, but the impact on those who rely on the public authority for protection, and who, without it, can only engage in violent self-help with guns, knives and the help of their neighbors similarly inclined..."
- Miranda vs. Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court, 384 US 436, 491, (1966)
"There should be no arbitrary deprivation of Life or Liberty..."
- Barbour vs. Connolly, 113 US 27, 31; Yick Wo vs. Hopkins, 118 US 356
"There can be no sanction or penalty imposed upon one because of this exercise of constitutional Rights."
- Snerer vs. Cullen, 481 F. 946
"With regard particularly to the U.S. Constitution, it is elementary that a Right secured or protected by that document cannot be overthrown or impaired by any state police authority."
- Connolly vs. Union Sewer Pipe Co., 184 US 540; Lafarier vs. Grand Trunk R.R. Co., 24 A. 848;
- O'Neil vs. Providence Amusement Co., 108 A. 887
"Constitutional Rights cannot be denied simply because of hostility to their assertions and exercise; vindication of conceded Constitutional Rights cannot be made dependent upon any theory that it is less expensive to deny them than to afford them."
- Watson v. Memphis, 373 U.S. 526 (U.S. 1963)
"The state cannot diminish Rights of the people."
- Hurtado vs. California, 110 US 516
"No public policy of a state can be allowed to override the positive guarantees of the U.S. Constitution."
- 16 Am.Jur. (2nd), Const. Law, Sect. 70
"The courts are not bound by mere form, nor are they to be misled by mere pretenses. They are at liberty -- indeed they are under a solemn duty -- to look at the substance of things, whenever they enter upon the inquiry whether the legislature has transcended the limits of its authority. If, therefore, a statute purported to have been enacted to protect ... the public safety, has no real or substantial relation to those objects or is a palpable invasion of Rights secured by the fundamental law, it is the duty of the courts to so adjudge, and thereby give effect to the Constitution."
Mulger vs. Kansas, 123 US 623, 661
"The power to tax the exercise of a privilege is the power to control and suppress its enjoyment. . . . A State may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a Right granted by the federal constitution. . . . Thus it may not exact a license tax for the privilege of carrying on interstate commerce. . . . This tax is not a charge for the enjoyment of a privilege or benefit bestowed by the State. The privilege in question exists apart from State authority. It is guaranteed the People by the federal constitution."
- Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105 (1943).
"The prohibition is general. No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to Congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretense by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both."
- William Rawle, A View of the Constitution, 125-6 (2nd ed. 1829). (Appointed by President George Washington as U.S. District Attorney for Pennsylvania in 1791).
"The Constitution and laws of the United States "are the supreme law of the land," anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary, notwithstanding." Their supremacy is thus declared in express terms: "Whatever conflicts therewith has no operative or obligatory force. Allegiance to the United States, and loyalty to the United States Constitution and laws, are the paramount duty of every citizen. Within their legitimate sphere, they command the obedience of all, and no State Constitution or statute can absolve any one therefrom....As it is both the right and duty of every citizen to become fully informed upon all governmental affairs, so as to discharge his many political obligations intelligently at the ballot-box, and in other legitimate ways; and the freedom of the press and of speech are guaranteed to him for that as well as other essential purposes; and as the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition for the redress of grievances, and to keep and bear arms, cannot be lawfully abridged or infringed...”
- CHARGE TO THE GRAND JURY BY THE COURT, United States Circuit Court, DISTRICT OF MISSOURI, SPECIAL JULY TERM, PRESENT: HON. JOHN CATRON, An Associate Justice of Supreme Court of United States. 1861. JULY 10, 1861.
"2. Those declaratory of the fundamental rights of the citizen: as that all men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness; that the right to property is before and higher than any constitutional sanction; that the free exercise and enjoyment of relgious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed; that every man may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; that every man may bear arms for the defense of himself and of the state; that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, nor shall soldiers be quartered upon citizens in time of peace; and the like."
- Thomas M. Cooley, LL.D, [A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations Which Rest Upon The Legislative Power of the States of the American Union" 6th Edition, Little, Brown and Company 1890.] (Outline of Declaration of rights for the protection of individuals and minorities, expected from states when forming/amending a Constitution).
Mr. Cooley was Dean of the University of Michigan's Law School, Michigan Supreme Court justice, and a nationally recognized scholar.
"Natural rights [are] the objects for the protection of which society is formed and municipal laws established."
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Monroe, 1797
"Nothing...is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Cartwright, 1824,
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 16:48.
"Man [is] a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights and with an innate sense of justice."
- Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. ME 15:441
"A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate."
- Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. ME 1:209, Papers 1:134
"What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals."
- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:455, Papers 15:393
"[As to] the question whether, by the laws of nature, one generation of men can, by any act of theirs, bind those which are to follow them? I say, by the laws of nature, there being between generation and generation, as between nation and nation, no other obligatory law."
- Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell, 1814. ME 14:67
To Messrs. Nehimiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins and Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the
Danbury Baptist Association in the state of Connecticut.
THE affectionate sentiments of esteem and apporbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, gave me the highest satisfaction; my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you, that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" thus building a wall of seperation between church and state. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation, in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural rights in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you, for yourselves, and your Religious Association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.
Thomas Jefferson, JAN. 1, 1802.
[The Aurora General Advertiser, Philadelphia, Feb., 1, 1802].
"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."
- Thomas Jefferson, From a letter of 1798, after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
"...Every one will say no; that the soil is the gift of God to the living, as much as it had been to the deceased generation; and that the laws of nature impose no obligation on them to pay this debt. And although, like some other natural rights, this has not yet entered into any declaration of rights, it is no less a law, and ought to be acted on by honest governments...."
- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to George Hammond, May 29, 1792. [The Thomas Jefferson Papers, in the Library of Congress.]
"...My hope was, that by giving time for reflection, and retraction of injury, a sound calculation of their own interests would induce the aggressing nations to redeem their own character by a return to the practice of right. But our lot happens to have been cast in an age when two nations to whom circumstances have given a temporary superiority over others, the one by land, the other by sea, throwing off all restraints of morality, all pride of national character, forgetting the mutability of fortune and the inevitable doom which the laws of nature pronounce against departure from justice, individual or national, have dared to treat her reclamations with derision, and to set up force instead of reason as the umpire of nations. Degrading themselves thus from the character of lawful societies into lawless bands of robbers and pirates, they are abusing their brief ascendency by desolating the world with blood and rapine. Against such a banditti, war had become less ruinous than peace, for then peace was a war on one side only . . . . Ought not then the right of each successive generation to be guarantied against the dissipations and corruptions of those preceding, by a fundamental provision in our constitution? And, if that has not been made, does it exist the less; there being between generation and generation, as Between nation and nation, no other law than that of nature? And is it the less dishonest to do what is wrong, because not expressly prohibited by written law? Let us hope our moral principles are not yet in that stage of degeneracy...."
"...The overbearing clamor of merchants, speculators, and projectors, will drive us before them with our eyes open, until, as in under the Mississippi bubble, our citizens will be overtaken by the crush of this baseless fabric, without other satisfaction than that of execrations on the heads of those functionaries, who, from ignorance, pusillanimity or corruption, have betrayed the fruits of their industry into the hands of projectors and swindlers...."
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Wayles Eppes, June 24, 1813. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]
"Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity.
"She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights."
- John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, to the U.S. House of Representatives, July 4, 1821.
"When the day of conflict came, the issue of the contest was necessarily changed. The People of the Colonies had maintained the contest on the principle of resisting the invasion of chartered rights--first by argument and remonstrance, and, finally, by appeal to the sword. But with the war came the necessary exercise of sovereign powers. The Declaration of Independence justified itself as the only possible remedy for insufferable wrongs. It seated itself upon the first foundations of the law of nature, and the incontestable doctrine of human rights. There was no longer any question of the constitutional powers of the British Parliament, or of violated colonial charters. Thenceforward the American Nation supported its existence war: and the British Nation, by war, was Contending for conquest. As, between the two parties, the single question at issue was Independence--but in the confederate existence of the North American Union, Liberty--not only their own liberty, but the vital principle of liberty to the whole race of civilized man, was involved."
- John Quincy Adams, House of Representatives, Dec. 31st, 1834. [ORATION ON THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF GILBERT MOTIER DE LA FAYETTE].
“Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator, for the wisest purpose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects, can long continue, if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure.”
- President James Buchanan, Washington City, December 3, 1860. Message to the U.S. House & Senate.
"...Mr. McClurg submitted the following preamble and resolution, viz:
"Whereas it is the opinion of this house that the continued contumacy in the seceding States renders it necessary to exercise congressional legislation in order to give the loyal citizens of those States protection in their natural and personal rights, enumerated in the Constitution of the United States, and, in addition thereto, makes it necessary to keep on foot a large standing army to secure the present enjoyment of those rights, to maintain the authority of the national government, and to keep the peace; and whereas the country is already heavily burdened by a war debt incurred to defend the nationality against an infamous rebellion, and it is neither just nor politic to inflict this vast additional expense on the peaceful industry of the nation: Therefore,
"Resolved, That it be referred to the Joint Committee of Fifteen of the Senate and House to ascertain whether such contumacy be clearly manifest; and if so, to inquire into the expediency of levying contributions on the disloyal inhabitants of such seceding States to defray the extraordinary expenses that will otherwise be imposed on the general government, and that said committee be instructed to report by bill or otherwise.
"The same having been read,
"Mr. McClurg moved the previous question.
"Mr. Finck moved that the preamble and resolution be laid on the table; which motion was disagreed to.
"The question then recurring on the demand for the previous question, the House refused to second the same.
"Mr. Schenck moved that the preamble and resolution be referred to the Select Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
"And the question being put,
"It was decided in the affirmative,
Yeas ... 102
Nays ... 27
Not voting ... 54...."
- Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, February 26, 1866. [A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875. Library ofCongress.]
"The rights of life and personal liberty are natural rights of man. 'To secure these rights,' says the Declaration of Independence, 'governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.' The very highest duty of the States, when they entered into the Union under the Constitution, was to protect all persons within their boundaries in the enjoyment of these 'unalienable rights with which they were endowed by their Creator.'"
- MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE, deliver[ing] the opinion of the United States Supreme Court, U S v. CRUIKSHANK, 92 U.S. 542 October Term, 1875.
"The Constitution was not framed with a view to any such rebellion as that of 1861-5. While it did not authorize rebellion it made no provision against it. Yet the right to resist or suppress rebellion is as inherent as the right of self-defence, and as natural as the right of an individual to preserve his life when in jeopardy. The Constitution was therefore in abeyance for the time being, so far as it in any way affected the progress and termination of the war."
- Ulysses S. Grant, 1822-1885: Personal memoirs of U.S. Grant, Volume II, 1886, (Pgs. 506-507). [The Modern English Collection at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center.]
"'I am of opinion that it is not a rule of law of universal application that the plaintiff must prove affirmatively that his own conduct, on the occasion of the injury, was cautious and prudent. The onus probandi, in this as in most other cases, depends upon the position of the affair as it stands upon the undisputed facts. Thus, if a carriage be driven furiously through a crowded throughfare, and a person is run over, he would not be obliged to prove that he was cautious and attentive, and he might recover, though there were no witnesses of his actual conduct. The natural instinct of self-preservation would stand in the place of positive evidence, and the dangerous tendency of the defendant's conduct would create so strong a probability that the injury happened through his fault that no other evidence would be required. . . . The culpability of the defendant must be affirmatively proved before the case can go to the jury, but the absence of any fault on the part of the plaintiff may be inferred from circumstances; and the disposition of men to take care of themselves and keep out of difficulty may properly be taken into consideration.'"
- Mr. Justice HUNT, U.S. Supreme Court, quoting; [Oldfield v. The New York and Harlem Railroad Company,2 Denio, J.] in [WASHINGTON & G R CO v. GLADMON, 82 U.S. 401 (1872) (Wall.)]
"The presumption is founded on a law of nature. We know of no more universal instinct than that of self-preservation, -none that so insistently urges to care against injury. It has its motives to exercise in the fear of has its motives to exercise in the fear of pain, maiming, and death. There are few presumptions based on human feelings or experience that have surer foundation than that expressed in the instruction objected to."
- Mr. Justice McKenna, delivering opinion of the U.S Supreme Court in Baltimore & P R CO v. Landrigan, 191 U.S. 461 (1903). Decided December 7, 1903.
"... Indeed, this is conceded by counsel for the government, for in their brief ( after referring to certain decisions of this court) it is said: ..."
"...'Even though such right be a natural or inalienable right, the duty of protecting the citizen in the enjoyment of such right, free from individual interference, rests alone with the state...."
- Mr. Justice Brewer, delivering opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Hodges v. U.S., 203 U.S. 1 (1906). May 28, 1906.
"'The fundamental rights, privileges, and immunities which belong to him as a free man and a free citizen, now belong to him as a citizen of the United States, and are not dependent upon his citizenship of any state . . . . The Amendment [Fourteenth] does not attempt to confer any new privileges or immunities upon citizens, or to enumerate or define those already existing. It assumes that there are such privileges and immunities, which belong of right to citizens as such, and ordains that they shall not be abridged by state legislation. If this inhibition has no reference to privileges and immunities of this character, but only refers, as held by the majority of the court in their opinion, to such privileges and immunities as were, before its adoption, specially designated in the Constitution, or necessarily implied as belonging to citizens of the United States, it was a vain and idle enactment, which accomplished nothing, and most unnecessarily excited Congress and the people on its passage. With privileges and immunities thus designated or implied no state could ever have interfered by its laws, and no new constitutional provision was required to inhibit such interference. The supremacy of the Constitution and the laws of the United States always controlled any state legislation of that character. But, if the Amendment refers to the natural and inalienable rights which belong to all citizens, the inhibition has a profound significance and consequence.'"
- Mr. Justice Field, (concurred in by Chief Justice Chase and Justices Swayne and Bradley), U.S. Supreme Court, [Corfield v. Coryell, 4 Wash. C. C. 371, Fed. Cas. No. 3,230, (p. 95)] As quoted in Twining v. State of New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78 (1908).
"Who then, it is asked, will pronounce a verdict of guilty upon him if he stops reasoning and follows the first impulse of nature: self-preservation; and further, whether, while technically he is wrong in his resistance, he is not more sinned against than sinning; and yet again whether the guilt of those who voted the unnatural sacrifice is not greater than the wrong of those who now seek to escape by illadvised resistance."
- Mr. Justice [Oliver Wendell] Holmes, delivering the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Frohwerk v. U S , 249 U.S. 204 (1919). Decided March 10, 1919.
"It is asserted that the right of free speech is a natural and inherent right, and that it, and the freedom of the press, 'were regarded as among the most sacred and vital possessed by mankind when this nation was born, when its Constitution was framed and adopted.' And the contention seems necessary for the plaintiff in error to support. But without so deciding or considering the freedom asserted as guaranteed or secured either by the Constitution of the United States or by the Constitution of the state, we pass immediately to the contention, and for the purposes of this case may concede it; that is, concede that the asserted freedom is natural and inherent...."
- Mr. Justice McKENNA, delivering the opinion of the United States Supreme Court in GILBERT v. STATE OF MINN., 254 U.S. 325 (1920).
"...The law has grown, and even if historical mistakes have contributed to its growth it has tended in the direction of rules consistent with human nature. Many respectable writers agree that if a man reasonably believes that he is in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily harm from his assailant he may stand his ground and that if he kills him he has not succeeded the bounds of lawful self defence. That has been the decision of this Court. Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550, 559, 15 S. Sup. Ct. 962. Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife. Therefore in this Court, at least, it is not a condition of immunity that one in that situation should pause to consider whether a reasonable man might not think it possible to fly with safety or to disable his assailant rather than to kill him..."
- Mr. Justice [Oliver Wendell] HOLMES, U.S. Supreme Court, BROWN v. UNITED STATES, 256 U.S. 335 (1921).
"Alexander Hamilton, explaining the reasons for and the purpose of § 1 of Art. III, said:
"...The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority -- such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing. . . ."
"The Federalist, No. 78."
"Next to permanency in office, nothing can contribute more to the independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support. . . . In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts [Page 307 U. S. 286] to a power over his will. . . ."
"...The Federalist, No. 79."
- MR. JUSTICE BUTLER, in dissent, U.S. Supreme Court. O'Malley v. Woodrough, 307 U.S. 277 (1939). ********** "...What the Court did hold was that the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment only protected from state invasion such rights as a person has because he is a citizen of the United States. The Court enumerated some, but refused to enumerate all of these national rights. The majority of the Court emphatically declined the invitation of counsel to hold that the Fourteenth Amendment subjected all state regulatory legislation to continuous censorship by this Court in order for it to determine whether it collided with this Court's opinion of 'natural' right and justice. In effect, the Slaughter-House cases rejected the very natural justice formula the Court today embraces. The Court did not meet the question of whether the safeguards of the Bill of Rights were protected against state invasion by the Fourteenth Amendment. And it specifically did not say as the Court now does, that particular provisions of the Bill of Rights could be breached by states in part, but not breached in other respects, according to this Court's notions of 'civilized standards,' 'canons of decency,' and 'fundamental justice.' "Later, but prior to the Twining case, this Court decided that the following were not 'privileges or immunities' of national citizenship, so as to make them immune against state invasion: the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, In re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436; the Seventh Amendment's guarantee of a jury trial in civil cases, Walker v. Sauvinet, 92 U.S. 90; the Second Amendment's 'right of the people to keep and bear arms..." "...It was aimed at restraining and checking the powers of wealth and privilege. It was to be a charter of liberty for human rights against property rights. The transformation has been rapid and complete. It operates today to protect the rights of property to the detriment of the rights of man. It has become the Magna Charta of accumulated and organized capital.'..." - Mr. Justice [Hugo] Black, in dissent, (along with Justices Douglas and Swayne), Adamson v. People Of State Of California, U.S. Supreme Court, June 23, 1947.
""Capitalism is an economic system based on man's right to private property and on his freedom to use that property in producing goods which will earn him a just profit on his investment. Man's right to private property stems from the Natural Law implanted in him by God. It is as much a part of man's nature as the will to self-preservation." (At 560.)"
- MR. Justice Douglas, (in dissent), U.S. Supreme Court, quoting "Arthur J. Hughes' general history text, Man in Time (1964)", in Board OF Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236 (1968). Decided June 10, 1968.