“The planters were careless with their arms, never using their swords, and their fire-arms only for game.”–A New And Comprehensive Gazetteer Of Virginia
25. That men go not to worke in the ground without their arms (and a centinell upon them).–Laws and Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly, March 5, 1624.
ALL persons except negroes to be provided with arms and amunition or be fined at pleasure of the Governor and Council.–At A Grand Assembly, 6th January, 1639–Sr Francis Wyatt, Gov.
13thly. That all amunition, powder and arms, other then for private use shall be delivered up, securitie being given to make satisfaction for it.—Articles agreed on and concluded at James Cittie in Virginia, March 12, 1651
“The proprietary government was re-established, and Fendall, whom Baltimore had appointed Governor in place of Stone, was recognized. “The results of all this turbulence were the right to carry arms, the practical assertion of the right to make laws and lay taxes, relief from the oath of fealty with the obnoxious clauses, and the breakdown of the Catholic interest in Maryland politics. Toleration was wisely restored. The solid advantages were gained by the Puritan minority at the expense of the lord proprietary.“–History For Ready Reference From The Best Historians, Biographers, And Specialists . . . By J.N. Larned . . . In Five Volumes Volume III–Greece To Nibelungen Lied Springfield, Mass. The C.A. Nichols Co., Publishers MDCCCXCIV (1894)
“At a time when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty, which we have derived from our ancestors. But the manner of doing it, to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in question.
“That no man should scruple or hesitate a moment to use arms in defense of so valuable a blessing is clearly my opinion. Yet arms, I would beg leave to add, should be the last resource, the dernier resort.”--George Washington, April 5, 1769 letter to George Mason. [University of Virginia, The Papers of George Washington, LB, DLC:GW. From The Papers, Colonial Series, 8:177-80.]
"We, the Delegates of the thirteen United Colonies in North America, have taken into our most serious consideration, a Proclamation issued from the Court of St. James’s on the Twenty-Third day of August last. The name of Majesty is used to give it a sanction and influence; and, on that account, it becomes a matter of importance to wipe off, in the name of the people of these United Colonies, the aspersions which it is calculated to throw upon our cause; and to prevent, as far as possible, the undeserved punishments, which it is designed to prepare, for our friends. We are accused of “forgetting the allegiance which we owe to the power that has protected and sustained us.” Why all this ambiguity and obscurity in what ought to be so plain and obvious, as that he who runs may read it? What allegiance is it that we forget? Allegiance to Parliament? We never owed–we never owned it. Allegiance to our King? Our words have ever avowed it,–our conduct has ever been consistent with it. We condemn, and with arms in our hands,–a resource which Freemen will never part with,–we oppose the claim and exercise of unconstitutional powers, to which neither the Crown nor Parliament were ever entitled. By the British Constitution, our best inheritance, rights, as well as duties, descend upon us: We cannot violate the latter by defending the former: We should act in diametrical opposition to both, if we permitted the claims of the British Parliament to be established, and the measures pursued in consequence of those claims to be carried into execution among us. Our sagacious ancestors provided mounds against the inundation of tyranny and lawless power on one side, as well as against that of faction and licentiousness on the other. On which side has the breach been made? Is it objected against us by the most inveterate and the most uncandid of our enemies, that we have opposed any of the just prerogatives of the Crown, or any legal exertion of those prerogatives? Why then are we accused of forgetting our allegiance? We have performed our duty: We have resisted in those cases, in which the right to resist is stipulated as expressly on our part, as the right to govern is, in other cases, stipulated on the part of the Crown. The breach of allegiance is removed from our resistance as far as tyranny is removed from legal government."--Journals of the Continental Congress, Dec. 6, 1775, Report of the Delegates of the thirteen United Colonies in North America.
"I cannot, by all the inquiries I have been able to make, learn what number of arms have been taken from the tories, where they lie, or how they are to be got at. The committee of safety for this colony have assured me that no exertions of theirs shall be wanting to procure arms: but our sufferings in the mean while may prove fatal, as men without are in a manner useless. I have therefore thoughts of employing an agent whose sole business it shall be to ride through the middle and interior parts of these governments, for the purpose of buying up such arms as the inhabitants may incline to sell, and are fit for use."--George Washington, May 5, 1776 letter To Congress. [American State Papers, Being A Collection Of Original and Authentic Documents Relative To The War Between The United States And Great Britain Published by Special Permission. Volume The First. 1795. Official Letters To The Honorable American Congress, Written, during the War between the United Colonies and Great Britain, By His Excellency, George Washington, Commander In Chief Of The Continental Forces, Now President Of The United States. Copied, by Special Permission from the Original Papers preserved in the Office of the Secretary of State, Philadelphia. VOL. I. London: Printed For Cadell Junior And Davies, G.G. And J. Robinson, B. And J. White, W. Otridge And Son, J. Debrett, R. Faulder, And T. Egerton. 1795. Official Letters From George Washington To Congress. Pg. 141-42]
“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.
“…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….”--Samuel Adams, Boston Gazette, 27 Feb. 1769.
“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.] (Presumably referring to Patrick Henry).
“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.”–Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, 23 Feb. 1775, Papers 1:86–89, 121–22, 135–36.
“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.”-- Patrick Henry, "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" Speech, March 23, 1775.
RESOLVED 1st. That any person in this city, or county, who has arms, ammunition, or the other articles necessary for our defence, to dispose of; or shall import any of these articles for sale, and shall not within ten days after the publication of these resolutions, or in ten days after the importation, of such arms, ammunition, &c. aforesaid, inform the Chairman, or Deputy Chairman, of this Committee, of the quantity, and quality of the same; he shall be held up to the public as an enemy to this country.
RESOLVED 2d. That any person in this city or county, who shall, during the unhappy contest with our parent state, dispose of any arms, ammunition, or other articles aforesaid, to any person, knowing, or having reason to believe such person to be inimical to the Liberties of America; or shall put those articles in the hands of any such person; or any other person, knowing, or having reason to believe that they are to be used against those liberties; he shall be held up as an enemy to this country: which being unanimously agreed to,
Ordered, That the same be published in hand-bills.
By Order of the Committee,
PETER V. B. LIVINGSTON, Chairman, pro. Tempore.
WHEREAS the hostile Incursions this Country is exposed to, and the frequent Alarms we may expect from the Military Operations of our Enemies, make it necessary that the good People of this Colony be on their Guard, and prepared at all Times to resist their Attacks, and to aid and assist their Brethren: Therefore,
RESOLVED, That it be and hereby is recommended to the Militia in all Parts of this Colony, to hold themselves in Readiness to march at a Minute’s Warning, to the Relief of any Place that may be attacked, or to the Support of our Army, with at least twenty Cartridges or Rounds of Powder and Ball. And to prevent all Confusion or Delays, It is further recommended to the Inhabitants of this Colony, living on the Seacoasts, or within twenty Miles of them, that they carry their Arms and Ammunition with them to Meeting, on the Sabbath and other Days, when they meet for public Worship:–Resolved That all Vacancies in the several Regiments of Militia, occasioned by the Officers going into the Army, or otherwise, be immediately filled up: And it is recommended to the Regiments where such vacancies are, to supply them in manner and form as prescribed by the Resolutions of Congress.
A true Copy from the Minutes,
Attest………..Samuel Freeman, Secr’y.
"It becomes the duty of us, in whom you have deposited the most sacred trust, to warn you of your danger, and of the most effectual means to ward it off. It is the right of every English subject to be prepared with weapons for his defence; we conjure you by the ties of religion, virtue and love of your country, to follow the example of your sister colonies, and to form yourselves into a Militia; the election of the officers, and arangement of the men, must depend upon yourselves; study the art of military with the utmost attention; view it as the science upon which your future security depends.
"Carefully preserve the small quantity of gunpowder which you have amongst you; it will be the last resource when every other means of safety fails you; Great-Britain has cut you off from further supplies; we enjoin you, as you tender the safety of yourselves and fellow colonists, as you would wish to live and die free, that you would reserve what ammunition you have as a sacred deposit; he, in part, betrays his country who sports it away, perhaps in every charge he fires he gives with it the means of preserving the life of a fellow being.
"We cannot conclude without urging again to you the necessity of arming and instructing yourselves, to be in readiness to defend yourselves against any violence that may be exerted against your persons and properties."--Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, Rd. Caswell, North Carolina Committees, Philadelphia, June 19, 1775. To the COMMITTEES of the several Towns and Counties of the Province of NORTH-CAROLINA, appointed for the purpose of carrying into execution the Resolves of the Continental Congress.
“XVII. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.”–A Declaration of Rights made by the Representatives of the People of Virginia, June, 12th, 1776. [Written by George Mason. And parts of which were employed by Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence.]
“The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: [Shay’s Rebellion] and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted.”--Thomas Jefferson, Nov. 13, 1787 letter to William S. Smith. [William Stephens Smith, (Nov. 8, 1755 – June 10, 1816), was a U.S. Representative from New York. He was appointed by President Washington to be the first United States Marshal for the District of New York in 1789, and later supervisor of revenue. He was then appointed by President John Adams surveyor of the Port of New York in 1800. Smith was also elected to the 13th U.S. Congress, holding office from March 4, 1813 to March 3, 1815.]
CONSTITU'TION, n. The act of constituting, enacting, establishing, or appointing….
4. The established form of government in a state, kingdom or country ; a system of
fundamental rules, principles and ordinances for the government of a state or nation. In free states, the constitution is paramount to the statutes or laws enacted by the legislature, limiting and controlling its power ; and in the United States, the legislature is created, and its powers designated, by the constitution.
"The constitution of England as it stood on paper, was one of the freest, at that time, in the world, and the American colonies considered themselves as entitled to the fullest enjoyment of it. Thus, when the ill-judged discussions of late times in England brought into question the rights of this country, as it stood connected with the British crown, we were found more strongly impressed with their importance, and accurately acquainted with their extent, than the wisest and most learned of our brethren beyond the Atlantic. [Pg. 136] When the greatest names in parliament insisted on the power of that body over the commerce of the colonies, and even the right to bind us in all cases whatsoever, America, seeing that it was only another form of tyranny, insisted upon the immutable truth, that taxation and representation are inseparable; and, while a desire of harmony and other considerations induced her into an acquiescence in the commercial relations of Great Britain, it was done from the declared necessity of the case, and with a cautious, full, and absolute saving of our voluntarily-suspended rights. The parliament was persevering, and America continued firm, till hostilities and open war commenced, and finally the late revolution closed the contest forever.
"It is evident, from this short detail, and the reflections which arise from it, that the quarrel between the United States and the parliament of Great Britain did not arise so much from objections to the form of government, though undoubtedly a better one by far is now within our reach, as from a difference concerning certain important rights, resulting from the essential principles of liberty, which their constitution actually preserved to all the subjects residing within the realm. It was not asserted by America, that the people of the island of Great Britain were slaves, but that we, though possessed absolutely of the same rights, were not admitted to enjoy an equal degree of freedom.
"When the declaration of independence compleated the separation between the two countries, new governments were necessarily established. Many circumstances led to the adoption of the republican form, among which was the predilection of the people. In devising the frames of government, it may have been difficult to avoid extremes opposite to the vices of that we had just rejected; nevertheless, many of the state constitutions we have chosen are truly excellent. Our misfortunes have been, that in the first instance we adopted no national government at all; but were kept together by common danger only; and that in the confusions of a civil war, we framed a foederal constitution, now universally admitted to be inadequate to the preservation of liberty, property, and the [Pg. 137] union. The question is not, then, how far our state constitutions are good, or otherwise--the object of our wishes is, to amend and supply the evident and allowed errors and defects of the foederal government. Let us consider awhile, that which is now proposed to us--let us compare it with the so much boasted British form of government, and see how much more it favours the people, and how completely it secures their rights, remembering, at the same time, that we did not dissolve our connection with that country so much on account of its constitution, as the perversion and mal-administration of it."--Tench Coxe, [Under the pseudonym "An American Citizen"] An Examination of the Constitution for the United States of America, Submitted to the People by the General Convention, At Philadelphia, the 17th Day of September, 1787, and since adopted and ratified by the Conventions of Eleven States, chosen for the purpose of considering it, being all that have yet decided on the subject. By an American Citizen. [Pg. 135-137] [Pamphlets On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People 1787-1788. Edited With Notes And A Bibliography By Paul Leicester Ford. Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1888.] (Mr. Tench Coxe, (May 22, 1755 – July 17, 1824), was an American political economist and a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress. In 1786 he was sent to the Annapolis Convention, and in 1788 to the Continental Congress.)
“If a time of public contention shall hereafter arrive, the firm and ardent friends to liberty may know the length to which they can push their noble opposition, on the foundation of the laws. Should their country’s cause impel them further, they will be acquainted with the hazard, and using those arms which Providence has put into their hands, will make a solemn appeal to “the power above.”–Tench Coxe, An American Citizen IV, PHILA. INDEP. GAZETTEER, Oct. 21, 1787, reprinted in 13 DOCUMENTARY HISTORY, supra note 57, at 431, 433.
“The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American … the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”–Tenche Coxe, Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, The Pennsylvania Gazette, on Feb. 20, 1788.
“There is no danger of our forgetting the use of arms, while are strangers to game laws. A youth of sixteen years of age, who has trained by necessity or choice, to amusement of hunting in our American woods, has a better foundation laid for his becoming an effective soldier, than a whole nation of farmers who have been educated (from the operation of game laws) in an of fire arms.” POMPILIUS. Philadelphia, July 26, 1788. [Pg. 225]
“Address to the printers of throughout the United States: written by Tench Coxe, esq….”
“…You are to consider whether freedom of publication, extending to blasphemy, immorality, treason, sedition, malice, or scandal, does not destroy the inestimable benefits which result from the liberty of the press, This privilege is certainly essential to the existence of a free government; but it consists in avoiding to impose any previous restraints on publication, and not in refraining to censure or punish such things, as produce private or public injuries. Every freeman has a right to the use of the press: so he has to the use of his arms. But if his publications give an unmerited or deadly stroke to private reputation, or sap the foundations of just government, he abuses his privilege as unquestionably as if he were to plunge his sword into the bosom of a fellow citizen: and the good of society requires that each offence should be punished….” PHILODEMOS. [Tench Coxe] [Pg. 181] [THE AMERICAN MUSEUM: OR REPOSITORY OF ANCIENT AND MODERN FUGITIVE PIECES, &c. PROSE AND POETICAL. Volume IV. PHILADELPHIA: PRINTED BY MATHE CAREY. M.DCC.LXXXVIII. 1788.]
“As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”–Tenche Cox, Remarks On The First Part Of The Amendments To The Federal Constitution, in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789.
“Do you wish to preserve your rights? Arm yourselves. Do you desire to secure your dwellings? Arm yourselves. Do you wish your wives and daughters protected? Arm yourselves. Do you wish to be defended against assassins or the Bully Rocks of faction? Arm yourselves. Do you desire to assemble in security to consult for your own good or the good of your country? Arm yourselves. To arms, to arms, and you may then sit down contented, each man under his own vine and his own fig-tree and have no one to make him afraid….If you are desirous to counteract a design pregnant with misery and ruin, then arm yourselves; for in a firm, imposing and dignified attitude, will consist your own security and that of your families. To arms, then to arms.”–”Mentor” addressed “To the Republican Citizens of Pennsylvania.”, Philadelphia Aurora, May 21, 1799, at 2, (This edition also contained an article signed by Tenche Cox). [Tench Coxe and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, 1787-1823 By Stephen P. Halbrook[a1] and David B. Kopel [aa1] 7 William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 347 (1999).]
"I have been favored with yours of the 28 Ult. and thank you for the paper which it inclosed. Your arguments appear to me to place the subject to which they relate in its true light*, and must be satisfactory to the writer himself whom they oppose, if he can suspend for a moment his preconceived opinions. But whether they should have any effect or not on him, they will unquestionably be of service in Virginia, and probably in the other Southern States. Col. Hamilton has read the paper with equal pleasure & approbation with myself...."--James Madison, Jan. 3, 1788 letter to Tench Coxe.
"What is a constitution? it is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles or fundamental laws are established. The constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people, and is the supreme law of the land; it is paramount to the power of the legislature, and can be revoked or altered only by the authority that made it.--What are legislatures? creatures of the constitution, they owe their existence to the constitution--they derive their powers from the constitution.--It is their commission, and therefore all their acts must be conformable to it, or else void. The constitution is the work or will of the people themselves, in their original, sovereign, and unlimited capacity. Law is the work or will of the legislature in their derivative capacity."--Judge Patterson's Charge to the Jury in the Wioming case of Vanhorne's Lessee v. Dorrance; tried at the circuit-court for the United States, held at Philadelphia, April term, I795. Pg. 182. [Pamphlets On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People 1787-1788. Edited With Notes And A Bibliography By Paul Leicester Ford. Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1888.]
"At any rate, the Congress can never get more power than the people will give, nor hold it any longer than they will permit; for should they assume tyrannical powers, and make incroachments on liberty without the consent of the people, they would soon attone for their temerity, with shame and disgrace, and probably with their heads."--Pelatiah Webster, The Weakness of Brutus exposed: Or, some Remarks in Vindication of the Constitution proposed by the late Federal Convention, against the Objections and gloomy Fears of that Writer, Humbly offered to the Public, By a Citizen of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Printed for, and to be had of John Sparhawk, in Market-Street, near the Court House / M.DCC.LXXXVlI. (Nov. 4, 1787) Pg. 127. [Pamphlets On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People 1787-1788. Edited With Notes And A Bibliography By Paul Leicester Ford. Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1888.]
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"When the people established the powers of legislation under their separate governments, they invested their representatives with every right and authority which they did not in explicit terms reserve: and therefore upon every question, respecting the jurisdiction of the house of assembly, if the frame of government is silent, the jurisdiction is efficient and complete. But in delegating foederal powers, another criterion was necessarily introduced: and the congressional authority is to be collected, not from tacit implication, but from the positive grant, expressed in the instrument of union. Hence, it is evident, that in the former case, everything which is not reserved, is given: but in the latter, the reverse of the proposition prevails, and every thing which is not given, is reserved. This distinction being recognized, will furnish an answer to those who think the omission of a bill of rights, a defect in the proposed constitution: for it would have been superfluous and absurd, to have stipulated with a foederal body of our own creation, that we should enjoy those privileges, of which we are not divested either by the intention or the act that has brought that body into existence. For instance, the liberty of the press, which has been a copious subject of declamation and opposition: what controul can proceed from the foederal government, to shackle or destroy that sacred palladium of national freedom? If, indeed, a power similar to that which has been granted for the regulation of commerce, had been granted to regulate literary publications, it would have been as necessary to stipulate that the liberty of the press should be preserved inviolate, as that the impost should be general in its operation. With respect, likewise, to the particular district of ten miles, which is to be the seat of government, it will undoubtedly be proper to observe this salutary precaution, as there the legislative power will be vested in the president, senate, and house of representatives of the United States. But this could not be an object with the convention: for it must naturally depend upon a future compact; to which the citizens immediately interested, will, and ought to be parties: and there is no reason to suspect, that so popular a privilege will in that case be neglected. In truth, then, the proposed system possesses no influence whatever upon the press; and it would have been merely nugatory, to have introduced a formal declaration upon the subject; nay,that very declaration might have been construed to imply that some degree of power was given, since we undertook to define its extent."--James Wilson, [Soon to be appointed one of the original Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court] Substance Of An Address To A Meeting Of The Citizens Of Philadelphia, Delivered, October Sixth, MDCCLXXXVII,  By The Honorable James Wilson, Esquire, One Of The Delegates From The State of Pennsylvania, To The Late Constitutional Convention. Pg. 155-157. [Pamphlets On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People 1787-1788. Edited With Notes And A Bibliography By Paul Leicester Ford. Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1888.]
“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress”
"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States"
“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, Pg. 444]
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Preamble to the Bill of Rights
As presented to the States for Ratification
Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their 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 ensure 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; viz.
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution. . . .
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.
DECLAR'ATORY, a. Making declaration, clear manifestation, or exhibition ; expressive ; as, this clause is declaratory of the will of the legislature. The declaratory part of a law, is that which sets forth and defines what is right and what is wrong. A declaratory act, is an act or statute which sets forth more clearly and explains the intention of the legislature in a former act.
RESTRICT', v.t. [L. restrictus, from restringo. See Restrain.]
To limit; to confine; to restrain within bounds; as, to restrict words to a particular meaning ; to restrict a patient to a certain diet.
RESTRICTED, pp. Limited ; confined to bounds.
RESTRICTING, ppr. Confining to limits.
RESTRICTION, n. [Fr. from L. restrictus.]
1. Limitation ; confinement within bounds.
This is to have the same restriction as all other recreations. Gov. of the Tongue.
Restriction of words, is the limitation of their signification in a particular manner or degree.
2. Restraint ; as restrictions on trade.
RESTRICT'IVE, a. [Fr. restrictif] Having the quality of limiting or of expressing limitation ; as a restrictive particle.
2. Imposing restraint; as restrictive laws of trade.
"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-defence, which is paramount to all positive forms of government; and which, against the usurpation of the national rulers, may be exerted with an 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 defence. 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.
"The obstacles to usurpation and the facilities of resistance increase with the increased extent of the state, provided the citizens understand their rights and are disposed to defend them. The natural strength of the people in a large community, in proportion to the artificial strength of the government, is greater than in a small, and of course more competent to a struggle with the attempts of the government to establish a tyranny. But in a confederacy the people, without exaggeration, may be said to be entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress."--Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 28, Independent Journal Friday, December 26, 1787.
"It is true, the yeomanry* of the country possess the lands, the weight of property, possess arms, and are too strong a body of men to be openly offended — and, therefore, it is urged, they will take care of themselves, that men who shall govern will not dare pay any disrespect to their opinions."--Richard Henry Lee, Oct. 10, 1787, Letters Of A Federal Farmer. Pg. 294 [Pamphlets On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People 1787-1788. Edited With Notes And A Bibliography By Paul Leicester Ford. Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1888.]
(* - YEOMANRY, n. The collective body of yeomen or freeholders. Thus the common people in America, are called the yeomanry.--Webster's 1828 Dictionary).
[Richard Henry Lee, (Jan. 20, 1732 – June 19, 1794), was an American statesman from Virginia. Justice of the Peace for Westmoreland County, Virginia, (1757). Virginia House of Burgesses, (1758–1775). Member of the Continental Congress, (1774–1779, 1784–1785, 1787). A Signer of the Declaration of Independence, (1776). Virginia House of Delegates, (1777, 1780, 1785). President of the Confederation Congress, (Nov. 30, 1784 – Nov. 4, 1785). U.S. Senator from Virginia, (March 4, 1789 – Oct. 8, 1792), President pro tempore during the Second Congress, (April 18 – Oct. 8, 1792).
“The eighth section was again read.
"The Hon. Mr. SEDGWICK went into a general answer to the objections which had been started against the powers to be granted to Congress by this section. He showed the absolute necessity there was that the body which had the security of the whole for their object, should have the necessary means allowed them to effect it; and in order to secure the people against the abuse of this power, the representatives and people, he said, are equally subject to the laws, and can, therefore, have but one and the same interest; that they would never lay unnecessary burdens, when they themselves must bear a part of them; and from the extent of their objects, their power ought necessarily to be illimitable. Men, said he, rarely do mischief for the sake of being mischievous. With respect to the power, in this section, to raise armies, the honorable gentleman said, although gentlemen had thought it a dangerous power, and would be used for the purpose of tyranny, yet they did not object to the Confederation in this particular; and by this, Congress could have kept the whole of the late army in the field, had they seen fit. He asked, if gentlemen could think it possible that the legislature of the United States should raise an army unnecessarily, which, in a short time, would be under the control of other persons; for, if it was not to be under their control, what object could they have in raising it? It was, he said, a chimerical idea to suppose that a country like this could ever be enslaved. How is an army for that purpose to be obtained from the freemen of the United States? They certainly, said he, will know to what object it is to be applied. Is it possible, he asked, that an army could be raised for the purpose of enslaving themselves and their brethren? or, if raised, whether they could subdue a nation of freemen, who know how to prize liberty, and who have arms in their hands?”--The Hon. Mr. [Theodore] Sedgwick, Thursday January 24, 1788 Debates In The Convention Of The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, On The Adoption Of The Federal Constitution. [Elliots Debates Vol. 2, Pgs. 96-97]
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
Article VI; Clauses 2 & 3:
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, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
“From among the rights retained by our policy, we have selected those of self defence or bearing arms, of conscience, and of free inquiry, for two purposes; one, to shew the vast superiority of our policy, in being able to keep natural rights necessary for liberty and happiness, out of the hands of governments; the other, to shew that this ability is the effect of its principles, and beyond the reach of Mr. Adams’s system, or of any other, unable to reserve to the people, and to withhold from governments, a variety of rights.”–John Taylor, U.S. Senator, (1792 – 94, 1803, 1822 – 24). [An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States: Section the Sixth; The Good Moral Principles Of The Government Of The United States, (1814).]
“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. . . .”
“. . . 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.”--James Madison, Debates on the Bill of Rights, House of Representatives, June 8th, 1789.
"There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act therefore contrary to the constitution can be valid. To deny this would be to afﬁrm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid."--Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 78, Saturday, June 14, 1788.
"This independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humours which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves, and which, though they speedily give place to better information and more deliberate reﬂection, have a tendency, in the mean time, to occasion dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community. Though I trust the friends of the proposed constitution will never concur with its enemies, in questioning that fundamental principle of republican government, which admits the right of the people to alter or abolish the established constitution whenever they ﬁnd it inconsistent with their happiness; yet it is not to be inferred from this principle, that the representatives of the people, whenever a momentary inclination happens to lay hold of a majority of their constituents incompatible with the provisions in the existing constitution, would, on that account, be justiﬁable in a violation of those provisions; or that the courts would be under a greater obligation to connive at infractions in this shape, than when they had proceeded wholly from the cabals of the representative body. Until the people have, by some solemn and authoritative act, annulled or changed the established form, it is binding upon themselves collectively, as well as individually: and no presumption, or even knowledge of their sentiments, can warrant their representatives in a departure from it, prior to such an act. But it is easy to see, that it would require an uncommon portion of fortitude in the judges to do their duty as faithful guardians of the constitution, where legislative invasions of it had been instigated by the major voice of the community."--Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 78, Saturday, June 14, 1788.
“Baldwin J charged the jury….”
“The first section of the bill of rights in the constitution of Pennsylvania declares that all men have the inherent and indefeasible right of enjoying and defending life and liberty of acquiring possessing and protecting property that no man can be deprived of his liberty or property but by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land Sect 9 That the right of citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the state shall not be questioned Sect 21 The second section of the fourth article of the constitution of the United States declares the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. The tenth section of the first article prohibits any state from passing any law which impairs the obligation of a contract. The second amendment provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
“…We shall pursue this subject no further, in its bearing on the political rights of the states composing the union–in recalling your attention to these rights, which are the subject of this controversy, we declare to you as the law of the case, that they are inherent and unalienable–so recognised by all our fundamental laws.
“The constitution of the state or union is not the source of these rights, or the others to which we have referred you, they existed in their plenitude before any constitutions, which do not create but protect and secure them against any violation by the legislatures or courts, in making, expounding or administering laws.
“…A higher power declares this constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme laws of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding” Const U.S., art. 6, clause 2.
“An amendment of the constitution is of still higher authority, for it has the effect of controlling and repealing the express provisions of the constitution authorizing a power to be exercised, by a declaration that it shall not be construed to give such power. 3 Dall 382.
“We have stated to you the various provisions of the constitution of the United States and its amendments, as well as that of this state; you see their authority and obligation to be supreme over any laws or regulations which are repugnant to them, or which violate, infringe or impair any right thereby secured; the conclusions which result are too obvious to be more than stated.”--U.S. Supreme Court Justice Baldwin, Charge to the Jury, Circuit Court of The United States, [Pennsylvania April Term 1833 Before Hon. Henry Baldwin, Associate Justice of the [U.S.] Supreme Court, Hon Joseph Hopkinson District Judge, Johnson v Tompkins (13 F. Cas. 840 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1833)), and others.]
“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.
“Judge Woods, [later associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1880–87)], charged the jury as follows:
“The right to bear arms is also a right protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Every citizen of the United States has the right to bear arms, provided it is done for a lawful purpose and in a lawful manner. A man who carries his arms openly, and for his own protection, or for any other lawful purpose, has as clear a right to do so as to carry his own watch or wear his own hat.”–Circuit Court of the United States Fifth Circuit and District of Louisiana, The United States vs. William J Cruikshank et al. [United States v. Cruikshank, 25 F. Cas. 707 (1 Woods, 308) (C.C.D. La. 1874) (No. 14,897), aff’d, 92 U.S. 542 (1876). ]
"The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."
"the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"?
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, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
“9. “The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States, ratifying the same.
“This article speaks for itself. The express authority of the people alone could give due validity to the Constitution. To have required the unanimous ratification of the thirteen States, would have subjected the essential interests of the whole to the caprice or corruption of a single member. It would have marked a want of foresight in the convention, which our own experience would have rendered inexcusable.
“Two questions of a very delicate nature present themselves on this occasion: 1. On what principle the Confederation, which stands in the solemn form of a compact among the States, can be superseded without the unanimous consent of the parties to it? 2. What relation is to subsist between the nine or more States ratifying the Constitution, and the remaining few who do not become parties to it?
“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.”--James Madison, The Federalist No. 43, Independent Journal, Wednesday, January 23, 1788.
“But although the case may be widely different, and it may not be thought necessary to provide limits for the legislative power in that country, yet a different opinion prevails in the United States. The people of many States have thought it necessary to raise barriers against power in all forms and departments of Government, and I am inclined to believe, if once bills of rights are established in all the States as well as the Federal Constitution, we shall find that although some of them are rather unimportant, yet, upon the whole, they will have a salutary tendency.
“It may be said, in some instances, they do no more than state the perfect equality of mankind. This, to be sure, is an absolute truth, yet it is not absolutely necessary to be inserted at the head of a Constitution.
“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, Debates on the Bill of Rights, House of Representatives, June 8th, 1789.
"No form of government can preserve a nation which can't controul the party rage of its own citizens; when any one citizen can rise above the controul of the laws, ruin draws near. 'Tis not possible for any nation on earth, to hold their strength and establishment, when the dignity of their government is lost, and this dignity will forever depend on the wisdom and firmness of the officers of government, aided and supported by the virtue and patriotism of their citizens."--Pelatiah Webster, The Weakness of Brutus exposed: Or, some Remarks in Vindication of the Constitution proposed by the late Federal Convention, against the Objections and gloomy Fears of that Writer, Humbly offered to the Public, By a Citizen of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Printed for, and to be had of John Sparhawk, in Market-Street, near the Court House / M.DCC.LXXXVlI. (Nov. 4, 1787) Pg. 131 [Pamphlets On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People 1787-1788. Edited With Notes And A Bibliography By Paul Leicester Ford. Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1888.]