America, Always Armed...

Following is a growing list of quotations, which provide proof that the citizens of America have ALWAYS possessed Arms for defense. This FACT can no longer be denied, nor should our Right continue to be Infringed upon....
"Nevertheless, with all these defects, the colony was admirably governed in the main. One great right of freemen, the right of bearing arms, a highly necessary right to men planted suddenly among wild beasts and savages, was certainly not taken from the people. On the contrary, the government took care that all should be duly trained to self-defence. There is no man who bears a head, says Wood, (New Englands Prospect, 1639,) but bears military arms; even boys of fourteen years of age are practised with men in military discipline every three weeks. And they practised to some effect, as the records of the time prove, and as the Pequods learned to their cost."

- John Lothrop Motley, (1814–1897). 'Polity of the Puritans'. (Concerning early colonial times). [The North American review. Vol. 69, Issue 145, Oct. 1849]. Son of Thomas Motley, born in Dorchester, Mass. Graduated Harvard in 1831. American historian, and briefly a Secretary of Legation to Russia.

"THAT humble Application be made to his Majesty for a Charter to erect the said Territory into a seperate Government, with the same Privileges which the Colony of Connecticut enjoys, and for such Supplies of Arms and Ammunition as may be necessary for the Safety and Defence of the Settlers, and that his Majesty would also be pleased to take the said New Colony under his immediate Protection" 

- Scheme For the Settlement of a New Colony, July 24th, 1755

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1

Benjamin Franklin to Nathaniel Seidel

Reverend & dear Sir,
June 2. 1775
I am much oblig'd by your kind Congratulations on my Return; and I rejoice to hear that the Brethren are well and prosper.(1) I am persuaded that the Congress will give no Encouragement to any to molest your People on Account of their Religious Principles; and tho' much is not in my Power, I shall on every Occasion exert my self to discountenance and prevent such infamous Practices. Permit me however to give a little Hint in point of Prudence. I remember that you put yourselves into a good Posture of Defence at the Beginning of the last War when I was at Bethlehem; and I then understood from my much respected Friend Bp. Spangenberg, that there were among the Brethren many who did not hold it unlawful to arm in a defensive War. If there still [are] any such among your young Men, perhaps it would not be amiss to permit them to learn the military Discipline among their Neighbours, as this might conciliate those who at present express some Resentment; and having Arms in Readiness for all who may be able and willing to use them, will be a general Means of Protection against Enemies of all kinds. But a Declaration of your Society, that tho' they cannot in conscience compell their young Men to learn the use of Arms, yet they do not restrain such as are so disposed, will operate in the Minds of People very greatly in your Favour. Excuse my Presumption in offering Advice, which indeed may be of little Value, but proceeds from a Heart fill'd with Affection and Respect for a Society I have long highly esteem'd, and among whom I have many valuable Friends.
I am with great Regard & Veneration, Revd. Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

[P.S.] Written in ,Great Haste.

1 Bishop Seidel's letter to Franklin, asking that he be the Moravians' "Advocate" in Congress and use his influence on behalf of measures permitting "every Religious Society [to] enjoy their Privileges full & undisturbed, as long as they do not act against their Country," is printed in PMHB 29 (1905): 245-46. The status of pacifists in Pennsylvania was brought before Congress at the beginning of July by the Lancaster County Committee of Correspondence, but the delegates sidestepped the issue and left it to the Pennsvlvania Assembly, which on June 30 had passed a series of resolves to prevent ill feeling and to permit pacifists to make contributions for their defense in lieu of bearing arms. See Pennsylvania Delegates to the Lancaster County Committee, July 6, 1775.


Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1

Thomas Lynch to Ralph Izard

Dear Sir:

July 7, 1775.
I this day received your favor dated at Rome, in which you say that you had received no letter from me. Be assured that I wrote two or three, and enclosed you the proceedings of our Congress, and sent them to Mr. Stead, with directions to forward them to you wherever you are.
It gives me much pleasure to hear that those proceedings are approved by the world. We have, indeed, the same accounts from several quarters. America, we hear, is looked up to as the last resource of liberty and the common rights of mankind. Brave and generous, we fight for mankind, and they say, "to it, brave boys," but afford us not one necessary of war--not a musket or bayonet, not a grain of powder. England has cut off our usual supply. Holland and France follow the noble example. They say the Americans are cowards, poltroons, dare not fight; yet these doughty heroes take care to deprive us of the means of defence. If we are so fearful, why disarm us? But they know the contrary. In the first of General Gage's attempts against the people, his regulars were put to flight by half their number of militia, without officers or commanders.... This account comes through men of character on the spot, and may be depended on; it is confirmed by most undoubted letters, and you may say so.
There are now marching to the camp, a thousand riflemen. They are, at 'listing, rejected, unless they can hit a playing-card, without a rest, at one hundred and twenty yards distance. Almost every fencible man, in all the colonies, is trained, and ready to supply any loss. The regulars have, in any case, never appeared equal to our troops, man for man. What, then, have we to fear? Loss of money, alone; and may the wretch perish, who puts that in competition. Will Lord Effingham come to us? he would be almost adored.(1)
Dear sir, can the friends of old England find no way to stop this fatal war going on--to the certain destruction of that once great state? All America pants for reconciliation; they dread, what may be easily prevented by government, a total separation. Should war go on another year, a government must be formed here--it is unavoidable; and when once that is done, it will be, I fear, impossible to restore the connection. When America acts unitedly, she will feel herself too strong to submit to such restrictions as she now does. In short, the time will be past.
The people of New-York are now fixed on the side of liberty. Georgia is near coming in.
Mrs. Lynch unites with me, in compliments to Mrs Izard. We hope to see you, before we leave this part of America. Your affectionate friend, Thomas Lynch.

MS not found; reprinted from Ralph Izard, Correspondence of Mr. Ralph Izard of South Carolina, from the Year 1774 to 1804; with a Short Memoir, ed. Anne Izard Deas (New York: Charles S. Francis 8; Co., 1844), pp. 99-101.
1 Thomas Howard, third Earl of Effingham (1747-91), eccentric British Army officer, was well known for his sympathy with the American cause both before and during the War for Independence, Sir Egerton Brydges, K. J., Collins' Peerage of England; Genealogical, Biographical, and Historical . . ., 9 vols. London: F. C. and J. Rivington et al., 1812), 4:282

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1
John Dickinson's Proposed Resolutions

[July 18? 1775] (1)
That it be recommended, and it is hereby earnestly recommended to such of the Inhabitants of these Colonies, as have not already entered into Associations for learning the military Exercise, that all who are capable of bearing arms, do immediately associate themselves for the Purpose aforesaid--that every Man provide himself with such Arms & Articles as are directed by their respective Conventions or Committees, & by the respective Assemblies, Conventions or Committees & where no such Directions have been given, that every man provide a good Firelock, Bayonet, Cutting sword or Tomhawk, Cartridge Box with 24 Rounds of Cartridge, besides [ ] (2) pounds of Powder in a Horn & 2 pounds of Lead in a Bag, & Flints, and a Knapsack--that they form themselves into Companies consisting of a Captain, two Lieutenants, an Ensign, four Serjeants, four Corporals, one Drummer, & sixty eight privates--that these Companies be form'd into Battalions, and that all persons who have associated or shall hereafter associate, use all possible Industry in learning the Exercise afore said, and the Maneuvres & Evolutions necessary for rendering their operations effectual when embodied and in actual service.

MS (PPL). These resolutions were written by John Dickinson on the verso of Thomas Johnson to John Dickinson, June 1, 1775.
1 Congress adopted resolutions similar to these on July 18. JCC, 2:187-89.
2 MS blank.

Journals of the Continental Congress,


"...Resolved, That it be recommended to the several Assemblies or conventions of the colonies respectively, to set and keep their gunsmiths at work, to manufacture good fire locks, with bayonets; each firelock to be made with a good bridle lock, ¾ of an inch bore, and of good substance at the breech, the barrel to be 3 feet 8 Inches in length, the bayonet to be 18 Inches in the blade, with a steel ramrod, the upper loop thereof to be trumpet mouthed: that the price to be given be fixed by the Assembly or convention, or committee of safety of each colony, and that until a sufficient quantity of good arms can be manufactured, they import as many as are wanted, by all the means in their power.
Resolved, That the good arms of such soldiers as leave the service, be retained for the use of the new army, on a valuation made of them.

(The following is somewhat off the topic at hand, but is interesting nonetheless. For it shows that Mr. Franklin also had some warrior in his blood).  


Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3

Benjamin Franklin to Charles Lee

Dear Sir,
Feb. 11, 1776.
The Bearer Monsr. Arundel is directed by the Congress to repair to Gen. Schuyler, in order to be employed by him in the Artillery Service.(1)
He purposes to wait on you in his way, and has requested me to introduce him by a Line to you. He has been an officer in the French Service, as you will see by his Commissions; and professing a Good Will to our Cause, I hope he may be useful in Instructing our Gunners and Matrosses--Perhaps he may advise in opening the nailed Cannon.
I received the enclosed the other day from an officer, Mr. Newland, who served in the two last wars, and was known by Genl. Gates who spoke well of him to me when I was at Cambridge.(2) He is desirous now of entering into our service. I have advised him to wait upon you at New York.
They still talk big in England, and threaten hard; but their language is somewhat civiler, at least not quite so disrespectful to us. By degrees they may come to their senses, but too late I fancy for their Interest.
We have got in a large quantity of saltpetre 120 Ton, & 30 more expected. Powdermills are now wanting. I believe we must set to work, and make it by hand-but I still wish with you that Pikes could be introduced, and I would add bows and arrows. Those were good weapons not wisely laid aside:
1. Because a Man may shoot as truly with a Bow as with a common Musket.
2. He can discharge 4 arrows in the time of charging and discharging one Bullet.
3. His object is not taken from his view by the smoke of his own side.
4. A Flight of Arrows seen coming upon them terrifies and disturbs the Enemy's Attention to his Business.

5. An Arrow striking in any part of a Man, puts him hors de combat 'till 'tis extracted.
6. Bows and Arrows are more easily provided every where than Muskets & Ammunition.
Polydore Virgil speaking in one of our Battles against the French in Edward the 3rds reign mentions the great confusion the Enemy were thrown into, sagittarum nube, from the English; and concludes, Est res profecto dicta mirabilis, at tanks as potens Exercitus a solis Mere Anglicis Sagittariis rictus f Merit; adeo Anglus est Sagittipotens, & ID GENUS ARMORUM VALET.
If so much Execution was done by Arrows when Men wore some defensive Armour, how much more might be done now that it is out of use.
I am glad you are come to New York; but I also wish you could be in Canada.
There is a kind of suspense in Men's minds here at present, waiting to see what terms will be offered from England. I expect none that we can accept; and when that is generally seen we shall be more unanimous and more decisive-Then your proposed solemn League and Covenant will go better down; and perhaps most of your other strong measures adopted.
I am always glad to hear from you, but I do'nt deserve your Favours being so bad a Correspondent. My Eyes will now hardly serve me to write by Night; and these short days have been all taken up by such a variety of business, that I seldom can sit down three Minutes without Interruption. (3)
God give you Success. I am with the greatest esteem, Yours affectionately, B. Franklin.

MS not found, reprinted from NrHS Collections 4 (1871): 284-86.
1 See JCC, 4:111-12, 120.
2The "enclosed" letter of February 5 to Franklin from Trevor Newland is in NrHS Collections 4 ( 1 87 1 ): 286-92.
3 The continued pressure of business led Franklin two weeks later to send a letter of resignation to the speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, asking both that another member be chosen to the assembly in his stead and that the house "be pleased to dispense with my further Attendance as one of the Committee of Safety." Franklin to John Morton, February 26, 1776, Pa. Archives, 8th ser. 8:7410-11. The assembly immediately declared Franklin's seat vacant and ordered steps to be taken for election of a new member. Ibid, p. 7411.

Journals of the Continental Congress,
TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1776
Resolved, That as a number of arms, fit for use, may be bought of the owners, who may incline to sell them, General Washington be desired to employ such an agent as he hath proposed, to go into any of the colonies for that purpose...

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2

A. Lee to Schulenburg.

Berlin, June 7, 1777.
Sir: I have the honor of sending to your excellency lists of the commodities on both sides, which will be the most suitable for the commerce which is projected. As to the exact price of the different articles, I can not speak. But as European commodities are very dear in America, and our own are cheap, while at the same time they bear a high price in Europe, commerce on this footing can not but be advantageous to Europeans. A musket, for example, which costs here twenty-two French livres, can be sold in America for at least fifty. With these fifty livres two hundred weight of tobacco can be bought, which in Europe will bring two hundred livres.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 8

Elbridge Gerry to George Washington

Sepr 25th 1777 3 0Clock P.M. 

I wrote You a Line Yesterday desiring You to impower Mr. Henry of this Place to collect the Fire Arms wanted for the Virginia Troops on their March to the Camp, since which your Letter of the 23d is received, desiring that a Number of Blankets & Shoes may be also collected.(1) I have seen Mr. Henry within this half Hour, & he informs me that he has collected already about 250 Arms, & shall be able to obtain about as many more. He also says that 300 pair Shoes went off this Morning to General Wayne, & that he will proceed in collecting as many pair of shoes, & Blankets, as can be procured or with propriety be taken from the Inhabitants of the Town, & Farmers in the Neighbourhood thereof. You will therefore be pleased to enlarge &c the Powers proposed to be given by your Excellency to Mr. Henry, and authorize him to collect the Articles last mentioned.(2)
Colo R H Lee is present, & has just directed a Letter to the Commandg Officer of the Militia at Frederick Town in Maryland ordering on all the Militia that are armed & 500 of those that are unarmed to be supplyed in this Place. I have the Honor to be Sir with much Esteem your Excellency's very hum serv. E Gerry

1 Washington's September 23 letter to President Hancock was read in Congress on September 27. JCC, 8:755; and Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 9:25740. See also Gerry to Washington, September 24. 1777.
2 In a September 27 reply to Gerry, Washington repeated his September 25 demurer about seizing the arms of private citizens, but urged that the "collection of Blankets and shoes . . . cannot be carried to too great an extent." Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 9:274 75.

Journals of the Continental Congress,

...Resolved, That every person drafted as aforesaid, who shall supply himself with a good firelock and bayonet, a cartouch box, haversack, or blanket, and shall, at the expiration of the term of his service, produce, to the proper pay master, a certificate from his captain, or other commanding officer of his company, that he hath been constantly provided therewith, shall receive, for the use of his firelock, bayonet, and cartouch box, two dollars, and for the use of his blanket, four dollars, and in a like proportion for any or either of them. And in case any of the said articles shall be lost or rendered useless in the service, without the negligence or fault of the proprietor, he shall be paid the value thereof....

Journals of the Continental Congress,
MONDAY, MARCH 16, 1778

...Resolved, That one full company of foot be raised in the town of Westmoreland, on the east branch of the Susquehanna, for the defence of the said town and the settlements on the frontiers and in the neighbourhood thereof, against the Indians and other enemies of these states, the company to be inlisted to serve one year from the time of their inlisting, unless sooner discharged by Congress:
That officers be commissioned only in proportion to the number of men who shall be inlisted.
That the same pay and rations be allowed the company as to officers of the like ranks and soldiers in the continental army
That the commissary general of purchases contract with a suitable person to supply the company with provisions:
That the company find their own arms, accoutrements, cloaths, and blankets:
That the colonel, and, in his absence, the next commanding field officer of the militia, at the said town of Westmoreland, be desired and empowered to superintend the said company, give orders relative to the station or stations it shall take for the defence of the country, and other proper military services, and to see that the officers and men faithfully perform their duty, and on failure to give notice thereof to the Board of War.1

[Note 1: 1 See Pennsylvania Archives, VI, 371, and under August 23, 1776, ante.]

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 9

Commissioners at Fort Pitt

Gentlemen. 9th April 1778....

..."That Genl. Washington be directed to order to Pittsburg one of the most reduced Virginia & one of the most reduced Pennsylvania Regiments & That their officers take effectual means for recruiting them in the Western Country to their full Compliment, & be authorized to take recruits to serve for I year unless sooner dismissed by Congress which said recruits shall receive 20 ds. bounty & the same cloathing as other Continental soldiers. And every noncommd. officer & private who shall furnish himself with a blanket, musket or Rifle & accoutrements shall receive the same allowance therefor as is given by Congress to the drafts from the militia for filling up the Continental Regiments." PCC, item 78, 2:445 46

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 9
John Henry to Thomas Johnson
Dear Sir. York Town Apl. 20th. 1778. I have procured the inclosed paper with some difficulty. When you have read it, if the Assembly should be setting, I wish you would send it to the Speaker. Different opinions prevail here with regard to the Authenticity of it. For my own part I have no doubt, from what I have lately seen in the English papers, but these two Bills before this time, are enacted into Laws. I dread the impressions it will make upon the minds of many of our people. If it should, and I have no doubt of it, make its appearance in the form of a Law, it will prove more dangerous to our cause than ten thousand of their best troops. It will in a Day or two be under the consideration of Congress.
The Cartell for the General Exchange of prisoners is at an End. Upon our commissioners examining the powers of the Commissioners on the part of Genl Howe, they discovered he meant the treaty to be of a personal Nature, founded on the mutual Confidence and Honor of the contracting Generals, and had no Intention of binding the Nation, or of extending the Cartel beyond the limits and Duration of his own Command. They declared themselves ready to treat with us on this footing, with their present powers which they deemed adequate to the purposes of their Meeting. Upon this point the treaty broke off. I lament the Situation of our prisoners, and must approve of the Conduct of our Commissioners. A Cartel upon so narrow a foundation as the personal Honor of Genl Howe would be of little use to us and of short duration, liable at any time to be set aside by a subsequent Commander or by the British King without a breech of Honor. This Conduct will teach us a lesson respecting Genl Burgoyne and his Army.
I make no doubt you have heard of the insurrection in the Delaware State. By a Letter from a Mr Patterson we are informed that a considerable Number of the disaffected have assembled at a place near the head of Chester River. They are exerting themselves to add to their Numbers and those who will not join them, they deprive of their Arms and Amunition. It is said here they have British officers among them and expect to be reinforced from Philadelphia. This Matter is viewed here as very serious by some. Mr. Carrol gives his Compliments to you and desires me to acquaint you that there is a considerable quantity of provision at Charles Town at the Head of our Bay which appears to be in a dangerous Situation. There is also as I am informed by Mr. S. Stewart quantities of provisions at Princes Ann in Somerset, and other places in that neighbourhood, which it would be fortunate for us if we could remove them without Delay.
When I wrote to you, some Weeks ago, I informed you, that I had procured ten thousand Dollars for the recruiting service which I sent down by Col S. Smith, I have never heard whether you have recd. it.(1) If you should write to any of the Delegates, by the next post, I should be obliged to you to acquaint us with the receipt of the Money if it has reached your hands.
I am Sir with great respect, yrs. J. Henry Junr.

RC (MdAA).
1 See John Henry to Thomas Johnson, March 6, 1778.

Journals of the Continental Congress,

TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 1778

...The Board of War brought in a report, which was taken into consideration; Whereupon,
Congress came to the following resolution:
The Board taking into consideration the little effect of the reward offered in March last to such drafts as should bring firelocks &c with them into the field, reflecting too on the small number of arms and accoutrements in the public stores, are of opinion that larger reward should be proposed to the two new regiments ordered to be raised in Virginia and Pennsylvania, to induce them to come armed and accoutred; and beg leave to report--
Whereas, Congress, on the 2d day of May last, resolved that two regiments be raised in Virginia and Pensylvania, to serve for one year, and it is expedient that as many as possible of the non-commissioned officers and soldiers should provide themselves with arms and other necessaries:
Resolved, That each non-commissioned officer and soldier of the said regiment, who shall so provide himself with arms and other necessaries, shall receive the following compensations, to be paid as soon as he has passed muster, upon his producing the said articles, viz.
For a good serviceable rifle, with a powder horn, bullet pouch, and mould, eight dollars; for a good serviceable musket, with a bayonet and a powder horn, and bullet pouch, or a good cartouch box, six dollars; for a like musket and accoutrements, without a bayonet, five dollars; for a knapsack, two dollars; for a haversack, one dollar; for a blanket, eight dollars.1
[Note 1: 1 This report, in the writing of Timothy Pickering, is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 147, II, folio 105.]

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789
TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 1778
...The Board of War brought in a report: Whereupon,
War Office June 22d 1778

As Congress, on the [16] day of March last, resolved, that one full company of men should be raised in the Town of Westmoreland, on the east branch of the Susquehannah, to serve for one year, for the defence of that and the neighbouring settlements, but no bounty or other allowance was offered to the men who should engage for that service, except their mere pay and rations. As after constant attention to the business, the Gentlemen appointed for the purpose have been able to inlist only forty six men, and as the ravages of the Indians on the frontiers make it expedient that the said company should be completed as soon as possible, the Board beg leave to submit to Congress the following resolve--
Resolved, That each non-commissioned officer and soldier who hath inlisted or shall inlist into the company of foot ordered to be raised in the town of Westmoreland, on the east branch of the Susquehanna, by the resolution of the 16th of March last, shall receive the same sums for finding his own arms, accoutrements, and blanket, as were allowed by a resolve of the 16th instant to the noncommissioned officers and soldiers of the two regiments raising in Virginia and Pensylvania, to serve for one year; the said sums to be paid them immediately upon their passing muster before the colonel, or in his absence, the next commanding officer of the militia in the said town, and producing the necessary articles of equipment mentioned in the said resolve of the 16th instant.
That the sum of 1,440 dollars be granted to the Board of War, to be issued to Colonel Dennison, of Westmoreland aforesaid, to enable him to pay the allowances above mentioned; he to be accountable for the same.1
[Note 1: 1 This report, in the writing of Timothy Pickering, is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 147, II, folio 107.]....

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 13

North Carolina Delegates to Richard Caswell



July 15th. 1779

"...The Assembly have always manifested, Intentions very liberal, in providing for the Expences of their Delegates; but, it is impossible to Judge, how adequate any allowance will prove, to the unavoidable disbursements. We Sincerely wish, that all our Citizens were well armed; and, to press the Necessity thereof on our fellow Citizens. The Predatory war, which we may apprehend hereafter, if hostilities shall continue, will require, every where vigilence, readiness and vigor. We are convinced, that So far as the first, and last can avail, our Country will be Safe while you preside over her, but, without Arms, our virtue and vigilence can not avail much. We wish it to be thought an object of the highest Consequence to Supply them. You will See, by the inclosed papers, that a descent has been made in Connecticut; and we have advice from Europe, that it was planned in the British Cabinet.(5) This is a proof, at once, of the predatory designs of the Enemy, and of that imbecility which prevents them from carrying on Operations of greater vigor, and more competent to their design of Conquest...."
We have the honor to be with great respect yr. Exys obt. Serts,
John Penn
Thos. Burke
Wm. Sharpe
(Now, how come we don't have people like this in Congress now? Why do you suppose they are attempting to regulate our Right away currently? I've a few ideas on the subject, but that's another topic entirely...)
(5) See John Jay to George Washington and Jonathan Trumbull, July 13, 1779.

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 3

Answer of Congress to the Communications of the French Minister.*

[Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State; 5 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 674.]
In Congress, January 31, 1780.
"...That it will appear by the constitutions and other public acts of the several States that the citizens of the United States, possessed of arms, possessed of freedom, possessed of political power to create and direct their magistrates as they think proper, are united in their determinations to secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of liberty, by supporting the independence of their governments and observing their treaties and public engagements with immovable firmness and fidelity. And the Congress assure his majesty that, should any individual in America be found base enough to show the least disposition for persuading the people to the contrary, such individual would instantly lose all power of effecting his purpose, by forfeiting the esteem and confidence of the people...."

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 17
Theodorick Bland to Richard Henry Lee

Dr. Sr.
March 5th 1781

"...We have been for some days past in the most impatient expectation of hearing that the Virtue and ardor of our Countrymen had put a stop to the Progress of Cornwallis, and a period to his handfull of men with which that adventurous Knight Errand had dared to traverse the Southern States, and (as if bidding defiance to our Patriotism and Courage) has with three thousand troops thrown down the Gauntlet to forty thousand at least, who are nearer to him than he is to any support. Good God! Shall it be said that this man has dared to Venture near three Hundred miles from the Sea Coast and above two Hundred from any of his Posts and shall be permitted again to return! I cannot believe it. It is said we want Arms-Has not every Peasant in Virginia & North Carolina a Gun? with what weapons were the Battles of Bunkers Hill, Bennington and Kings mountain fought...." 

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 18

Benjamin Hawkins to Abner Nash

Dear Sir,


January 9th, 1782.

...The People of Vermont are like to be troublesome to us, they would not accord to the propositions made to them in August last but continued to encroach on the territory of New York and New Hampshire, the consequences were that the citizens of these states armed immediately and they were Like to have had an action, which was in some measure prevented by some of our generals...

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 20
James Madison's Notes of Debates
Wednesday April 23. [1783](1)

The resolution permitting the soldiers to retain their arms was passed at the recommendation of Genl. Washington. See letter in the files.(2)
The resolution for granting furloughs or discharges was a compromise(3) between those who wished to get rid of the expence of keeping the men in the field, and those, who thought it impolitic to disband the army whilst the British remained in the U. S.(4)

MS (DLC: Madison Papers). Madison, Papers (Hutchinson), 6:486.
1 Immediately preceding this entry Madison wrote: "Teus Apl. 22, see Journal."
2 That is, Washington's April 18 letter to Congress recommending that the "non Commissd Officers and Soldiers [be permitted] to take with them as their own property, and as a Gratuity, the Arms and Accoutrements they now hold," which is in PCC, item 152, 11:219-226; and Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 26:330-34.
3 For the adoption of these resolutions, see JCC, 24:269-70. See also Madison's Notes, May 20, 1783.
4 Following this paragraph, Madison made only the following brief entries in his notes before May 5.
"Apl. 24. See Journal.
"Friday 25 Apl. <
"Saturday April 26. Address to States passed nem. con. [It was drawn up by Mr. Madison: The address to Rd. Isd. referred to as No. 2 had been drawn up by Mr. Hamilton.]
"The writer of these notes absent till Monday May 5th."
It is clear from the physical evidence that the remarks printed here in brackets concerning the "Address" to the states were inserted by Madison at a later date.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 20
James Madison to Edmund Randolph
My dear friend
July 8. 1783.
...The Citizens here in general regret the departure of Congs., disavow the idea that they were unwilling to take arms in defence of Congs. and will probably enter into some declaration tending to invite their return....
(Now, why do you suppose that citizens would be unwilling to take up Arms to defend Congress? Hmmmm, I wonder....).

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 20
Alexander Hamilton to John Dickinson
[September ? 1783]
In the Footnotes:
"9......That they had consulted a number of well informed officers of the militia, and found that nothing in the present state of things was to be expected from that quarter. That the militia of the city in general, were not only ill provided for service, but disinclined to act upon the present occasion. That the council did not believe any exertions were to be looked for from them, except in case of further outrage and actual violence to person or property. That in such case a respectable body of citizens would arm for the security of their property and of the public peace; but it was to be doubted what measure of outrage would produce this effect; and in particular, it was not to be expected merely from a repetition of the insult which had happened." See JCC, 24:417-18.
Journals of the Continental Congress,


...The conditions on the part of the public to be these: each non commissioned officer and soldier robe furnished with a musket bayonet and cartouch box, and every two years with a suit of uniform, consisting of a coat jacket, and breeches of cloth; the arms and accoutrements to become his property at the end of his time of service...

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 22

Richard Henry Lee to Thomas Lee Shippen

New York
October the 14. 1785

...I hope to see my Gun & Pistols here handsomely repair'd before the 5th of next month. My best love attends the whole family & that at German Town---;And I pray God to have you in his holy keeping.
Farewell, Richard Henry Lee(2)

[P.S.] Put the Doctor in mind of my Gum rubrum astringens Gambiense(3)---;for it is the Sheet Anchor of my health.

RC (DLC: Shippen Family Papers).
1 See the following entry, note 1.

2 Lee also wrote to his nephew on October 16 inquiring about "Skreens" for his Dutch fan, his cousin George Lee of Bellview, lands for sale in Kentucky, and letters his brother Arthur may have left for him in Philadelphia. In another letter of the 19th he further clarified his order for "Skreens" and mentioned the ill-timed death of Samuel Hardy. Shippen Family Papers, DLC. On October 22 Lee wrote to his niece, Anne Home Shippen Livingston, asking about the price of muslin gowns and aprons for his wife and daugthters. Bamberger Autograph Collection, NjHi.
3 "One of the most efficacious vegetable astringents, or styptics, in the materia medica," from the resin of trees of the Gambia River region, also known as Kino. J.S. Forsyth, The New London Medical and Surgical Dictionary (London: Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper, 1826), pp. 329, 417

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 25

Nicholas Gilman to John Sullivan

New York
April 19th 1788
...The Governor, after trudging about all day, first with the mob in the morning, endeavouring to pacify and accommodate, and in the afternoon to assemble a body respectable enough to preserve the goal and to restore peace and good order, advanced about dusk with a number of the Citizens, but without any kind of order or without any other than a few side arms and canes, while the Adjutant-Gen'l of the militia, about 300 yards in his rear, led up in very good order about 150 men, tho' not more than half with firearms, among whom were many gentlemen of the city and strangers, volunteers. This body were not long before the goal before the bricks and stones from the mob provoked several to fire, and perhaps their might, on the whole, have been 60 guns discharged, but this is mere guess. This body made their way into the goal where a party remained all night, but a sally of 60 or 70 were defeated. Three of the mob were killed on the spot, and one has since died of his wounds, and several were wounded. One of them was bayonetted on attempting to force into a window of the prison which he saw filled with armed men, a proof of the astonishing lengths to which popular rage will sometimes carry men. Numbers on the Governor's side, besides himself, are severely bruised. Baron Steuben rec'd a wound just above the corner of his left eye and nose, from which he lost a great deal of blood. Mr. Jay got his scull almost cracked, and are both now laid up....


Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,

...Still further to realize their expectations, and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach, will, in the course of the present important session, call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war, is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end, a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent of others, for essential, particularly military, supplies...
United States, January 8, 1790.


Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,


...The Speaker, attended by the House, then withdrew to the house of the President of the United States, and there presented to him the address of this House, in answer to his speech to both Houses of Congress; to which the President made the following reply:
Gentlemen: I anticipated, with confidence, the concurrence of the House of Representatives in the regret produced by the insurrection. Every effort ought to be used to discountenance what has contributed to foment it; and thus discourage a repetition of like attempts. For, notwithstanding the consolations which may be drawn from the issue of this event, it is far better that the artful approaches to such a situation of things should be checked by the vigilant and duly admonished patriotism of our fellow citizens, than that the evil should increase until it becomes necessary to crush it by the strength of their arm....

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

TUESDAY, MAY 15, 1798
"That, in case of actual invasion from abroad, or of domestic insurrection at home, we hold it to be the duty of all good citizens and militia men, to rally round the standard of Government, and to defend our rights against all encroachments whatever: And therefore, we pledge ourselves, to appear armed and accoutered, at any moment when our services shall (for the purposes above mentioned) be required.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,


...Also, a memorial of Lyon Lehman, a citizen of the United States, praying a remission of the duty on a certain quantity of fire-arms imported by the memorialist into the port of New York, some time in the month of October, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-nine, for the reasons therein specified.
Ordered, That the said petition and memorial be referred to the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures....
(Mr. Lehman didn't want to have to pay taxes, eh? But he did receive his fire-arms!)

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

Resolved, That the prayer of the petition of the said Lyon Lehman is reasonable, and that the said petitioner ought to be refunded the sum of one thousand six hundred and eighty-four dollars, being the amount of duties he paid on the importation of three thousand five hundred rifles and carbines, and two hundred and eighty-seven pair of pistols, into the United States, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-nine.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

2. Resolved, That the President of the United States be authorized to accept of any company or companies of volunteers, either of artillery, cavalry, or infantry, who may associate and offer themselves for the service, (not exceeding thirty thousand men,) who shall be clothed and furnished with horses, at their own expense, and armed and equipped at the expense of the United States, except such of them as may choose to furnish their own arms, and whose commissioned officers shall be appointed by the respective State and Territorial authorities; who shall be liable to be called upon to do military duty at any time the President shall judge proper, within two years after he shall accept the same; and when called into actual service, and whilst remaining in the same, shall be under the same rules and regulations, and be entitled to the same pay, rations, forage, and allowance for clothing, with the regular troops of the United States.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,


...On a motion made by Mr. Cook, and seconded, that the House do come to the following resolution:
Resolved, That the citizens of the United States be authorized, by law, to arm and equip their merchant vessels for the purpose of defending them against French and British cruisers, who may molest or attack them when bound to any port or place not actually invested or blockaded.

Meeting of Citizens in the Park, (New York)
Wednesday, August 10, 1814.
"It is our glory and our boast, that we are FREEMEN. Our Constitution and government are acts of our free and unbiased choice. They are ours, and we will never abandon them.
"The citizens are the safeguards of a free state. Their right to keep and bear arms has never been infringed. We will use these weapons resolutely in support of our privileges; with these we will manfully oppose the enemy who shall presume to invade them...."

"I think the truth must now be obvious that our people are too happy at home to enter into regular service, and that we cannot be defended but by making every citizen a souldier, as the Greeks & Romans who had no standing armies, & that in doing this all must be marshalled, classed by their ages, & every service ascribed to it's competent class."-- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Wayles Eppes, September 9, 1814. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford].

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,

TUESDAY, November 17th, 1818

..."The right of self-defence never ceases. It is among the must sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals..."
November 16th, 1818

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,
MONDAY, December 13, 1819

...Mr. Gross, of New-York, submitted the following resolution:

Resolved, That a committee be appointed, with instructions to enquire into the expediency of providing by law, for compensating such citizens of the United States as suffered captivity, or loss of property, by the enemy, between the times of their approach to, and retreat from, Plattsburgh, in the year 1814, and which happened in consequence of such citizens having been in arms with the militia, against such enemy, or having refused protection from them, and without any neglect, or fault, on the part of such citizens; and that said committee have leave to report by bill or otherwise....

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, EXECUTIVE PROCEEDINGS AT A SPECIAL SESSION, COMMENCING WEDNESDAY, March 4, 1829.

(Inaugural Address of President Andrew Jackson)

"...As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending; and so long as it is worth defending, a patriotic militia will cover it with an impenetrable ægis. Partial injuries and occasional mortifications we may be subjected to; but a million of armed freemen, possessed of the means of war, can never be conquered by a foreign foe. To any just system, therefore, calculated to strengthen this natural safeguard of the country, I shall cheerfully lend all the aid in my power...."

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,
THURSDAY, June 14, 1832.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the said non-commissioned officers and privates shall arm and equip themselves, unless otherwise ordered by the President, and provide their own horses, and shall be allowed, each -- per day as a full compensation for their services, and the use of their arms and horses. The commissioned offices shall receive the same pay and emoluments as officers of the same grade in the army of the United States; and the officers shall be allowed forage for their horses, and be entitled to the same rations as those of the same grade in the army of the United States, respectively.

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,

TUESDAY, December 8, 1835

...The armor and the attitude of defence afford the best security against those collisions which the ambition, or interest, or some other passion of nations not more justifiable, is liable to produce. In many countries it is considered unsafe to put arms into the hands of the people, and to instruct them in the elements of military knowledge. That fear can have no place here, when it is recollected that the people are the sovereign power. Our Government was instituted, and is supported, by the ballot-box, not by the musket....

Washington, December 7, 1835

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,
MONDAY, January 23, 1837
...Mr. Linn presented a memorial of the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Wisconsin, praying that arms, ordnance, and ammunition, may be deposited within said Territory, for the use of its citizens; which was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs....

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,

TUESDAY, January 28, 1840

...The Vice President presented the memorial of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Iowa, praying that the citizens of said Territory may be supplied with suitable arms and ammunition to enable them to repel Indian hostilities, and also for the establishment of a military depot within that Territory; which was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

MONDAY, March 9, 1840

On motion of Mr. Downing,
Resolved, That the Committee on Military Affairs be instructed to inquire into the expediency of causing to be furnished to each ablebodied citizen on the Indian frontier, within the Territory of Florida, one of Colt's patent revolving rifles, complete, with the proper accoutrements, the better to enable the citizens of that distressed country to defend themselves and their families from the midnight and murderous attacks so frequently occurring in that Territory.

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,
WEDNESDAY, May 11, 1842

But, to render this system of protection effectual, it is essential that settlements of our citizens should be made within the line so established, and that they should be armed, so as to be ready to repel any attack. In order to afford inducements to such settlements, I submit to the consideration of Congress the propriety of allowing a reasonable quantity of land to the head of each family that shall permanently occupy it, and of extending the existing provisions on that subject, so as to permit the issue of rations for the subsistence of the settlers for one year. And as few of them will probably be provided with arms, it would be expedient to authorize the loan of muskets, and the delivery of a proper quantity of cartridges, or of powder and ball. By such means it is to be hoped that a hardy population will soon occupy the rich soil of the frontiers of Florida, who will be as capable as willing to defend themselves and their houses, and thus relieve the Government from further anxiety or expense for their protection.
Washington, May 10, 1842

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,
TUESDAY, December 5, 1848

Our citizen-soldiers are unlike those drawn from the population of any other country. They are composed indiscriminately of all professions and pursuits: of farmers, lawyers, physicians, merchants, manufacturers, mechanics, and laborers; and this, not only among the officers, but the private soldiers in the ranks. Our citizen-soldiers are unlike those of any other country in other respects. They are armed, and have been accustomed from their youth up to handle and use fire-arms; and a large proportion of them, especially in the western and more newly-settled States, are expert marksmen. They are men who have a reputation to maintain at home by their good conduct in the field. They are intelligent, and there is an individuality of character which is found in the ranks of no other army. In battle, each private man, as well as every officer, fights not only for his country, but for glory and distinction among his fellow-citizens when he shall return to civil life.
Washington, December 5, 1848.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

WEDNESDAY, May 5, 1858.

"Resolved, That the right of the citizen of the United States to expatriate himself and transfer his allegiance to other governments, to emigrate, with arms in his hands, for the purpose of settling new countries and founding new States, is an inherent and sacred right; one that ought to be inviolate, and one of which he cannot be constitutionally deprived."
Pending which, Mr. Clingman moved that the said resolutions and amendments be committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of Union, and, together with the report of the committee thereon, printed.

Journal of the Senate of the United States of America,

SATURDAY, July 27, 1861

...A message from the House of Representatives, by Mr. Etheridge, its Clerk:
Mr. President: The House of Representatives has passed the bill of the Senate (S. 38) making an appropriation to pay the expenses of transporting and delivering arms and munitions of war to the loyal citizens of the States of which the inhabitants now are or hereafter may be in rebellion against the government of the United States, and to provide for the expense of organizing them into companies, battalions, regiments, or otherwise, for their own protection against domestic violence, insurrection, invasion, or rebellion; and It has passed the bill of the Senate (S. 24) authorizing the Secretary of War to reimburse volunteers for expenses incurred in employing regimental and other bands, with amendments, in which it requests the concurrence of the Senate....
(Wonder if those citizens had to fill out a 4473 form and pass the background check?)

Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, [Volume 2]

THURSDAY, April 10, 1862

...On motion by Mr. Sparrow, to amend the bill by inserting, as an independent section:
  • Sec. --. Be it further enacted, That each man who may hereafter be mustered into the service, and who shall arm himself with a musket, shotgun, rifle, or carbine, accepted as an efficient weapon, shall be paid the value thereof; to be ascertained by the mustering officer, under such regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of War, if he is willing to sell the same, and if he is not, then he shall be entitled to receive one dollar a month for the use of said received and approved musket, rifle, shotgun, or carbine,
It was determined in the affirmative.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

MONDAY, June 20, 1864

Mr. Samuel F. Miller, by unanimous consent, submitted the following Resolution; which was read, considered, and agreed to, viz:
Resolved, That the Committee on Military Affairs be instructed to inquire into the justice and expediency, by proper legislation, that every soldier in the military service of the United States who shall keep in his possession during his term of service his musket, rifle, or sword and carbine, without ever losing or surrendering the same, shall, on his honorable discharge, be presented with such weapon as a testimony of valor and patriotism for himself, and a most precious heirloom for his family; and that said committee have leave to report by bill or otherwise.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States,

FRIDAY, April 19, 1872.

Most, if not all, of this information, except what I derived from the Attorney General, came to me orally, and was to the effect that said counties were under the sway of powerful combination, properly known as "Ku-Klux Klan," the objects of which were, by force and terror, to prevent all political action not in accord with the views of the members, to deprive colored citizens of the right to bear arms, and of the right to a free ballot; to suppress schools in which colored children were taught, and to reduce the colored people to a condition closely akin to that of slavery; that these combinations were organized and armed and had rendered the local laws ineffectual to protect the classes whom they desired to oppress; that they had perpetrated many murder, and hundreds of crimes of minor degree, all of which were unpunished; and that witnesses could not safely testify against them unless the more active members were placed under restraint.”
Executive Mansion, April 19, 1872.

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