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The Founding Fathers and Guns– In Their Own Words

Posted on Monday, November 27, 2023
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by AMAC, Jeff Szymanski
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50 Comments
the founding fathers of the united states

On December 15, 1791 the second amendment to the Constitution was ratified along with nine others. Collectively the group of ten is known as the Bill of Rights. These changes were added to the Constitution at the insistence of Anti-Federalists who wanted to keep power with state and local governments. George Mason was among the most vocal for protecting individual rights, and his agitation convinced James Madison, an early skeptic of changing the Constitution so soon, of the importance.  Madison thus took up the cause of the right to bear arms among others like free speech and press.

Benjamin Franklin was considerably older than the lot of folks we traditionally deem as Founding Fathers. He has one of the earliest, most succinct, and most important quotes on arms from 1759 with, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Just three months after the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, Founding Father John Dickinson said, The arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves.”

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, said this in that same year in drafting Virginia’s Constitution: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”

Perhaps more famously Jefferson is oft quoted with the following from his Commonplace Book from roughly the same year, though the quote is truly that of the great Enlightenment thinker and earliest criminologist Cesare Beccaria, an ardent gun control opponent: The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants.”

Founding Father George Mason had this to say in 1776, reflecting deep distrust in standing armies: That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

Fast forward a decade to the spirited ratification debates of the new Constitution in 1787-89, which was to replace the feckless Articles of Confederation. Here are some notable quotes on the right to bear arms and the Founders real fear of standing armies:

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787

“To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.”
– George Mason, referencing advice given to the British Parliament by Pennsylvania governor Sir William Keith, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, June 14, 1788

“The Constitution shall be never construed to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them.”
– Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788

“[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”
– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28, January 10, 1788

President George Washington, in his first annual address to both Houses of Congress on January 8, 1790, with the second amendment still not having achieved the required three-fourths vote by all the states, said this: “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined.”

That is but a sampling of what some of the Founding Fathers are on record as having said or written in the time prior to ratification of the second amendment. Debate over the actual 27 words of the second amendment and their meaning will likely continue in perpetuity. For context, Stephen Halbrook, a renowned expert author, lawyer, and professor, had this to say in his concluding paragraph of a 1986 scholarly article entitled What the Framers Intended: A Linguistic Analysis of the Right to “Bear Arms:”

“The framers of the second amendment intended to guarantee an individual right to carry firearms and other common hand carried arms. It is inconceivable that they would have tolerated the suggestion that a free person has no right to bear arms without the permission of a state authority, much less the federal government, or that a person could be imprisoned for doing so. As the Founding Fathers realized, every right has its costs, but the alternatives are often more costly.”

Jeff Szymanski works in political communications at AMAC, a senior benefits organization with 2.2 million members. He previously taught high school social studies for 15 years.

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Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
4 months ago

The folks who wrote the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution didn’t just return from a hunting trip – They liberated a nation.

Paul
Paul
4 months ago

Well said by each man, back in the day.
Give up your arms and you will bear the full savagery of a government that seeks to control its citizens, rather than seeking to console the citizens.

William Hodge
William Hodge
4 months ago

We the people of our great nation have never been threatened by a federal government more than now. The three branches of government, the appointed heads of agencies and the agencies themselves have never thought themselves more to control the people rather than their servants as they do today. It is sickening to hear elected servants refer to themselves as “leaders” rather than what they are, elected representatives to OUR government.

Ty
Ty
4 months ago

Gun control only benefits the criminal, whether they are theives of property or agresserors in war. If we are not equipped to defend our homes, we will not be prepared to defend our homeland. Our freedoms, specifically our right to bear arms, have been a deterrent to our enemies.Crime in our streets is the failure of our government, city, county, state, and federal. Our laws and courts are the problem not the right of law biding citzens to protect themselves. If you use a gun to commit any crime the sentence should be a minimum of 20 years, no parole. Fire a gun during the commision of a crime the sentence should be 30 years, no parole. Injure someone during the commision of a crime while using a gun, 35 years, no parole. Shoot a gun during a crime that takes a life, life in prison or the death penalty, based on past criminal activity and/or convictions. The right to carry isn’t a right to use a gun to commit crime. That’s where civil right belongs.

David Millikan
David Millikan
4 months ago

Excellent article. They knew that without the 2nd Amendment there would be nothing but tyranny.

Jim
Jim
4 months ago

Gun control is the only way to rule the citizenry. This is why the elitist Democrats are pushing it all the time. All to many people do not know the constitution and cannot recognize the attacks on our freedoms. Hell, 30% of Democrats think we are too free. Unbelievable.

Dave K
Dave K
4 months ago

Article is spot on! The problem is that, even while this is vitally important today, we’re being defeated by blatant corruption; ie from the highest office of this great nation to democrat/CCP controlled voting machines.

Melinda
Melinda
4 months ago

Americans are so lucky to live in a country founded by wise men who cherished their hard won freedom. Because of the planned lack in our education system, most of our young people will not realize this.

Ron Floyd
Ron Floyd
4 months ago

This is strictly my opinion but I believe that if you commit a crime with a gun, you should be arrested, convicted, and given an appropriate sentence based on the crime. Only after that should you lose your right to own the weapon regardless of the type of weapon. It should be darn hard for you to regain ownership rights. If you illegally obtain a weapon and commit a crime with it you should be put away for a real, real long time and permanently lose that second amendment privilege. If you don’t commit a crime with your fire arm no matter the type you should be able to keep it and use it for legal purposes without fearing confiscation by the government because someone else illegally used a gun for a crime. Seems simple to me and I’m not the brightest bulb in the box.

Barrett Smith
Barrett Smith
4 months ago

This is why the left does not want history taught in schools.

Lynn Rader
Lynn Rader
4 months ago

Slaves were kept from being able to be armed by the Democrats, who also embraced slavery.

Jackie
Jackie
4 months ago

Excellent article – all Democrats should read this!!!!

Bruce A. Jacobs
Bruce A. Jacobs
4 months ago

The Second Amendment is the guarantor of all the others. Our times prove this without doubt.

pete
pete
4 months ago

‘The common man is entitled to a weapon TO PROTECT HIMSELF FROM HIS GOVERNMENT.’–Samual Adams.

Dan W.
Dan W.
4 months ago

The Founders couldn’t imagine the shooting gallery that is the Southside of Chicago.

Just last week, a 43 year old married father, who was a 15 year employee of my condo building was shot and killed simply standing on a street corner near his home in a drive-by shooting.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
4 months ago

If the Founders “couldn’t have known about modern firearms” is the reason to ban those we need to ban televisions, radios, cell phones, the internet, etc. regarding the 1st Amendment and just have rights as our benevolent government deems neccessary for our collective good. So they proclaim.

anna hubert
anna hubert
4 months ago

Excellent piece and that is the difference between America and the rest of the world when the government is afraid of its own citizenry something is rotten somewhere as we see right now With the exception of criminals and nut jobs it’s no business of mine who owns what

Gail
Gail
4 months ago

The bad guys-our government- see the ‘good for them’ in gun control, so do the crooks. We, the citizens, must keep vigilant for any suggestion, rule or law that strips us of our right to protect our homes and our country.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
4 months ago

No because even after they were emancipated Democrats wouldn’t let them.

Rich
Rich
4 months ago

Instead of removing another fundamental right, we need a legal system with backbone that will vigorously enforce strong and expedient punishment on those intent on committing crimes with firearms. Not a legal system that turns a blind eye to crime and makes lawyers richer. With strong punishment, crime committed with firearms would diminish very quickly. Something else that we desperately need is common sense which we seem to have very little of these days. Our founding fathers were influenced by the freedoms that God himself has given us. Our own big brother and the globalists want nothing more than to dis-arm America, then they will have their “freedom” to do whatever they feel is in our “best interest”. We must never let that happen.

Jess
Jess
4 months ago

The Constitution is what’s considered sacrosanct. It has stood the test of time! This document was drafted by men who knew the boots of tyranny all to well! Today, these same boots are once again threatening the Founding Father’s dream of Life, Liberty, and, and Justice for all. The preamble to the Constitution says it all! It is to our shame that the progressive, radical left, has been allowed to raise its ugly head. Everything they espouse is the antithesis of what this great Nation was founded on! History is a hard task master. Forget its lessons and what follows becomes “we the people’s” undoing! Want to see America’s future? Look no further than to the regimes holding power in China, North Korea, Russia, Cuba, and Iran?That’s what awaits us if these evil forces aren’t brought to heel right here in our beloved America. Protect all you hold dear before it is too late! Take a stand for the your freedom. Stand up for your Country!

Jobert
Jobert
4 months ago

Sparky: During the civil war there were many slaves who used firearms, whether or not they owned them, is another story.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago

Republicans are guilty of letting democrats totally trash our entire education system simply by just letting them brainwash young minds and doing nothing about it! They hate America because they’ve been taught to do so by radical leftist teachers and radical professors. It’s time to remove taxpayer dollars from education and close down the system. You remove the money and most of the BS goes away! It must be started again from scratch minus the leftist unions and minus the radical leftist BS!

tempus
tempus
4 months ago

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; This paragraph of the Constitution strongly suggests that the drafters thought that private individuals would own crew operated weapons such as cannons and ships of war.

James
James
4 months ago

Their logic, experiences with their English “leaders”, understanding of human nature, wisdom, and desire to avoid these oppressive issues in their future cannot be ignored. While there are those that will bring up time related excuses for changing one of the most successful and well thought out documents ever written, please understand….human greed for power and money has been around since before recorded history. Tommy Jefferson, Ben, John, George and rest of the boys knew this to be a fact. For those who cannot see that it still exists… I am so sorry that you are in a coma. Critical thinking on this particular subject puts any debate on this back in 7th grade where it belongs. Recent manipulations of our voting system have put honest elections in jeopardy more so now than ever before. And yes, these dirty tricks have been happening in different ways for many, many years, it’s just that some people are finally becoming more aware. (At least, those of us choosing to actually take the time to see.)
We have the makings of the best system of government on the planet, now we just have to hire people into office that are at least honest and intelligent enough to actually enforce the law and Constitution without breaking it for themselves.
So, what solutions do YOU imagine IF the Constitution is trashed and freedom begins to disappear? Well, can you remember “Sieg Heil”? How about “Ba ni de fangzi gei wo”?
For those who wish to maintain a reasonable standard of living for their kids, perhaps this makes it a bit more clear how handy and necessary amendments # 1 and # 2 are.

Dave
Dave
4 months ago

Very well written using the very words of the people who brought about this great nation. It seems like with the old bombers and the obidens and the others of this preposter’s notion that we should bow down to every man and every nation and be subservient without the proverbial firearm behind every blade of grass that stopped Japan from attacking our very chores we will be in a position that that we will not be able to defend ourselves not only against our fellow countrymen but to defend our nation against attack from outside agitators and people who wish to control and destruct the very notion of freedom. People can talk about and try to destroy and try to twist everything that has been said by the very fathers of our country but what they said stands out very clearly that without a means to defend yourself and our country then we are not able to continue our freedom either as individuals or as a country.

Pete from St Pete
Pete from St Pete
4 months ago

Perhaps the Israelis who were massacred by the Hamas barbarians would not have been such easy marks if they each had a gun in their home.

Franklin
Franklin
4 months ago

Do American citizens not remember the queer muslim usurper Barack Obama signing a bill into law on 1/1/2012 that suspended the Bill of Rights whenever the government thought it necessary? Do you NOT know how many innocent January 6 protesters are still sitting in a DC jail cell without being charged and having NO bond set at this very moment???

Larry
Larry
4 months ago

Very well written for sure. You could never make it working for Yahoo. 🙂

Glenn
Glenn
4 months ago

‘Molon Labe’

leland patterson
leland patterson
4 months ago

this government we have today is ignorant of the reading of our constitution leave it alone!

Gsfvoyles
Gsfvoyles
4 months ago

Read

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