Quotes from the Founding Fathers
"... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and 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 lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and 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 and tyrants. It is its natural manure."
Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)
"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!" Patrick Henry
"(T)he foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; ...the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained..." George Washington, First Inaugural, April 30 1789
"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams
"Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right"
"Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God? Thomas Jefferson
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."
"The citizens of the U.S. are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society"
"We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government." James Madison
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." Thomas Jefferson
"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves." William Pitt in the House of Commons November 18, 1783
"We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicity. Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.
QUOTES FROM FOUNDING FATHERS AND REVOLUTIONARY THINKERS ON THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS
A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.
Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.
One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.
Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1796. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.
Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... 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; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. Jefferson's "Commonplace Book," 1774_1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."
Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Virginia Constitution, 1776, Jefferson Papers 344.
"The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world not destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside ... Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them ... the weak will become prey to the strong."
Thomas Paine, Thoughts on Defensive War
"Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust their people with arms."
"The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms . . ."
"When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually...I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor..."
George Mason, Virginia Constitution Convention
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive."
Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787)
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American...[T]he 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, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
RICHARD HENRY LEE
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves ... and include all men capable of bearing arms."
Richard Henry Lee - Senator, First Congress
"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms..."
"Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins."
Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts
"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference they deserve a place of honor with all that is good."
"A free people ought not only to be armed..."
"The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun."
"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?"
March 23, 1775:
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!