The Founders' Words Reveal Intent

by Colonel Dan


The Cowboy Chronicle

April  2004


We all probably know the Second Amendment by heart, but do we know the underlying intent that served as a foundational basis for that Amendment? 

Obviously, the basic content of our Founding Fathers’ thoughts ultimately determined the final content of our Constitution.  But in order to gain some insight to their fundamental thought process, i.e. intent, we might want to read what they wrote on the subject external to the Bill of Rights. 

In their hearts of hearts—their souls—how did they really feel about the private citizen’s right to keep and bear arms—and why?  This is a question the anti-gunners in our midst use and twist constantly—as in The Second doesn’t really mean what you think it does.  It means that only a well regulated militia has the right to keep and bear arms, not the people.”  The militia defined by the anti-gunners as the National Guard—in other words, a government regulated military force.  Is that the view of the Founding Fathers? 

To help us better understand their intentions I suggest we read the words they used when persuading others about the merits of their ideas.  Therein we’ll find the best available indication of actual intent behind the Amendment from those that actually wrote it.

Below are a few representative examples among many regarding our right to keep and bear arms from the Founders themselves.  All quotes are unedited by me.  I could not and would not presume to improve upon the inspiration of our Founding Fathers. 

My only request is that you read, think, and determine for yourself what they really meant.  Then after reading their own words, ask yourself if the Founders seem like advocates of “common sense gun control” or do they seem somewhat more like “Second Amendment Absolutists” to you? 

Once you come to a conclusion, be an active voice of commitment in defense of and for that conclusion—whatever it may be.  Just don’t be noncommittal and therefore uncommitted—there’s too much at stake.


"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." Thomas Jefferson,

Proposed Virginia Constitution (1776).

"A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves and include all men capable of bearing arms …To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms . . . " Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters From the Federal Farmer 53 (1788).

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." George Mason, during Virginia's

Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788).

"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." Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and punishment (1764).

"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." Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution Proposed BV the Late Convention (1787).

"Americans need not fear the federal government because they enjoy the advantage of being armed, which you possess over the people of almost every other nation." James Madison.  

"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. 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 crime."--Cesare Beccaria, quoted by Thomas Jefferson

"The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." Edmund Burke (1784).

"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, spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment, I Annals of Congress at p. 750, August 17, 1789.

"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."

--James Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 46 at 243-244.

"Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state government, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people" --Tench Coxe, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike especially when young, how to use them." --Richard

Henry Lee, 1788

"The great object is that every man be armed" and "everyone who is able may have a gun." --Patrick Henry

"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?" --Patrick Henry

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed." Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-8  

"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world 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..." --Thomas Paine

"...the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms" --from article in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette June 18,1789 at 2, col.2.

"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 to James Madison

"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them."  Zachariah Johnson, 3 Elliot, Debates at 646

"That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of The United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms..." – Samuel Adams, during Massachusetts's Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788).

Just several views from their saddle…

As for the view from my saddle…

“The most essential elements of preserving American liberty are God, guts and a free mind connected to a well trained trigger finger.”   ~ Colonel Dan ~


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