History of the Second Amendment

The right to keep and bear arms, like all Natural Rights, has deep historical roots. There have always been, and will always be those who wish to restrict and eliminate this right. This is why history is so important. It teaches us that leaders who stand against self-defense ALWAYS have evil intentions, but that is only where it starts. Going after a free man’s right to defend himself, his family, his rights, his possessions, his town, his State and country is just the beginning. The restriction or elimination of all other rights is next… ALWAYS.

Over the course of several years, I have assembled a collection of sources detailing the timelessness of the need for free citizens to keep and bear arms. Feel free to use these sources, but please credit me with a link back to www.PatriotMusic.com.

Thank you.

Matt Fitzgibbons

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History of the Second Amendment

by Matt Fitzgibbons

248 BC Plato: Laws

“Further, at all seasons of the year, summer and winter alike, let them be under arms and survey minutely the whole country; thus they will at once keep guard, and at the same time acquire a perfect knowledge of every locality. There can be no more important kind of information than the exact knowledge of a man’s own country; and for this as well as for more general reasons of pleasure and advantage, hunting with dogs and other kinds of sports should be pursued by the young. The service to whom this is committed may be called the secret police, or wardens of the country; the name does not much signify, but every one who has the safety of the state at heart will use his utmost diligence in this service.”

350 BC Aristotle: Politics

Book 3. “Hence in a constitutional government the fighting-men have the supreme power, and those who possess arms are the citizens.”

Book 5 “That tyranny has all the vices both of democracy and oligarchy is evident. As of oligarchy so of tyranny, the end is wealth; (for by wealth only can the tyrant maintain either his guard or his luxury). Both mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms.”

Book 7 IX “But on the other hand, since it is an impossible thing that those who are able to use or to resist force should be willing to remain always in subjection, from this point of view the persons are the same; for those who carry arms can always determine the fate of the constitution.”

The New Testament Luke 22:36

“He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”

1181 Assize of Arms

1. Let every holder of a knight’s fee have a hauberk, a helmet, a shield and a lance. And let every knight have as many hauberks, helmets, shields and lances, as he has knight’s fees in his demise.

2. Also, let every free layman, who holds chattals or rent to the value of 16 marks, have hauberk, a helmet, a shield, and a lance. Also, let every free layman who holds chattals or rent worth 10 marks have an aubergel and a headpiece of iron and a lance….

4. Moreover, let each and every one of them swear before the feast of St. Hilary he will possess these arms and will bear allegiance to the lord king, Henry, namely the son of empress Maud, and that he will bear these arms in his service according to his order and in allegiance to the lord king and his realm…”

1505 Nicolo Machiavelli: The Prince

Chapter V “But when cities or countries are accustomed to live under a prince, and his family is exterminated, they, being on the one hand accustomed to obey and on the other hand not having the old prince, cannot agree in making one from amongst themselves, and they do not know how to govern themselves. For this reason they are very slow to take up arms, and a prince can gain them to himself and secure them much more easily. But in republics there is more vitality, greater hatred, and more desire for vengeance, which will never permit them to allow the memory of their former liberty to rest; so that the safest way is to destroy them or to reside there.”

1520 Nicolo Machiavelli: On the Art of War

“Rome remained free four hundred years while armed: Sparta eight hundred: Many other Cities have been dis-armed, and have been free less than forty years; for Cities have need of arms, and if they do not have arms of their own, they hire them from foreigners, and the arms of foreigners more readily do harm to the public good than their own; for they are easier to corrupt, and a citizen who becomes powerful can more readily avail himself, and can also manage the people more readily as he has to oppress men who are disarmed.”

1581 Junius Brutus: Defence of Liberty Against Tyrants

“A tyrant fills his garrisons with strange soldiers, builds citadels against his subjects, disarms the people, throws down their forts, makes himself formidable with guards of strangers, or men only fit for pillage and spoil, gives pensions out of the public treasury to spies and calumniating informers, dispersed through all cities and provinces. Contrariwise, a king reposes more his safety in the love of his subjects than in the strength of his fortresses against his enemies, taking no care to enroll soldiers, but accounts every subject as a man-at-arms to guard him…”

1614 The Politics of Johannes Althusius

CHAPTERS XXIX-XXXVII “The care and handling of arms is twofold. One function of it is exercised in time of peace, and the other in time of war.[20] The care and handling of arms in time of peace is the programme by which the citizens are trained in the arts of war at a time when there is no war, or by which the science of waging war is demonstrated to subjects and they are given practice in military exercises….”

1646 Richard Overton: An Arrow Against All Tyrants

And therefore notwithstanding such illegal censures and warrants either of king or of Lords (no legal conviction being made) the persons invaded and assaulted by such open force of arms may lawfully arm themselves, fortify their houses (which are their castles in the judgement of the law) against them; yea, disarm, beat, wound, repress and kill them in their just necessary defence of their own persons, houses, goods, wives and families, and not be guilty of the least offence…”

1651 Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

“And when the defence of the Commonwealth requireth at once the help of all that are able to bear arms, every one is obliged; because otherwise the institution of the Commonwealth, which they have not the purpose or courage to preserve, was in vain…”

1651 John Milton: A Defense of the People of England

“And formerly when kings have refused to confirm acts of parliament, to wit, Magna Charta and some others, our ancestors have brought them to it by force of arms. And yet our lawyers never were of opinion, that those laws were less valid, or less binding, since the king was forced to assent to no more than what he ought in justice to have assented to voluntarily, and without constraint.”

1683 The Fundamental Constitutions for the Province of East New Jersey in America

Article VII “And on the other side, those who do judge it their duty to bear arms for the publick defence, shall have their liberty to do in a legal way.”

1689 English Bill of Rights

Declaration that King James II subverted the laws and liberties of the kingdom…

#6 By causing several good subjects, being protestants, to be disarmed, at the same time when papists were both armed and employed, contrary to law.

1776 Draft Constitution for Virginia

“No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands].”

1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights

XIII 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 be governed by, the civil power.

1776 Declaration of Independence

1776 Pennsylvania Constitution
Article XIII That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state ; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

1776 Constitution of North Carolina
XVII That the people have a right to bear arms, for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

1777 The Constitution of New York

XL. And whereas it is of the utmost importance to the safety of every State that it should always be in a condition of defence; and it is the duty of every man who enjoys the protection of society to be prepared and willing to defend it; this convention therefore, in the name and by the authority of the good people of this State, doth ordain, determine, and declare that the militia of this State, at all times hereafter, as well in peace as in war, shall be armed and disciplined, and in readiness for service.

1777 The Constitution of Vermont

XV. “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State; and, as standing armies, in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

1780 The Constitution of Massachusetts

Article XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.

1781 Ratification of The Articles of Confederation

1783 Ratification of The Preliminary Articles of Peace

1787 The Constitutional Convention

1787 The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers #46. Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

1787 The Anti-Federalist Papers

The Anti-Federalist Papers #28
Tyrants have never placed any confidence on a militia composed of freemen. Experience has taught them that a standing body of regular forces, whenever they can be completely introduced, are always efficacious in enforcing their edicts, however arbitrary; and slaves by profession themselves, are “nothing loth” to break down the barriers of freedom with a gout. No, my fellow citizens, this plainly shows they do not mean to depend upon the citizens of the States alone to enforce their powers. They mean to lean upon something more substantial and summary. They have left the appointment of officers in the breasts of the several States; but this appears to me an insult rather than a privilege, for what avails this right if they at their pleasure may arm or disarm all or any part of the freemen of the United States, so that when their army is sufficiently numerous, they may put it out of the power of the freemen militia of America to assert and defend their liberties, however they might be encroached upon by Congress. Does any, after reading this provision for a regular standing army, suppose that they intended to apply to the militia in all cases, and to pay particular attention to making them the bulwark of this continent? And would they not be equal to such an undertaking? Are they not abundantly able to give security and stability to your government as long as it is free? Are they not the only proper persons to do it? Are they not the most respectable body of yeomanry in that character upon earth? Have they not been engaged in some of the most brilliant actions in America, and more than once decided the fate of princes? In short, do they not preclude the necessity of any standing army whatsoever, unless in case of invasion? And in that case it would be time enough to raise them, for no free government under heaven, with a well disciplined militia, was ever yet subdued by mercenary troops.

1788 The Anti-Federalist Papers

Speech of Patrick Henry
Oh, Sir, we should have fine times indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people. Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical; no longer democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors cannot assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America. A standing army we shall have also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny: And how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your Mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?

1792 The Constitution of Kentucky

That the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.

1796 The Constitution of Tennessee

Section 26th That the free men of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence.

2008 Supreme Court of the United States, District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia

“There are many reasons why the militia was thought to be “necessary to the security of a free state.” See 3 Story §1890. First, of course, it is useful in repelling invasions and suppressing insurrections. Second, it renders large standing armies unnecessary—an argument that Alexander Hamilton made in favor of federal control over the militia. The Federalist No. 29, pp. 226, 227 (B. Wright ed. 1961) (A. Hamilton). Third, when the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny.”


As you can imagine, putting this page together took a long time and a lot of research. If you found it useful, please show your support by sending it out to others who might find it of interest, give me a Like on my FaceBook page, or buy some of my music.

Thank you!

Matt Fitzgibbons