(ONN) With the nation divided over the issue of firearms ownership and gun control, Americans are once again looking to the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution for guidance. People are also taking the founders’ advice and looking to their individual speeches and quotations for a more accurate sense of what they intended. Here are some well known quotes from the founders on the issue of gun control and firearms.
For us at Whiteout Press, it's simple. We trust the advice of Washington, Jefferson & Lincoln more than we trust the advice of Obama, McConnell and Feinstein. Image courtesy of Bryan Mullennix.
Warning – accusations of made-up quotes
It should be noted that two of the most famous quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson regarding liberty, guns and the 2nd Amendment are also called made-up, fictitious quotations. The website Monticello.org keeps an online record of every famous Thomas Jefferson quotation. And according to a recent CNN interview with the foundation’s staff, they “have not found any evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote” these words:
“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
Yep, the two most famous Thomas Jefferson quotations are accused by the world’s foremost experts on Jefferson to be forgeries, frauds and just plain made-up. But other Jefferson historians disagree. They insist that just because the keepers of Monticello, Jefferson’s 18th century home in Virginia, can’t find any documentation doesn’t mean he didn’t utter those words. Jefferson held almost every position in the newly forged US government, including President, Vice President, and the nation’s first Secretary of State where he travelled the globe and met thousands of people a world away from the historians back at Monticello.
“I do not know if Jefferson actually ever made such a statement or not,” one amateur Jefferson expert argued, “I find it odd that many people attribute it to him if it wasn’t true. It’s ridiculous in my opinion to propose that since nowhere in his writings there is trace of such a statement, then Jefferson has never said something like that. Jefferson could have come up with those words in any occasion of his public or private life and someone else recorded and then quoted him.”
Administrators at the Jefferson Library disagree. They insist that Thomas Jefferson’s quotes were well documented even while he was still alive. They also report that their staff attempted to trace the origin of the second quote above. The earliest publication of it they found was a 1989 Orlando Sentinel editorial piece. Believe it or not, your author remembers that article in 1989 like it was yesterday. From it, fliers and hand-outs were made publicizing the quotation. Within a year or two, that quote could be found circulating the entire 2nd Amendment, Constitutionalist, libertarian movement.
Fast forward 100 years
Today’s supporters of the right to keep and bear arms often have a difficult time explaining their reasoning, especially after horrific events like Sandy Hook. And far too often, gun owners insist their guns are only for sport, recreation or to defend their home from burglars and individual criminals. But the reality of the matter is that none of those reasons are correct. In modern day terms, guns aren’t for killing squirrels. They’re for killing Marines.
As much as it breaks this author’s heart to hear those words, it’s true. The founding fathers believed that every American should own a standard, infantry level, military-style rifle for two reasons. One was to protect America from invading armies. The second was to protect America from its own army.
Abraham Lincoln understood this. And a century after the 2nd Amendment was drafted and ratified, he explained the reasons and benefits of an armed society. “From whence shall we expect the approach of danger?” Lincoln asked, “Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”
Quotes from America’s founding fathers
Below are additional quotes from the founding fathers regarding their positions on firearms, the 2nd Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms.
“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians.” – George Mason, co-author of the 2nd Amendment.
“A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves.” – Richard Henry Lee.
“And that the said Constitution be never 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.
“Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence.” – George Washington
“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.
“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” – Thomas Jefferson.
“To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them.” – George Mason.
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country in Europe.” – Noah Webster.
“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms.” – James Madison.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin.
“A free people ought to be armed.” – George Washington.
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson.
“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” – George Washington.
We felt it appropriate to close this list with a quote from the father of our country – George Washington. No man or woman in the history of America has been given more responsibility and trust, gambling the existence of our newborn nation in the hands of one righteous man. Washington could have been the King of America. He could have been the nation’s first dictator. He could have enslaved the whole continent. But he proved time and again that protecting the freedom of the people was his only concern.
Washington understood before almost anyone that firearms were ‘the great equalizer’. Until the invention of the gun, the old saying ‘might makes right’ was true. Justice didn’t prevail. Intelligence didn’t prevail. And love didn’t prevail. Those who rely on violence, murder and force to get their way or prove they’re right are often wicked and evil, with no use for justice, intelligence or love. Washington taught us over 200 years ago that firearms in the hands of the people “restrains evil”.
It’s no coincidence that America and its freedom have been the envy of the world for more than two centuries. Our ruling Constitution is the oldest in the world because of its brilliance and distant foresight. The founding fathers knew that as long as the American people remained armed, that in any future time and place, freedom would always have a fighting chance to survive. Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln understood that. And for this author’s part, I trust Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln a hell of a lot more than I trust Obama, McConnell and Feinstein.
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