Thomas Jefferson on The Right To Bear Arms

Posted on January 22, 2003

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Thomas Jefferson on

The Right to Bear Arms


"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that . . . it is their right and duty to be at all times armed."

-- Letter to John Cartwright, 1824. (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (ME), Lipscomb and Bergh, editors, 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04, 16:45.

"One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them."

-- Letter to George Washington, 1796. ME 9:341

"I learn with great concern that [one] portion of our frontier so interesting, so important, and so exposed, should be so entirely unprovided with common fire-arms. I did not suppose any part of the United States so destitute of what is considered as among the first necessaries of a farm house."

-- Letter to Jacob J. Brown, 1808. ME 11:432

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements)."

-- Draft Virginia Constitution (with his note added), 1776. Papers 1:353

"None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important."

-- Letter to -----, 1803. ME 10:365

"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 the constant companion of your walks."

-- Letter to Peter Carr, 1785. ME 5:85, Papers 8:407

The above were gathered en masse from the website Thomas Jefferson On Politics & Government: Quotations from the Writings of Thomas Jefferson, compiled and edited by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. of Metairie, Jefferson Parish, La.

The site contains more than 2,700 excerpts from Jefferson`s writings, chosen, Coates says, "not for their historical significance, but as an expression of Jefferson`s PRINCIPLES of government that have relevance for us today."

"The principles of Jefferson are the axioms of a free society."
--Abraham Lincoln
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