America; Always Armed

America, Always Armed….

   Following is a list of quotations which provide proof that the citizens of America have always possessed Arms for defense. This fact can no longer be denied, nor should our Right continue to be Infringed upon.

   In 1619, the colony of Virginia had statutes that not only required everyone to attend church on Sunday, but “all such as bear arms shall bring their pieces, swords, powder and shot” or be subject to a three-shilling fine. That same statute was renewed in 1632, and again in 1738.

[David A. Yeagley, “The Christian Case Against Gun Control” 4/7/2004]

   Nevertheless, with all these defects, the colony was admirably governed in the main. One great right of freemen, the right of bearing arms, a highly necessary right to men planted suddenly among wild beasts and savages, was certainly not taken from the people. On the contrary, the government took care that all should be duly trained to self-defence. There is no man who bears a head, says Wood, (New Englands Prospect, 1639,) but bears military arms; even boys of fourteen years of age are practised with men in military discipline every three weeks. And they practised to some effect, as the records of the time prove, and as the Pequods learned to their cost.

–John Lothrop Motley, (1814–1897). ‘Polity of the Puritans’. (Concerning early colonial times).

[The North American review. Vol. 69, Issue 145, Oct. 1849]

ACT of 26th August 1721. 1 Dallas p. 158 l Bioren p. 157 1 Smith p. 180.

2. Sect. IV. If any person or persons, of what sex, age, degree or quality soever, shall fire any gun or other fire arms, or shall make or cause to be made, or sell or utter, or offer to expose to sale any squibs, rockets or other fireworks, or shall cast, throw or fire any squibs, rockets, or other fireworks, within the city of Philadelphia, without the governor’s special license for the same, of which license due notice shall first be given to the mayor of the said city, such person or persons so offending, and being thereof convicted before any one justice of the peace of the said city, either by confession of the party so offending, or by the view of any of the said justices, or by the oath or affirmation of one or more witnesses, shall for every such offence forfeit and pay the sum of five shillings; one half to the use of the poor of the said city, and the other half to the use of him or them who shall prosecute, and cause such offender to be as aforesaid convicted; which forfeitures shall be levied by distress and sale of the offender’s goods as aforesaid; and for want of such distress, if the offender refuse to pay the said forfeiture, he shall be committed to prison, for every such offence, the space of two days, without bail or mainprize: Provided, That such conviction be made within ten days after such offence committed. [Pg. 231]

ACT of 9th February 1750-51. 1 Dallas p. 339. 1 Bioren p. 311. 1 Smith p. 208.

3. Sect. I. If any person or persons whatsoever, within any county town, or within any other town or borough in this province, already built and settled, or hereafter to be built and settled, not hitherto restricted nor provided for by our laws, shall set on fire their chimnies to cleanse them, or shall suffer them or any of them to take fire, and blaze out at the top, or shall fire any gun or other fire arm, or shall make or cause to be made, or sell or utter, or offer to expose to sale, any squibs, rockets or other fire works, or shall cast, throw or fire any squibs, rockets or other fire works, within any of the said towns or boroughs, without the governor’s special license for the same, every such person or persons so offending, shall be subject to the like penalties and forfeitures, and to be recovered in like manner, as in and by an act, passed in the eighth year of the reign of king George the first, entitled ‘An act for preventing accidents that may happen by fire,’ are directed to be levied and recovered. [Act of 26th August 1721.] [Pg. 232]

[A Digest of the Laws of Pennsylvania: From the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred, To The Twenty Fourth Day of March One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighteen. WITH References to Reports of Judicial Decisions in the SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA. BY JOHN PURDON. PHILADELPHIA: PUBLISHED BY PHILIP H. NICKLIN, No. 175, CHESNUT STREET. W. Fry, Printer. 1818. (Fines and Recognizances. Fire. Firing of Guns).]

    THAT humble Application be made to his Majesty for a Charter to erect the said Territory into a seperate Government, with the same Privileges which the Colony of Connecticut enjoys, and for such Supplies of Arms and Ammunition as may be necessary for the Safety and Defence of the Settlers, and that his Majesty would also be pleased to take the said New Colony under his immediate Protection

–Scheme For the Settlement of a New Colony, July 24th, 1755.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1
Benjamin Franklin to Nathaniel Seidel

Reverend & dear Sir,
June 2. 1775
I am much oblig’d by your kind Congratulations on my Return; and I rejoice to hear that the Brethren are well and prosper.(1) I am persuaded that the Congress will give no Encouragement to any to molest your People on Account of their Religious Principles; and tho’ much is not in my Power, I shall on every Occasion exert my self to discountenance and prevent such infamous Practices. Permit me however to give a little Hint in point of Prudence. I remember that you put yourselves into a good Posture of Defence at the Beginning of the last War when I was at Bethlehem; and I then understood from my much respected Friend Bp. Spangenberg, that there were among the Brethren many who did not hold it unlawful to arm in a defensive War. If there still [are] any such among your young Men, perhaps it would not be amiss to permit them to learn the military Discipline among their Neighbours, as this might conciliate those who at present express some Resentment; and having Arms in Readiness for all who may be able and willing to use them, will be a general Means of Protection against Enemies of all kinds. But a Declaration of your Society, that tho’ they cannot in conscience compell their young Men to learn the use of Arms, yet they do not restrain such as are so disposed, will operate in the Minds of People very greatly in your Favour. Excuse my Presumption in offering Advice, which indeed may be of little Value, but proceeds from a Heart fill’d with Affection and Respect for a Society I have long highly esteem’d, and among whom I have many valuable Friends.
I am with great Regard & Veneration, Revd. Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant
B Franklin

[P.S.] Written in ,Great Haste.


1 Bishop Seidel’s letter to Franklin, asking that he be the Moravians’ “Advocate” in Congress and use his influence on behalf of measures permitting “every Religious Society [to] enjoy their Privileges full & undisturbed, as long as they do not act against their Country,” is printed in PMHB 29 (1905): 245-46. The status of pacifists in Pennsylvania was brought before Congress at the beginning of July by the Lancaster County Committee of Correspondence, but the delegates sidestepped the issue and left it to the Pennsvlvania Assembly, which on June 30 had passed a series of resolves to prevent ill feeling and to permit pacifists to make contributions for their defense in lieu of bearing arms. See Pennsylvania Delegates to the Lancaster County Committee, July 6, 1775.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1
Thomas Lynch to Ralph Izard

Dear Sir:
July 7, 1775.

I this day received your favor dated at Rome, in which you say that you had received no letter from me. Be assured that I wrote two or three, and enclosed you the proceedings of our Congress, and sent them to Mr. Stead, with directions to forward them to you wherever you are.

It gives me much pleasure to hear that those proceedings are approved by the world. We have, indeed, the same accounts from several quarters. America, we hear, is looked up to as the last resource of liberty and the common rights of mankind. Brave and generous, we fight for mankind, and they say, “to it, brave boys,” but afford us not one necessary of war–not a musket or bayonet, not a grain of powder. England has cut off our usual supply. Holland and France follow the noble example.

They say the Americans are cowards, poltroons, dare not fight; yet these doughty heroes take care to deprive us of the means of defence. If we are so fearful, why disarm us? But they know the contrary. In the first of General Gage’s attempts against the people, his regulars were put to flight by half their number of militia, without officers or commanders…. This account comes through men of character on the spot, and may be depended on; it is confirmed by most undoubted letters, and you may say so.

There are now marching to the camp, a thousand riflemen. They are, at ‘listing, rejected, unless they can hit a playing-card, without a rest, at one hundred and twenty yards distance. Almost every fencible man, in all the colonies, is trained, and ready to supply any loss. The regulars have, in any case, never appeared equal to our troops, man for man. What, then, have we to fear? Loss of money, alone; and may the wretch perish, who puts that in competition. Will Lord Effingham come to us? he would be almost adored.(1)

Dear sir, can the friends of old England find no way to stop this fatal war going on–to the certain destruction of that once great state? All America pants for reconciliation; they dread, what may be easily prevented by government, a total separation. Should war go on another year, a government must be formed here–it is unavoidable; and when once that is done, it will be, I fear, impossible to restore the connection. When America acts unitedly, she will feel herself too strong to submit to such restrictions as she now does. In short, the time will be past.

The people of New-York are now fixed on the side of liberty. Georgia is near coming in.
Mrs. Lynch unites with me, in compliments to Mrs Izard. We hope to see you, before we leave this part of America. Your affectionate friend, Thomas Lynch.

MS not found; reprinted from Ralph Izard, Correspondence of Mr. Ralph Izard of South Carolina, from the Year 1774 to 1804; with a Short Memoir, ed. Anne Izard Deas (New York: Charles S. Francis 8; Co., 1844), pp. 99-101.
1 Thomas Howard, third Earl of Effingham (1747-91), eccentric British Army officer, was well known for his sympathy with the American cause both before and during the War for Independence, Sir Egerton Brydges, K. J., Collins’ Peerage of England; Genealogical, Biographical, and Historical . . ., 9 vols. London: F. C. and J. Rivington et al., 1812), 4:282.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1
John Dickinson’s Proposed Resolutions

[July 18? 1775] (1)


That it be recommended, and it is hereby earnestly recommended to such of the Inhabitants of these Colonies, as have not already entered into Associations for learning the military Exercise, that all who are capable of bearing arms, do immediately associate themselves for the Purpose aforesaid–that every Man provide himself with such Arms & Articles as are directed by their respective Conventions or Committees, & by the respective Assemblies, Conventions or Committees & where no such Directions have been given, that every man provide a good Firelock, Bayonet, Cutting sword or Tomhawk, Cartridge Box with 24 Rounds of Cartridge, besides [ ] (2) pounds of Powder in a Horn & 2 pounds of Lead in a Bag, & Flints, and a Knapsack–that they form themselves into Companies consisting of a Captain, two Lieutenants, an Ensign, four Serjeants, four Corporals, one Drummer, & sixty eight privates–that these Companies be form’d into Battalions, and that all persons who have associated or shall hereafter associate, use all possible Industry in learning the Exercise afore said, and the Maneuvres & Evolutions necessary for rendering their operations effectual when embodied and in actual service.

MS (PPL). These resolutions were written by John Dickinson on the verso of Thomas Johnson to John Dickinson, June 1, 1775.
1 Congress adopted resolutions similar to these on July 18. JCC, 2:187-89.
2 MS blank.

Journals of the Continental Congress,

“…Resolved, That it be recommended to the several Assemblies or conventions of the colonies respectively, to set and keep their gunsmiths at work, to manufacture good fire locks, with bayonets; each firelock to be made with a good bridle lock, ¾ of an inch bore, and of good substance at the breech, the barrel to be 3 feet 8 Inches in length, the bayonet to be 18 Inches in the blade, with a steel ramrod, the upper loop thereof to be trumpet mouthed: that the price to be given be fixed by the Assembly or convention, or committee of safety of each colony, and that until a sufficient quantity of good arms can be manufactured, they import as many as are wanted, by all the means in their power.

Resolved, That the good arms of such soldiers as leave the service, be retained for the use of the new army, on a valuation made of them.

(The following is somewhat off the topic at hand, but is interesting nonetheless. For it shows that Mr. Franklin also had some warrior in his blood).

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3
Benjamin Franklin to Charles Lee

Dear Sir,
Feb. 11, 1776.

The Bearer Monsr. Arundel is directed by the Congress to repair to Gen. Schuyler, in order to be employed by him in the Artillery Service.(1)

He purposes to wait on you in his way, and has requested me to introduce him by a Line to you. He has been an officer in the French Service, as you will see by his Commissions; and professing a Good Will to our Cause, I hope he may be useful in Instructing our Gunners and Matrosses–Perhaps he may advise in opening the nailed Cannon.

I received the enclosed the other day from an officer, Mr. Newland, who served in the two last wars, and was known by Genl. Gates who spoke well of him to me when I was at Cambridge.(2) He is desirous now of entering into our service. I have advised him to wait upon you at New York.

They still talk big in England, and threaten hard; but their language is somewhat civiler, at least not quite so disrespectful to us. By degrees they may come to their senses, but too late I fancy for their Interest.

We have got in a large quantity of saltpetre 120 Ton, & 30 more expected. Powdermills are now wanting. I believe we must set to work, and make it by hand-but I still wish with you that Pikes could be introduced, and I would add bows and arrows. Those were good weapons not wisely laid aside:

1. Because a Man may shoot as truly with a Bow as with a common Musket.
2. He can discharge 4 arrows in the time of charging and discharging one Bullet.
3. His object is not taken from his view by the smoke of his own side.
4. A Flight of Arrows seen coming upon them terrifies and disturbs the Enemy’s Attention to his Business.
5. An Arrow striking in any part of a Man, puts him hors de combat ’till ’tis extracted.
6. Bows and Arrows are more easily provided every where than Muskets & Ammunition.

Polydore Virgil speaking in one of our Battles against the French in Edward the 3rds reign mentions the great confusion the Enemy were thrown into, sagittarum nube, from the English; and concludes, Est res profecto dicta mirabilis, at tanks as potens Exercitus a solis Mere Anglicis Sagittariis rictus f Merit; adeo Anglus est Sagittipotens, & ID GENUS ARMORUM VALET.

If so much Execution was done by Arrows when Men wore some defensive Armour, how much more might be done now that it is out of use.

I am glad you are come to New York; but I also wish you could be in Canada.

There is a kind of suspense in Men’s minds here at present, waiting to see what terms will be offered from England. I expect none that we can accept; and when that is generally seen we shall be more unanimous and more decisive-Then your proposed solemn League and Covenant will go better down; and perhaps most of your other strong measures adopted.

I am always glad to hear from you, but I do’nt deserve your Favours being so bad a Correspondent. My Eyes will now hardly serve me to write by Night; and these short days have been all taken up by such a variety of business, that I seldom can sit down three Minutes without Interruption. (3)

God give you Success. I am with the greatest esteem, Yours affectionately, B. Franklin.

MS not found, reprinted from NrHS Collections 4 (1871): 284-86.
1 See JCC, 4:111-12, 120.
2The “enclosed” letter of February 5 to Franklin from Trevor Newland is in NrHS Collections 4 ( 1 87 1 ): 286-92.
3 The continued pressure of business led Franklin two weeks later to send a letter of resignation to the speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, asking both that another member be chosen to the assembly in his stead and that the house “be pleased to dispense with my further Attendance as one of the Committee of Safety.” Franklin to John Morton, February 26, 1776, Pa. Archives, 8th ser. 8:7410-11. The assembly immediately declared Franklin’s seat vacant and ordered steps to be taken for election of a new member. Ibid, p. 7411.

Journals of the Continental Congress,
TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1776

Resolved, That as a number of arms, fit for use, may be bought of the owners, who may incline to sell them, General Washington be desired to employ such an agent as he hath proposed, to go into any of the colonies for that purpose…

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2
A. Lee to Schulenburg.

Berlin, June 7, 1777.

Sir: I have the honor of sending to your excellency lists of the commodities on both sides, which will be the most suitable for the commerce which is projected. As to the exact price of the different articles, I can not speak. But as European commodities are very dear in America, and our own are cheap, while at the same time they bear a high price in Europe, commerce on this footing can not but be advantageous to Europeans. A musket, for example, which costs here twenty-two French livres, can be sold in America for at least fifty. With these fifty livres two hundred weight of tobacco can be bought, which in Europe will bring two hundred livres.

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 8
Elbridge Gerry to George Washington


Sepr 25th 1777 3 0Clock P.M.

I wrote You a Line Yesterday desiring You to impower Mr. Henry of this Place to collect the Fire Arms wanted for the Virginia Troops on their March to the Camp, since which your Letter of the 23d is received, desiring that a Number of Blankets & Shoes may be also collected.(1) I have seen Mr. Henry within this half Hour, & he informs me that he has collected already about 250 Arms, & shall be able to obtain about as many more. He also says that 300 pair Shoes went off this Morning to General Wayne, & that he will proceed in collecting as many pair of shoes, & Blankets, as can be procured or with propriety be taken from the Inhabitants of the Town, & Farmers in the Neighbourhood thereof. You will therefore be pleased to enlarge &c the Powers proposed to be given by your Excellency to Mr. Henry, and authorize him to collect the Articles last mentioned.(2)

Colo R H Lee is present, & has just directed a Letter to the Commandg Officer of the Militia at Frederick Town in Maryland ordering on all the Militia that are armed & 500 of those that are unarmed to be supplyed in this Place. I have the Honor to be Sir with much Esteem your Excellency’s very hum serv. E Gerry

1 Washington’s September 23 letter to President Hancock was read in Congress on September 27. JCC, 8:755; and Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 9:25740. See also Gerry to Washington, September 24. 1777.
2 In a September 27 reply to Gerry, Washington repeated his September 25 demurer about seizing the arms of private citizens, but urged that the “collection of Blankets and shoes . . . cannot be carried to too great an extent.” Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 9:274 75.

Journals of the Continental Congress,

…Resolved, That every person drafted as aforesaid, who shall supply himself with a good firelock and bayonet, a cartouch box, haversack, or blanket, and shall, at the expiration of the term of his service, produce, to the proper pay master, a certificate from his captain, or other commanding officer of his company, that he hath been constantly provided therewith, shall receive, for the use of his firelock, bayonet, and cartouch box, two dollars, and for the use of his blanket, four dollars, and in a like proportion for any or either of them. And in case any of the said articles shall be lost or rendered useless in the service, without the negligence or fault of the proprietor, he shall be paid the value thereof….

Journals of the Continental Congress,
MONDAY, MARCH 16, 1778

…Resolved, That one full company of foot be raised in the town of Westmoreland, on the east branch of the Susquehanna, for the defence of the said town and the settlements on the frontiers and in the neighbourhood thereof, against the Indians and other enemies of these states, the company to be inlisted to serve one year from the time of their inlisting, unless sooner discharged by Congress:

That officers be commissioned only in proportion to the number of men who shall be inlisted.

That the same pay and rations be allowed the company as to officers of the like ranks and soldiers in the continental army

That the commissary general of purchases contract with a suitable person to supply the company with provisions:

That the company find their own arms, accoutrements, cloaths, and blankets:

That the colonel, and, in his absence, the next commanding field officer of the militia, at the said town of Westmoreland, be desired and empowered to superintend the said company, give orders relative to the station or stations it shall take for the defence of the country, and other proper military services, and to see that the officers and men faithfully perform their duty, and on failure to give notice thereof to the Board of War.1

[Note 1: 1 See Pennsylvania Archives, VI, 371, and under August 23, 1776, ante.]

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 9
Commissioners at Fort Pitt
Gentlemen. 9th April 1778….

…”That Genl. Washington be directed to order to Pittsburg one of the most reduced Virginia & one of the most reduced Pennsylvania Regiments & That their officers take effectual means for recruiting them in the Western Country to their full Compliment, & be authorized to take recruits to serve for I year unless sooner dismissed by Congress which said recruits shall receive 20 ds. bounty & the same cloathing as other Continental soldiers. And every noncommd. officer & private who shall furnish himself with a blanket, musket or Rifle & accoutrements shall receive the same allowance therefor as is given by Congress to the drafts from the militia for filling up the Continental Regiments.” PCC, item 78, 2:445 46.