The right to keep and bear arms is a necessary corollary to the natural right of self-defense. Which of course is an unalienable right that all of We The People possess.
A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void. For, as I have showed before, no man can transfer, or lay down his right to save himself from death, wounds, and imprisonment, the avoiding whereof is the only end of laying down any right; and therefore the promise of not resisting force, in no covenant transferreth any right; nor is obliging. For though a man may covenant thus, unless I do so, or so, kill me; he cannot covenant thus, unless I do so, or so, I will not resist you, when you come to kill me. For man by nature chooseth the lesser evil, which is danger of death in resisting; rather than the greater, which is certain and present death in not resisting. And this is granted to be true by all men, in that they lead criminals to execution, and prison, with armed men, notwithstanding that such criminals have consented to the law, by which they are condemned.
The first Fundamental Law of Nature:
That every man, ought to endeavor Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of Warre.”
–Thomas Hobbes, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes, vol. 3 (Leviathan), Chap. XIV.: of the first and second natural laws, and of contracts.
The right of Self-Defense is clearly and beyond all shadow of doubt a reserved right of We The People. It has long been known and accepted as the first law of nature. It is a right that has not, can not, and will not ever be given up by We The People. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is an obvious and necessary corollary of this reserved right. And it is an axiom of jurisprudence that the right to do a thing, includes the right to have access to the necessary means of doing it. For which purpose, the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America explicitly declares that this right of the people, whether collectively or individually, (that is; for the common defense or self-defense), to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
At a time when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty, which we have derived from our ancestors. But the manner of doing it, to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in question.
That no man should scruple or hesitate a moment to use arms in defense of so valuable a blessing is clearly my opinion. Yet arms, I would beg leave to add, should be the last resource, the dernier resort.
–George Washington, April 5, 1769 letter to George Mason. [University of Virginia, The Papers of George Washington, LB, DLC:GW. From The Papers, Colonial Series, 8:177-80.]
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 4
John Hancock to the Colonies
Gentlemen, Philada. June 7th. 1776. I am commanded by Congress to transmit you the enclosed Resolves, and to request your immediate Attention to the same.(1)
The Article of Lead is so essentially necessary to us at this Juncture, and is with all so scarce, that no Pains should be spared to procure it. The Situation of the United Colonies will be extremely deploreable if we depend entirely upon the Importation of it. Every People should have, within themselves, all the Means of Self Defence. To the Bounty of Providence we owe it, that America has these in the greatest Plenty. Let us not therefore be wanting to ourselves, but faithfully and dilligently cultivate those Means; and I trust we shall, ere long, baffle the most malicious Schemes of our enraged & implacable Enemies.
You will readily perceive the great Importance of the enclosed Resolve, wherein the Congress earnestly recommend to you to remove every Thing out of the Way, that could enable our Enemies to prosecute their Plans of Violence agt. us. It is indeed so apparently the Advantage of Individuals to remove their Stock & grain, that in this Instance, their Interest, & that of the Public are one & the same.
I have the Honour to be, Gentlemen, you most obed. & very hble Svt. J. H. Prest.
LB (DNA: PCC, item 12A).
1 See the June 3 resolves respecting lead mines and the removal of “stocks, grain, and meal” from areas threatened by British invasion in JCC, 4:413-14.
…I am no way discouraged, but I am grieved to find our councils and our public deliberations conducted in the manner they are at present. The very name of Congress was a great while sacred almost as that of the Divinity in these States. You as well as I know how much weakness, to say nothing more, lay concealed from the first behind the sacred vail from the view of the public. I tremble for the consequences when Americans, who have served their country with the highest reputation at home and abroad, shall be forced by the injuries and abuse which they receive, in vindication of themselves, to draw this vail and hold up to the open view of their countrymen certain individuals who have by one circumstance or another greatly influenced the deliberations of Congress. Self-defense is the first law of nature. I hope and am sure I shall not be driven to this extremity whilst so many appear resolved to see justice done me….
–Silas Deane, Sept. 14, 1778 letter to John Hancock.
[The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Vol. 2. Library of Congress – American Memory.]
Excusable homicides are in some cases not quite unblamable. These should subject the party to marks of contrition; viz., the killing of a man in defence of property; so also in defence of one’s person, which is a species of excusable homicide; because, although cases may happen where these are also commendable, yet most frequently they are done on too slight appearance of danger; as in return for a blow, kick, fillip, &c., or on a person’s getting into a house, not animo furandi, but perhaps veneris causa, &c. Excusable homicides are by misadventure, or in self-defence.
–Thomas Jefferson, Note to Crimes Bill. Washington ed. i, 152. Ford ed., ii, 209. (1779).
[5579. MURDER, Excusable. — JCE5579. The Modern English Collection at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center.]
Mason–The Executive negatives both Brs of the Legislatr and each Br. has a negative on the other–and the Genl. Gov. have a neg. on the State Legislature–these regulations are necessary on the principles of self Defence–it is an instinctive principle in nature, and in a proper degree every being professes this power. If the State Legislatures are deprived of the Election of the 2d. or 1st Br. of the natil. Legislature the States are destitute of this principle of self protection–I wish them to continue & I shall not agree to deprive them of the power of a constitutional self Protection…
– The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.
[Farrand’s Records, Volume 1] YATES. June 25th, 1787.
If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government . . . The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms…
[Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers No. 28, Dec. 26, 1787, Independent Journal.]
…Self defence is a primary law of nature, which no subsequent law of society can abolish; this primæval principle, the immediate gift of the Creator, obliges every one to remonstrate against the strides of ambition, and a wanton lust of domination, and to resist the first approaches of tyranny, which at this day threaten to sweep away the rights for which the brave sons of America have fought with an heroism scarcely paralleled even in ancient republicks….
[Elbridge Gerry, Observations On the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions. By a Columbian Patriot. Sic transit gloria Americana. Boston: 1788.]
An assault and battery may, indeed, be resisted and repelled, by a battery more violent; but the life of a fellow creature must not be taken, unless in self-defence.
–Chief Justice [Thomas] M’Kean, U.S. Supreme Court.
[RESPUBLICA v. MULATTO BOB, 4 U.S. 145 (1795) (Dall.) Decided Sept. Term, 1795.]
(Mr. M’Kean had also signed the original Declaration of Independence, but his signature was omitted in the published copy in the Congressional Journal.)
Also, the conditions and circumstances of the period require a finding that while the stated purpose of the right to arms was to secure a well-regulated militia, the right to self-defense was assumed by the Framers.
– Chief Justice John Marshall, U.S. Supreme Court. (Mr. Marshall should know because he was at the debates).
[As quoted in Nunn v. State, 1 Ga. 243, 251 (1846); State v. Dawson, 272 N.C. 535, 159 S.E.2d 1, 9 (1968).]
THE Commander in Chief takes the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of his Fellow Citizens to the Military security of the Commonwealth. The Militia, the natural defence of all free States, is our best hope on every occasion of sudden or unexpected danger–that of Massachusetts, whether in the field of Hostility, or on the domestic Parade, has ever been distinguished for its good Order, Subordination and Discipline; without these essential qualifications, all its efforts would have been feeble, and all its strength but a shadow: But so long as they shall be recognized as habitual traits in the Military Character of our Citizens, the power of the State will be respected, and appear formidable in the eyes of military Men.
Self-defence is the first law of nature, and applies to nations as well as individuals; and to provide for that defence is the duty of every nation, even when in the most profound Peace…
[William Donnison, Adjutant general, General orders. Head-quarters, Boston, June 13th, 1797.]
The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Whenever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.
[St. George Tucker, United States District Court Judge, Blackstone’s Commentaries, (1803).]
Whatever the great principle of self defence in its reasonable and necessary exercise will sanction in an individual in a state of nature, nations may lawful perform upon the ocean. This principle, as well as most others, may be carried to an unreasonable extent; it may be made the pretence instead of the real ground of aggression, and then it will become a just cause of war. I contend only for its reasonable exercise.
–Justice [William] Johnson, U.S. Supreme Court.
[ROSE v. HIMELY, 8 U.S. 241 (Cranch), February Term, 1808.]
From among the rights retained by our policy, we have selected those of self defence or bearing arms, of conscience, and of free inquiry, for two purposes; one, to shew the vast superiority of our policy, in being able to keep natural rights necessary for liberty and happiness, out of the hands of governments; the other, to shew that this ability is the effect of its principles, and beyond the reach of Mr. Adams’s system, or of any other, unable to reserve to the people, and to withhold from governments, a variety of rights.
–John Taylor, Revolutionary Soldier and U.S. Senator, (1792 – 94, 1803, 1822 – 24).
[An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States: Section the Sixth; THE GOOD MORAL PRINCIPLES OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES, (1814).]
The right of self-defence never ceases. It is among the must sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals.
– President James Monroe, Nov. 16, 1818 message to the U.S. House and Senate.
[Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, November 17th, 1818.]
The right of self-defense in these cases is founded in the law of nature, and is not, and cannot be superceded by the law of society. In those instances, says Sir Michael Foster, the law, with great propriety, and in strict justice, considers the individual to be under the protection of the law of nature.
–James Kent, 1763–1847, Chief Judge N.Y. Supreme Court, First Professor of Law at Columbia College.
[Commentaries on American Law – Vol. II, Lect. XXIV, Of the Absolute Rights of Persons, (1826-30)].
The right to bear arms, is another important right guaranteed to all our citizens by the constitution. The right thus guaranteed, seems to me to impose upon the Legislature the duty of so organizing and disciplining the whole body of the citizens, that they shall be able not only to bear arms, but to use them with confidence and skill,” in defence of themselves and the State,” if such a necessity shall arise. I think, therefore, every encouragement should be given to our volunteer corps. Let the Legislature not forget that the great body of the people, their constituents, constitute the militia, and claim that such a law may be passed as shall make them what they ought to be, the pride and strength of their country, and its sure defenders against oppression at home or invasion from abroad.
–J. ANDREW SHULZE, Governor, November 4th, 1829, Journal of the Senate.
[OF THE COMMONWEALTHE OF PENNSYLVANIA WHICH COMMENCED AT HARRISBURG ON THE THIRD DAY of NOVEMBER, 1829.]
This is but the conservative right to self-defence–a right possessed by individuals, independent of all constitutions, and in defiance of all human laws. Self-Defence is “the first law of nature, and of nature’s God;” and I hold, sir, that it is not less the right and duty of individuals, assembled for lawful public objects. and for the performance of public duties, than of every private citizen, to effectuate those objects, and to defend themselves against every aggressor.
–Mr. Beardsley, of New York, U.S. House of Representatives, May 9, 1832.
[Register of Debates, House of Representatives, 22nd Congress, 1st Session Part II. Of Vol. VIII. Washington: Printed And Published By Gales & Seaton. 1833. Pg. 2910]
…Resolved, That, in cases of gross and intolerable oppression, which, in a Government like that of the United States can be little else than a hypothesis, the natural right of self-defence remains; but which must, in the nature of things, be an appeal to arms, and subject to all the consequences of resistance to the constituted authorities. In such a case, the measure is revolutionary, and the result remains in the hands of the A. Almighty.
Resolved, That the Convention of South Carolina can have no other or greater right to annul or resist the laws of Congress, than any assemblage of an equal number of individuals in any part of the United States; nor can any assemblage, however large, have any other or greater right for such a purpose, than belongs to each individual citizen, considered as a constitutional measure….
– Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, February 4, 1833.
Ours is a written constitution. The powers and privileges of Congress, which may be in some measure regarded as distinct, are there laid down. We cannot transcend them. Any effort to enlarge them would be to usurp from the people authority heretofore not granted to us by them . . .
…Suppose a citizen should shut himself up in his castle, and resist your process even unto the death of your officer; would you try, and condemn, and execute him? How, when, where? Suppose your Sergeant should apply to a magistrate of this city for a posse comitatus, and be refused, would punish the magistrate for a contempt? Can you punish editors who speak contemptuously of your proceedings? If so, God help the letter writers! Can you convert this House into a judicial tribunal, which shall be judge, witness, accuser, and prosecutor, in its own case, and inflict any punishment it chooses? If so, where is the freedom of the citizen, where our boasted trial by jury; where that “due process of law,” that “liberty” guarantied by the constitution? Carry Out these undefined, discretionary doctrines, and it will demonstrate either your unbounded power or your utter impotency. Tell me not, sir, of the precedents of the British Parliament. That is a body confessedly omnipotent. This is one of limited powers. Their claim to punish for offences of this nature is drawn from a system of recognised law. We are mere agents for the exercise of limited and specific grants; and I thank God that it is so. I rejoice that freedom of speech and the right of self-defence cannot be curtailed; that all your enactments in relation to are void; that gentlemen cannot, if they would, have a legislative auto da fe, and burn every man for contempt who will not follow them or applaud their acts.
–Mr. John Francis Hamtramck Clairborne, U.S. Representative from Mississippi, Feb. 10, 1837.
[Debates In Congress Part II Of Vol. XIII. Register Of Debates In Congress, Comprising The Leading Debates And Incidents Of The Second Session Of The Twenty-Fourth Congress: TOGETHER WITH AN APPENDIX, CONTAINING IMPORTANT STATE PAPERS AND PUBLIC DOCUMENTS, AND THE LAWS, OF A PUBLIC NATURE, ENACTED DURING THE SESSION: WITH A COPIOUS INDEX TO THE WHOLE. VOLUME XIII. WASHINGTON: PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY GALES AND SEATON. 1837. Pgs. 1691-93]
If the witness be sent before the committee, self-defence is the paramount law of our nature. Self-defence is one of the natural rights that all men in this country possess. Self-defence is one of the inalienable rights, dear to this witness, secured to all American citizens by the very nature of our free institutions; and if he goes, he must be permitted to go before the committee armed for his own protection; for he is apprized of the feelings of the honorable chairman of the committee towards him, by the expression of the honorable gentleman made on this floor. Sir, if we force the witness before the committee, and he goes there armed, (and I hold that we cannot think of forcing him there without the power to protect himself,) may not the result be such as we would regret, and would we not be responsible for the consequences? Let me ask, will not Whitney commit a greater contempt by going before the committee armed than he has done in refusing to go before the committee under the circumstances of this case? Then, sir, I believe Whitney, under the circumstances, is justified in refusing to appear before the committee. Then, if we order Whitney into custody, and to be brought to the bar of this House to answer, as a criminal, will we not do so in violation of all his rights as a citizen, and will we not establish a dangerous precedent?”–Mr. Samuel J. Gholson, U.S. Representative from Mississippi, Feb. 10, 1837. [DEBATES IN CONGRESS PART II. REGISTER OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS, COMPRISING THE LEADING DEBATES AND INCIDENTS OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE TWENTY-FOURTH CONGRESS: TOGETHER WITH AN APPENDIX, CONTAINING IMPORTANT STATE PAPERS AND PUBLIC DOCUMENTS, AND THE LAWS, OF A PUBLIC NATURE, ENACTED DURING THE SESSION: WITH A COPIOUS INDEX TO THE WHOLE. VOLUME XIII. WASHINGTON: PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY GALES AND SEATON 1837. Pg. 1701]
It is expressly provided in the Constitution of the United States, that the States may provide for their own defence in times of imminent danger. We are bound by that Constitution and we have a right to defend ourselves in the way that is reserved in the Constitution of the United States; that is left to every State in the Union, unrestricted and in full force. He knew that the people of the United States had reserved the right of self defence; but the States have given up the right to keep ships of war or troops in time of peace. What he had said he took from the book, and he had not gone beyond that. The right of preparing for war is exclusively reserved to the Government of the United States, and the States cannot, for their own defence, keep ships of war or troops in time of peace. Now for the qualification of these remarks, he would refer to the amendment to the Constitution which had already been read as follows: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Why this was intended to convey to individuals certain personal rights. This is a personal right reserved to individuals to bear arms; this was adopted to grant to every man the shield of self defence.–Mr. Walter Forward, Oct. 3, 1837 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. [THE CONVENTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA TO PROPOSE AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION COMMENCED AT HARRISBURG MAY 2 1837, VOL IV. Pages 96-97]. Mr. Forward, (January 24, 1786 – November 24, 1852), was an American lawyer and politician. Elected to the 17th Congress in 1822, and reelected to the 18th Congress. He was appointed on March 6, 1841 by President William Henry Harrison to be First Comptroller of the Treasury. Served in that post until September 13, 1841. And was then appointed 15th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury by President John Tyler).
Why he asked in a time of profound peace should we keep up an oppression–a practice known to operate as an oppression? After fifty years experience, not one solitary instance of good could be shown to have been produced by it. He had nothing to say against making it obligatory for men to be organized and enrolled–to be armed for their own defence. It was perfectly right that all free citizens should be armed for that purpose. Who doubted it?–Benjamin Martin, Oct. 25, 1837, delegate from Philadelphia county. [THE CONVENTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA TO PROPOSE AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION COMMENCED AT HARRISBURG MAY 2 1837, VOL IV.]
Here, then, every man,–whether native or naturalized, whether free or bond–for the provision comprehended every class and colour–every man capable of shouldering a musket, was required to be trained and armed, by our present Constitution; and the proposed to it, designates the militia as only to be for defence, and in this view Blackstone himself regarded the militia. The very second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, previous to which several of the States had refused to come into the compact, he begged to recommend to the attention of his friend from Allegheny, (Mr. Forward)–”a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Mark the admirable adaption of the language. There is said (Mr. I) an argument in it more than I could make in a year, all condensed. A regulated right of every man, to do what? To bear arms–and the Constitution says this right to bear arms “shall not be infringed.” This “well regulated militia,” which is “necessary to the security of a free State” is the right of every man to bear arms, and it is a right which “shall not be infringed.” And when his friend from Allegheny said at first, (as he had understood him,) that the federal power absorbed all the rights of the states on this subject, he (Mr. I) confessed that he had felt himself excited almost to pugnacity. This right exceeded, was beyond the reach of the federal Constitution–it was supreme, above the supremacy of the Constitution–it was a right which the Constitution could not touch. It was nothing less than man’s right to self defence, that power which could not be impaired by any power of government.–Mr. Charles Jared Ingersoll, Oct. 24, 1837, PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE CONVENTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, TO PROPOSE AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION, COMMENCED AT HARRISBURG MAY 2 1837 VOL. IV. Reported by JOHN AGG, Stenographer: Assisted By Messrs. Wheeler, Kingman, Draks, and McKinley. HARRISBURG: PRINTED BY PACKER, BARRETT, And PARKE. 1838. (Ingersoll served twice as a United States representative, first from 1813 to 1815 and again from 1841 to 1847. In between these terms, he worked as the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 1815 to 1829 by appointment from President James Madison, was Pennsylvania state representative in 1830, and in 1837, was a delegate to the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention. Over the course of his governmental career, Ingersoll worked with a few U. S. presidents such as James Monroe, John Tyler, and James K. Polk).
Sir, may not human institutions, made by the best wisdom of man for human preservation, receive the light of illustration from institutions established for the same beneficent purpose, by the ordinances of the Diety himself? “The Judge of all the earth” has expounded the laws of the Eternal, so that his prohibition against “shedding man’s blood” does aid, not abrogate, his own paramount law of self-preservation, but, in effect, place a weapon in each man’s hands to shed that blood in his own defence. Who, then, will, or can deny, to a whole people, united and embodied in the persons of their representatives, under that great institution, their political law–that constitution which makes them a nation, and forms their representatives into a sovereignty–who, I say, dares deny to that sovereignty the same rights of self-defence which appertain, not only to every individual of that nation, but also to every animated being throughout the universe! . . .
…Equally unworthy of notice is the poor evasion which labored to censure the gentleman from Ohio for carrying arms to secure his own personal safety. The bravo–the ruffian–may fill his belt with pistols, and his bosom with dirk-knives, and threaten violence to peaceable citizens, and do all this with perfect impunity; but if such citizens take to themselves weapons for purposes of self-defence–the only lawful cause for which men may ever wear such weapons–they are, as it is said, guilty of provoking aggression, and justly liable to punishment for any violation of the public peace, committed by any assault made on their own person.–Mr. Trisam Burges, Representative of Rhode Island, May 11, 1832. [Debates in Congress. Part III. of Vol. VIII. Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising The Leading Debates And Incidents Of The First Session of the Twenty-Second Congree: Together With An Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and the Laws Enacted During The Session; With a Copius Index to the whole. Volume VIII. Washington: Printed and Published by Gales & Seaton. 1838.]
In regard to the third allegation: it is indeed a strange state of civil society, when the very basis upon which all associations of men are formed, is imputed to a man as a crime. If self-defence which is so much an axiom: so commanding the instinctive approbation of all men and times as to be known as the “first law of nature,” has to be defended, I might as well quit the field in despair. But if it was not a virtue of the highest order, to resist mobs, which are violators of the peace, and in derogation of the dignity and safety of the commonwealth, I need but bring the National and state Constitutions to my defence, which place the right of the citizen “to bear arms in self-defence,” beyond the power of legislation, higher and more sacred than the Constitution itself.–Cassius Marcellus Clay, [The writings of Cassius Marcellus Clay: Including Speeches and Addresses. Edited, With a Preface and Memoir, By Horace Greeley. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, No. 82 Cliff Street. 1848.] (Mr. Clay served three times as Kentucky state representative, and was one of the founders of the Republican Party. Clay accepted the post of Minister to the Russian court, but the Civil War started before his departure. There were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, so Mr. Clay organized a group of 300 volunteers to protect the White House and U.S. Naval Yard from possible Confederate attack. These men became known as Cassius M. Clay’s Washington Guards. This caused President Lincoln to give Clay a presentation Colt revolver).
Section 12. Every person has a right to bear arms for the defence of himself and the State.
Mr. BAGG moved to insert the word “white” between the words “every” and “person.”
Mr. B. said–I move the amendment simply because I wish, so far as our sable population is concerned, under the operation of our laws, to keep them in their present sphere. I would extend to them benefits and charity, &c., &c., but I would not let them come into our civil, political, social, conjugal, or connubial relations.
Mr. WILLIAMS–I would like to put one question. I know in Kalamazoo a native born citizen, a man of large possessions, who is a black man. Would you not put the means of self-defence in that man’s hands? If a gang of kidnappers were to come into the State, would you deprive that man of the means of defending his home, his children and his property? . . .
…Mr. CORNELL–This would take away his natural rights, the right of self-defence which has never been given up.”–REPORT of the PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES IN THE CONVENTION TO REVISE THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN. 1850. LANSING: R.W. INGALS, STATE PRINTER. 1850.
There are some injuries which, once committed, cannot be adequately redressed. The taking of life is an extreme case of this kind. Against the commission of such injuries, therefore, every person should not only have the protection of government, when practicable, but should also have a right to defend himself. The right of self-defence would of course exist in a state of nature, and the social compact does not take it away; but the right of avenging an injury already committed is taken away. This is a fundamental distinction. You may prevent an injury from being done, by all proper means; but when done, you may not take redress in your own hands. The social compact provides a tribunal to which you are bound to resort; and abundant provision is made for securing the redress to which you may be entitled. Thus the right of self-defence and the right of redress are two distinct things; but both are equally guaranteed by the constitution. We have already seen that “the enjoying and defending life and liberty,” is declared to be an inalienable right. Also, “that the people have a right to bear arms for their defence and security.” (b) In England, this right is qualified by the condition, that the arms must be suitable to the condition and degree of the bearer; but here, there is no qualification.
(a) See 2 Story, Const. 1896; 1 Black. Com. 148. [A party may use reasonable force to defend the possession of his property, but he cannot use force against the person in regaining or obtaining the possession of property to which he is entitled. 3 Black. Com. 4, 179; Sampson v. Henry, 11 Pick. 387; 1 Bishop, Crim. Law, 397; 1 Hilliard on Torts, ch. v. ss 12, pp 196, 197.]
(b) [This provision is not infringed by a statute prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons. State v. Jumel, 13 La. An. 399.]
– Timothy Walker, LL.D, [INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN LAW. DESIGNED AS A FIRST BOOK FOR STUDENTS. BY TIMOTHY WALKER LL.D. LATE PROFESSOR OF LAW IN THE CINCINATTI COLLEGE. FIFTH EDITION, REVISED BY J. BRYANT WALKER, OF THE CINCINNATI BAR. BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 1869.]
To so hold in all cases would, as we conceive, ignore the doctrine of self-defence–a doctrine dependent upon natural principles, and as controlled by law essential to the highest interest of the citizen. It is a well-recognized and vital rule, that a man may defend, in all reasonable ways and by all reasonable means, his person and property, and to this end may arm himself and members of his family, and patrol his immediate premises to meet and anticipate an apprehended attack, not forgetting the rights of his peaceful neighbors. It is true he is not warranted in taking human life in such cause, save to avert an immediate attack, and when necessary to prevent a felony from being committed on his property with violence, or to protect himself from loss of life or serious bodily harm when there is no other possible, or at least probable, means of escape; nor in any case to repel an attack with disproportionate ways and means to the disturbance of the peace or injuring of person. But within these limits, which the law with wise precaution has prescribed, this right–the right of self-defence is absolute.—Charge delivered May 26, 1875, by Logan, P.J., Commonwealth vs. Armstrong and Guescetti, Court of Quarter Sessions of Wesstmoreland County. [Leg. Int., Vol. 32, p. 275.]
Mr. Gardner said, that within a few years past, there has been a fearful and alarming increase in the number of high crimes such as murders and robberies committed by means of violence, and by the use of arms, in this State. This evil has grown into frightful proportions, and the public peace, and private security, demand the most rigorous measures o[f] repression. The members of the Legislature are impressed with the importance of this subject, but, I understand, they are restrained from providing efficient remedies, from a doubt they entertain as to the extent of their power in this direction, Under the provisions of the 26th section of the Bill of Rights. This power, I consider, is secured for the common, and not for individual defense as when the peace and safety of the people of the whole State, or of a county, or even a single neighborhood, is threatened, the people shall have arms, and a right to bear and use them to preserve the peace and good order of society. I would not, however, interfere with, or in the slightest degree abridge, the citizen’s right of self-defense.–[Joshua Gardner, Thursday, Jan. 20, 1870, In [Tennessee Constitutional] Convention.]
[Nashville Union and American, Nashville, Tenn., Friday, January 21, 1870. New Series, No. 435. Pg. 1]
THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS
There is an important distinction between firearms and fireworks. Some general knowledge of firearms is important to the public welfare; because it would be impossible, in case of war to organize promptly an efficient force of volunteers unless the people had some familiarity with weapons of war. The Constitution secures the right of the people to keep and bear arms. No doubt, a citizen who keeps a gun or pistol under judicious precautions practises in safe places the use of it, and in due time teaches his sons to do the same, exercises his individual right. No doubt a person whose residence or duties involve peculiar peril may keep a pistol for prudent self-defence. . . .
…As to guns and pistols, then the citizen who practises with them is in the exercise of a constitutional right; and to mulct him for any unfortunate consequences, proof is needed that he was careless. He must exercise due care to avoid doing mischief. Sic utere tuo ut alienum non loedas–use your gun so as not to hurt another man–is a time honored maxim.–Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, Judge and Jury: A Popular Explanation of Leading Topics in the Law of the Land. NEW YORK HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE  (Mr. Abbott graduated from New York University in 1850, and Harvard Law School in 1851. He was the secretary of the New York Code Commission, which drew up the state’s penal code in 1864. He also served on a commission created to revise the statutes of the United States from 1870-1872).
Self-Defense and the United States Supreme Court:
It was demanded by a great and overruling necessity. ….. This great law of necessity-of defence of self, of home, and of country-never was designed to be abrogated by any statute, or by any constitution.– Mr. [(Formerly Major-General), Benjamin Franklin] Butler, ON THE SIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, EX PARTE MILLIGAN, U.S. Supreme Court, Dec. Term, 1866.
The court, in effect, said-or the jury may, not unreasonably, have understood the court as declaring-that preparation by arming, although for self-defense only, could not be followed, in any case, by manslaughter, if the killing, after such arming, was not, in fact, in necessary self- defense. Such we understand to be the meaning of the charge. In our opinion, the court erred in so charging the jury. If the accused was justified in the eye of the law in arming himself for self-defense, [Page 153 U.S. 183, 192] and if, without seeking, but on meeting, his adversary, on a subsequent occasion, he killed him, not in necessary self-defense, then his crime was that of manslaughter or murder, as the circumstances, on the occasion of the killing, made it the one or the other. If guilty of manslaughter, looking alone at those circumstances, he could not be found guilty of murder by reason of his having previously armed himself solely for self- defense.– Mr. Justice HARLAN, U.S. Supreme Court, Gourko v. U.S., April 16, 1894.
The principal question in the case arises out of those parts of the charge in which the court instructed the jury as to the principles of the law of self-defense…”
…’A man may repel force by force in defense of his person, habitation, or property against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a known felony, such as murder, rape, robbery, arson, burglary, and the like, upon either. In these cases he is not obliged to retreat, but may pursue his adversary until he has secured himself from all danger; and if he kill him in so doing it is called justifiable self-defense…– Mr. Justice HARLAN, U.S. Supreme Court, Beard v. U.S., May 27, 1895.
…The law has grown, and even if historical mistakes have contributed to its growth it has tended in the direction of rules consistent with human nature. Many respectable writers agree that if a man reasonably believes that he is in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily harm from his assailant he may stand his ground and that if he kills him he has not succeeded the bounds of lawful self defence. That has been the decision of this Court. Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550, 559, 15 S. Sup. Ct. 962. Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife. Therefore in this Court, at least, it is not a condition of immunity that one in that situation should pause to consider whether a reasonable man might not think it possible to fly with safety or to disable his assailant rather than to kill him…– Mr. Justice [Oliver Wendell] HOLMES, U.S. Supreme Court, BROWN v. UNITED STATES, 256 U.S. 335 (1921).
Other United States Supreme Court Decisions concerning: The Right of [Armed] Self Defense:
We The People must realize that our governments are not charged with providing individual defense for each citizen. The government is Constitutionally charged with providing for the “common defense”. Which makes it not only the right, but the duty of all American citizens to provide for their own individual self-defense.
‘[T]he fundamental principle [is] that a government and its agents are under no duty to provide . . . police protection, to any particular individual citizen.’
. . . The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists.– Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. App. 1981).
As a general principle, state actors cannot be held liable for private acts of violence under a substantive due process theory. DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 196 (1989); see also Castle Rock, 545 U.S. at ___, 125 S. Ct. at 2810. We recognize two exceptions to this rule: (1) when the state has a special relationship to the victim, and (2) when the state creates the danger that led to the victim’s harm. Jones v. Union County, 296 F.3d 417, 428 (6th Cir. 2002).”– Hudson v. Hudson, United States Court of Appeals – 6th Circuit, Jan. 16, 2007.
The right to defend not only your person, but others who are faced with immediate danger, is unquestionable. The whole concept of preservation of Life, Liberty and Property is woven throughout the founding documents of the United States. Long before the Declaration of Independence, on which our U.S. Constitution is partially based, this right had been considered as the First Law of Nature. Because of the FACT of it being considered as a Natural Law, the Right is thusly placed beyond the grasp of any man made law. Provided that the right is exercised in a lawful manner. This is affirmed in the second clause of Amendment II in our Bill of Rights:
“the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms, shall NOT be infringed.”
The right to self-defense in America, was recognized and recorded as being acceptable as early as 1641:
4. If any person committ any wilfull murther, which is manslaughter, committed upon premeditated malice, hatred, or Crueltie, not in a mans necessarie and just defence, nor by meere casualtie against his will, he shall be put to death.– The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, 1641.
It was another 131 years before the right was again touched upon in a recognizable manner. (Other than in the 1689 English Bill of Rights). In 1772, Mr. Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin produced a work titled ‘The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting’ or, better known as “The Rights of The Colonists”. In which, Mr. Adams and Mr. Franklin describe “self-preservation” as not only a right, but a duty of the colonists.
In the one and a half years of continuous study of the original intentions of the framers of our present Constitution. The best description of the right of self-defense I’ve yet come across is by a gentlemen whom played a major role in framing our Constitution:
The defence of one’s self, justly called the primary law of nature, is not, nor can it be abrogated by any regulation of municipal law. This principle of defence is not confined merely to the person; it extends to the liberty and the property of a man: it is not confined merely to his own person; it extends to the persons of all those, to whom he bears a peculiar relation — of his wife, of his parent, of his child, of his master, of his servant: nay, it extends to the person of every one, who is in danger; perhaps, to the liberty of every one, whose liberty is unjustly and forcibly attacked. It becomes humanity as well as justice.– James Wilson, ‘Of the Natural Rights of Individuals’, 1790-1792, (Signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, Congressman, Delegate to the Constitutional Convention and U.S. Supreme Court Justice).
Doesn’t get much more clear than that, does it? In consideration of Mr. Wilson’s credentials, one has to wonder what it is that the current people in our government(s) are thinking? Either the Congress, and the Supreme Court, are both filled with people that have the intelligence of kindergartners. Or, we have one of the most massive criminal conspiracies ever in the history of mankind occurring right before our very eyes. Hope that I did not offend any of the kindergartners. If so, please accept my humble apology.
What are our supposed representatives and public servants thinking? Or, are they even using the process of thought? By all appearances, if examined in a logical manner, a rational being would have to say no. Those in our government that are perpetrating these Usurpations of authority cannot possibly be exercising rational thinking. For they are undermining the whole purpose for which our government(s) were instituted to begin with – the protection of our Natural Rights.
There is ample evidence that we have not only the right, but the duty to resist unconstitutional laws. Witness:
If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms of legal authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo. The smaller the extent of the territory, the more difficult will it be for the people to form a regular or systematic plan of opposition, and the more easy will it be to defeat their early efforts. Intelligence can be more speedily obtained of their preparations and movements, and the military force in the possession of the usurpers can be more rapidly directed against the part where the opposition has begun. In this situation there must be a peculiar coincidence of circumstances to insure success to the popular resistance.
The obstacles to usurpation and the facilities of resistance increase with the increased extent of the state, provided the citizens understand their rights and are disposed to defend them. The natural strength of the people in a large community, in proportion to the artificial strength of the government, is greater than in a small, and of course more competent to a struggle with the attempts of the government to establish a tyranny.
But in a confederacy the people, without exaggeration, may be said to be entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress.
How wise will it be in them by cherishing the union to preserve to themselves an advantage which can never be too highly prized!
__Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #28, Independent Journal, Friday, December 26, 1787.
Your Right of Defense Against Unlawful Arrest:
Courtesy; The Constitution Society
This premise was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case: John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529. The Court stated: “Where the officer is killed in the course of the disorder which naturally accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with very different eyes upon the transaction, when the officer had the right to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no right. What may be murder in the first case might be nothing more than manslaughter in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been committed.”
“An arrest made with a defective warrant, or one issued without affidavit, or one that fails to allege a crime is within jurisdiction, and one who is being arrested, may resist arrest and break away. lf the arresting officer is killed by one who is so resisting, the killing will be no more than an involuntary manslaughter.” Housh v. People, 75 111. 491; reaffirmed and quoted in State v. Leach, 7 Conn. 452; State v. Gleason, 32 Kan. 245; Ballard v. State, 43 Ohio 349; State v Rousseau, 241 P. 2d 447; State v. Spaulding, 34 Minn. 3621.
“When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self defense, his assailant is killed, he is justified.” Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80; Miller v. State, 74 Ind. 1.
“These principles apply as well to an officer attempting to make an arrest, who abuses his authority and transcends the bounds thereof by the use of unnecessary force and violence, as they do to a private individual who unlawfully uses such force and violence.” Jones v. State, 26 Tex. App. I; Beaverts v. State, 4 Tex. App. 1 75; Skidmore v. State, 43 Tex. 93, 903.
“An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery.” (State v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260).
“Each person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest. In such a case, the person attempting the arrest stands in the position of a wrongdoer and may be resisted by the use of force, as in self- defense.” (State v. Mobley, 240 N.C. 476, 83 S.E. 2d 100).
“One may come to the aid of another being unlawfully arrested, just as he may where one is being assaulted, molested, raped or kidnapped. Thus it is not an offense to liberate one from the unlawful custody of an officer, even though he may have submitted to such custody, without resistance.” (Adams v. State, 121 Ga. 16, 48 S.E. 910).
“Story affirmed the right of self-defense by persons held illegally. In his own writings, he had admitted that ‘a situation could arise in which the checks-and-balances principle ceased to work and the various branches of government concurred in a gross usurpation.’ There would be no usual remedy by changing the law or passing an amendment to the Constitution, should the oppressed party be a minority. Story concluded, ‘If there be any remedy at all … it is a remedy never provided for by human institutions.’ That was the ‘ultimate right of all human beings in extreme cases to resist oppression, and to apply force against ruinous injustice.’” (From Mutiny on the Amistad by Howard Jones, Oxford University Press, 1987, an account of the reading of the decision in the case by Justice Joseph Story of the Supreme Court.
“As for grounds for arrest: “The carrying of arms in a quiet, peaceable, and orderly manner, concealed on or about the person, is not a breach of the peace. Nor does such an act of itself, lead to a breach of the peace.” (Wharton’s Criminal and Civil Procedure, 12th Ed., Vol.2: Judy v. Lashley, 5 W. Va. 628, 41 S.E. 197).
Spain, under all her disadvantages, physical and mental, is an encouraging example of the impossibility of subduing a people acting with an undivided will. She proves, too, another truth not less valuable, that a people having no king to sell them for a mess of pottage for himself, no shackles to restrain their powers of self-defence, find resources within themselves equal to every trial. This we did during the Revolutionary war, and this we can do again, let who will attack us, if we act heartily with one another. This is my creed. To the principles of union I sacrifice all minor differences of opinion. These, like differences of face, are a law of our nature, and should be viewed with the same tolerance.– Thomas Jefferson, July, 1811 letter to William Duane. [Washington ed. v, 603. The Modern English Collection at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center.]
The Constitution was not framed with a view to any such rebellion as that of 1861-5. While it did not authorize rebellion it made no provision against it. Yet the right to resist or suppress rebellion is as inherent as the right of self-defence, and as natural as the right of an individual to preserve his life when in jeopardy. The Constitution was therefore in abeyance for the time being, so far as it in any way affected the progress and termination of the war.– Ulysses S. Grant, 1822-1885: Personal memoirs of U.S. Grant, Volume II, 1886, (Pgs. 506-507). [The Modern English Collection at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center.]
The right to use a thing comprehends a right to the means necessary to its use, and without which it would be useless.– Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, 1790. ME 8:72
It is a principle that the right to a thing gives a right to the means without which it could not be used, that is to say, that the means follow their end.– Thomas Jefferson, Report on Navigation of the Mississippi, 1792. ME 3:180.