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A Collection of Quotes

"Both the oligarch and Tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms."—Aristotle

"If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms-- never --never--never!" William Pitt (1777)

"Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction." St. George Tucker, in his edition of 'Blackstone's Commentaries,' 1:300 (1803).

"The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them." Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution (1833).

"If the Constitution is to be construed to mean what the majority at any given period in history wish the Constitution to mean, why a written Constitution?"--Frank J. Hogan, President, American Bar Assn. (1939)

"If we advert to the nature of republican government, we shall find that the censorial power is in the people over the government, and not in the government over the people." --James Madison

"The right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against tyranny, which though now appears remote in America, history has proven to be always possible."--Senator Hubert H. Humphrey

" 'Necessity' is the plea for every infringement of human liberty; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."--William Pitt

"The whole of the Bill of Rights is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals…It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of." Albert Gallatin of the New York Historical Society, October 7, 1789.

"Gentlemen may cry, 'peace, peace'--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! Is life so precious, or peace so dear, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry to the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775.
"War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." John Stuart Mill
"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.--There may be even a worse fate. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves." Winston Churchill
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of men and women." -- Thomas Paine, The Crisis, Intro. (Dec. 1776).

"Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise."-- Thomas Paine, Common Sense, (1776), Chap. 1.

"When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir." Thomas Paine, 1788.
"The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections." Lord Acton, English historian, 1907

"It is the American vice, the democratic disease which expresses its tyranny by reducing everything unique to the level of the herd." Henry Miller, American author, 1947

"You can never have a revolution to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution." G.K. Chesterton, English journalist and author, 1955

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years." Alexander Fraser Woodhouslee, date unknown

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater … confidence than an armed man." Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and punishment (1764).

"Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property . . . Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them." Thomas Paine, Thoughts on Defensive War (1775).

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Virginia Constitution (1776).

"The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." Edmund Burke (1784).

"The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops." Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution Proposed BV the Late Convention (1787).

"To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense or by partial orders of a dissolution of the government." John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788).

"Americans need not fear the federal government because they enjoy the advantage of being armed, which you possess over the people of almost every other nation." James Madison.

"A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves and include all men capable of bearing arms …To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms . . . " Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters From the Federal Farmer 53 (1788).

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." George Mason, during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788).

"…The said Constitution be never construed …to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms." Samuel Adams, during Massachusetts's Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788).

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." Patrick Henry, during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788)

"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." --James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 46

"Suppose that we 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: still it would not be going to far to say that the State governments with the people at their side would be able to repel the danger...half a million citizens with arms in their hands" --James Madison, The Federalist Papers

"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crime."--Cesare Beccaria, quoted by Thomas Jefferson
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials." George Mason, 3 Eliot, Debates at 425-426.


" Don ‘t interfere with anything in the Constitution .
That must be maintained , for it is the only safeguard of our liberties . "
Abraham Lincoln ( speech in Kalamazoo , Mich. , Aug. 27 , 1856 )

" The time has come to take the Constitution down , to unroll it ; to
reread it , and to understand it ‘s provisions thoroughly . "
Andrew Johnson

" Amendments to the Constitution ought not too frequently be made…
If continually tinkered with it will lose all its prestige and dignity , and
the old instrument will be lost sight of altogether in a short time . "
Andrew Johnson ( speech in Washington , D.C. , Feb. 22 , 1866 )

" What is conservatism ? Is it not adherence to the old and tried
against the new and untried ? "
A. Lincoln ( speech at Cooper Institute , N.Y. , N.Y. , Feb. 27 ,
1860 , Complete Works , V , 313

" I ‘am proud of the revolutionary beliefs for which our forebearers
fought … the belief that the rights of man come not from the
generosity of the state but the hands of God . "
J.F. Kenndey

Any government that attempts to infringe upon these rights is "declaring war on the people" and deserves no further loyalty. Any such laws are void and are to be resisted, with force if necessary - even if it entails disbanding the government.

John Locke

All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a
struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness,
forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document,
an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it
there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a
stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and
--A. Lincoln

In American history and constitutional law the term "Bill of Rights" usually signifies the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. These amendments, more precisely the first eight of them, specify certain basic freedoms and procedural safeguards of which the individual may not be deprived by governmental power. Taken together, these specified freedoms and protections are the core of American civil liberty and provide the constitutional basis for judicial protection of the rights of the INDIVIDUAL

Throughout the time that the Constitution was before the state conventions for ratification (1787-1788), strong concern was expressed in every state at the absence from that document of a detailed Bill of Rights. Criticisms were severe in Virginia and Massachusetts, for example, and North Carolina went so far as to make its ratification of the Constitution expressly conditional on the adoption of a Bill of Rights. Historians are agreed generally that the Constitution might never have been ratified if its proponents had not given assurance that the proposal of a bill of individual rights would be an early order of business at the First Congress convened under the new Constitution. This pledge was honored, and the first 10 amendments, which constitute the Bill of Rights, were submitted together in 1789 and their ratification by the states was completed on Dec. 15, 1791. The first 10 amendments are, therefore, virtually contemporaneous with the Constitution itself.

Harry Willmer Jones
Columbia University

Noted scholar Stephen Halbrook, Ph.D., did the legwork and concluded:

"In recent years it has been suggested that the Second Amendment
protects the "collective" right of states to maintain militias, while it
does not protect the right of "the people" to keep and bear arms. If
anyone entertained this notion in the period during which the
Constitution and Bill of Rights were debated and ratified, it remains
one of the most closely guarded secrets of the eighteenth century, for
no known writing surviving from the period between 1787 and 1791 states
such a thesis. The phrase "the people" meant the same thing in the Second
Amendment as it did in the First, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth
Amendments -- that is, each and every free person."

Not surprising, considering the evidence --

No free man shall be debarred the use of arms.
- -Thomas Jefferson

Americans have the right and advantage of being armed.
- -James Madison

The great object is that every man be armed.
Everyone who is able may have a gun.
- -Patrick Henry

In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. - Thomas Jefferson

Study the Constitution. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislatures, and enforced in courts of justice. - Abraham Lincoln

I believe there are more instances of abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations... - James Madison

We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts - not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. - Abraham Lincoln