You hear now, from the gun control groups (or is that group at this point) who do not accept Heller, and deride it as without historical basis, that our founding fathers did not create the Second Amendment with self-defense in mind, and there is no evidence the Second Amendment was about that at all. The true answer is that there were no founding fathers who disagreed with the idea that a person had a right to a firearm for self-defense. In 18th Century America, it would have been like announcing the sky is blue. So they argued about the things they did disagree on, like the distribution of military power in the new republic. Our opponents enjoy acting like this argument is a cop out, and that our side has never presented evidence. This could not be further from the truth. Do these appear to be men who find the notion of carrying arms in self-defense unusual?
I left at your house, the morning after I lodged there, a pistol in a locked case, which no doubt was found in your bar after my departure. I have written to desire either Mr. Randolph or Mr. Eppes to call on you for it, as they come on to Congress, to either of whom therefore be so good as to deliver it.
A gun in a bar? For shame Mr. Jefferson! Clearly you must have gotten drunk and shot the place up. But it does beg the question of why Jefferson had a pistol on his person. Perhaps he merely was transporting it?
I left at Orange C. H. one of my Turkish pistols, in it’s holster, locked. I shall be glad if either yourself or Mr. Eppes can let a servant take it on to this place. It will either bind up in a portmanteau flap, or sling over the back of the servant conveniently.
Of course, one normally does not transport in a holster unless one is carrying for purposes of self-defense. Of course, this is when Jefferson was President, so maybe they view that he was authorized, or something. I mean, they didn’t have any secret service back then. Also, Jefferson was kind of a nut. Surely the federalists were more level headed, right?
Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would.
John Adams, Boston Gazette, 9/5/1763
But that was before the Constitution, way before. Surely Adams’ views matured as he considered the Second Amendment.
To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws.
John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)
Well, that sounds like Adams endorsing the Heller view of the Second Amendment to me. But OK, so we have Jefferson and Adams. Big deal. Surely Washington didn’t need to compensate for anything by carrying a gun around with him?
As was then the custom, the General had holsters, with pistols in them, to his saddle. On returning to Mount Vernon, as General Washington was about to enter on this private road, a stranger on horseback barred the way, and said to him, “You shall not pass this way.” “You don’t know me,” said the General. “Yes, I do,” said the ruffian; “you are General Washington, who commanded the army in the Revolution, and if you attempt to pass me I shall shoot you.” General Washington called his servant, Billy, to him, and taking out a pistol, examined the priming, and then handed it to Billy, saying, “If this person shoots me, do you shoot him;” and cooly passed on without molestation.
Never a good idea upset George Washington. You never know when he might have his servant shoot you. It’s pretty clear that a broad swath of our founders, either through words or actions, believed in the right of self-defense, and believed in guaranteeing the idea of keeping and bearing arms for that purpose. These are a few things I’ve been able to find. Further evidence can be found in “The Founders Second Amendment” by Steven Halbrook.
16 Responses to “The Founders Who Didn’t Believe in Self-Defense”
- Our Opponent’s Poor History | Shall Not Be Questioned - [...] that self-defense was never mentioned by any of the founders (Adams mentioned it, several founders carried pistols for self-defense, and ...