Patrick HenryPatrick Henry, (1736-1799) US Founding Father

Patrick Henry Quote

“The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun.”

Patrick HenryPatrick Henry
~ Patrick Henry

in the Virginia Convention on the ratification of the Constitution, June 14, 1788,
in_Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution,_
Jonathan Elliot, ed., v.3 p.386 (Philadelphia, 1836)

Ratings and Comments

Robert, Sarasota

Who decides if you are able or not? Editor you must have a fetish for guns, can we change the subject? It's either that or you are writing a thesis.

Joe, Rochester, MI

Here lies the original concept for "homeland security" ... secure yourself and your own home, be responsible to protect your own ass. This quote expresses the thoughts and sentiments of the Second Amendment in our Founding Fathers' own words ... the right of the people (each and every citizen) to keep (own) and bear (carry, open or concealed) Arms (guns, knives, swords) shall not be infringed! Each person decides if they are able. Why is it, Robert, that If you collect cars or coins you are an enthusiast, but if you collect guns you have a fetish? I promise you, I'm safer in my home with guns than you are in yours without, and your only fear is if you are intent on attacking me.

(another) Joe, North Caldwell, NJ

The problem with Joe's interpretation of the Second Amendment is it's wrong -- specific reference is made to the right of *well-regulated militias* (not "each and every citizen") to keep and bear arms. If the Founding Fathers had wanted every single citizen packing a weapon, they would have worded the Second Amendment like others were worded -- "Congress shall make no laws infringing the right..." etc, etc. And what do you suppose they meant by "well-regulated?" Patrick Henry, as every student of American history knows, was a radical and a firebrand, and didn't reflect the opinions of cooler heads in the Continental Congress. You're correct that the guns in your house pose no danger to Robert, but they do pose a danger to you -- statistically they are more likely to kill or injure you or a family member than an intruder. Finally, the reason guns are not like cars or coins is nobody ever got killed cleaning his coin collection. Oh, one more thing -- the kid at Virginia Tech obviously thought he was an "able" bearer of arms.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

The numbers do not support Joe's contention. Each day in the US roughly 30ish people are intentionally killed by guns, and another 50 are killed by gun accidents and suicide, and another 240 are seriously injured by guns... so that is a 10:1 ratio of ill side-effects to intentional killings, and an even larger ratio when you consider that most of those 30 killed were not in "home/self defense". And you don't need 50 round clips of armor piercing rounds to defend your home from a robber... get a dog.

Mike, Norwalk

There are two rights phrased in the second amendment. First: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state," 'Well' means in abundance. 'Regulated' is here a noun (in context with militia - not a verb or adjective as our re-defining liberal brothers would have us believe) and a military term meaning arms. The specific militia here referenced is made up of all society's free individuals (it was originally men) of legal age. Second: beyond the militia; "right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." arms (in context with civilian use) here is related to everyone un-infringed. Contrary to our liberal friends desire, "shall not be infringed" does not mean the verb or adjective side of regulated. Both rights clearly declare the individual's right to a private cache of weaponry. All of this has been absolutely proven and shown beyond the here quotes, in this blog, by acts of congress, statutes, court cases, formal legal definitions, etc. To continue to support a blatant lie, as do our liberal friends, will only continue the downward spiral of the great American experiment. The liberal agenda has to change the lights focus from what their belief system is doing to the individual to, the tool of their victims use.

E Archer, NYC

It was not just Patrick Henry that shared this sentiment -- also Madison, Jefferson, etc.. Who are the militia? Time and time again the founders reiterated that We The People are the militia -- not the federal government's armies. The right to arms is not only a right, but a duty for defense of oneself and of one's country. Switzerland is a good example -- every able-bodied citizen is armed and trained, and thus, ready to defend the republic. When only the ruling class has arms, say good bye to liberty. And Anon from Reston has his facts wrong -- guns are used in self-defense somewhere around 2 million times a year in America. It is our responsibility to defend ourselves, not to rely on government agents for our protection. Independence and Courage -- two ideals very much lacking in Americans today.

helorat, Milton

Ahhh Robert, you decide if you are able. The people of the First and other Amendments are the same people. To argue otherwise is pure foolishness. Another Joe specificly changes the wording and the context to make ludicrous argument. The First A is written as a restriction of Power on the Federal government only... Congress shall make no law...the Second A is a specific protection of the right to bear arms from any infringement from whatever the source. And the house communist fails to recognize the millions of protective uses of firearms each year. The Second A is to protect against a tyranical government, robbers are secondary. The founders were very specific about that. Comrade Reston you get a dog, I will keep my gunS, lots of them, with big scary magazines and thousands of rounds of ammunition. I AM an American. Firearms ownership is not only a right of citizenship, it is a responsibility of citizenship. Sleep tight knowing there are bad men out there protecting moral cowards like yourself.

Dick, Fort Worth

Stay in there, Reston and Sarasota. Just hope helorat never puts into action his violent feelings of hatred and jingoism. Hey, this is supposed to be rational discourse, isn't it? And I, too, am wondering about our editor's concentration on this subject. It may increase participation but certainly not balance.

helorat, Milton

Dick, et al, the editor, unlike you, no doubt realizes that liberty is guarded by the individual with the means to defend himself. This is a site dedicated to individual liberty, not socialism, communism, or european appeasers. If you can't handle individual liberty and freedom, why are YOU here? This is not a site dedicated to government solutions to peoples problems. It is about liberty being the solution to the human condition. And with liberty come the responsibilty to actually be responsible for protecting your own life, private property and that very liberty itself. If you do not recognize that, then you are an American only by accident of birth, not in spirit or in truth. Dick, you obviously can't argue against the truth and logic of my post, so I thank you for the act of concession blatantly obvious in the name calling. No hatred here I feel sorry for you, to have a life goal of transitioning from dependency on mommy and daddy to dependency on government. Sad!

Ken, Allyn, WA

In eighteenth century parlance, well-regulated simply meant well behaved: that is law abiding citizens. Federal statute also defines a militia as follows: TITLE 10 - ARMED FORCES Subtitle A - General Military Law PART I - ORGANIZATION AND GENERAL MILITARY POWERS CHAPTER 13 - THE MILITIA Sec. 311. Militia: composition and classes -STATUTE- (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard. (b) The classes of the militia are - (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

A HREF="" title=" " target="_tab", Vancouver, GVRD(Paine Cnty), Coastal Lwr Mainland BC(State of Neo Sumer), U.S. of Eh!

I was thinking, recently, on how important this is, just think of being part of a country where even a forensic laymen, as a witnesss could be knowlledgable and have arms accessable enough to be an expert witness just at the act of practicing and use of arms.

Editor, Liberty Quotes

Hey, guys, we send out quotes in themes, as you know. The focus is not guns per se but the founders' vision of a free people emboldened by a Bill of Rights which the government cannot ever take away. The right to arms and the responsibility of the militia has been the topic of the week. Those that wish we would change the subject are indeed wishing to close their eyes and ears to the simple truth that the government is not and has never been authorized to disarm the people -- ever. In light of the recent shootings at VA Tech, we consider the issue relevant and timely. The right and the left have their sacred cows -- all are fair game here.

The other Joe, N. Caldwell, NJ

Oh, please, Mike -- by your definition, ordinary citizens would have the right to own flame throwers, ballistic missiles, tanks, nuclear weapons...since everyone (except perhaps you) agrees that private citizens do NOT have the right to own such arms, the ownership of arms is clearly NOT unrestricted. Well-regulated means exactly what it says.

Joseph, Houston

I love that quote

Daniel HIlmer, Woodbridge, Va

Amen!!!! This Is what Freedom is all about.

Bruce, Savannah, TN

Have any of you anti-2nd Amendment guys ever read Lott's book, "More Guns, Less Crime"? If you're truly interested in the truth, you may want to check it out; however, if you enjoy regurgitating the Anti-American gun control lobby's talking points, ad nauseum, carry on...

judy, redmond

It was not just Patrick Henry that shared this sentiment -- also Madison, Jefferson, etc.. Who are the militia? Time and time again the founders reiterated that We The People are the militia -- not the federal government's armies. The right to arms is not only a right, but a duty for defense of oneself and of one's country. Switzerland is a good example -- every able-bodied citizen is armed and trained, and thus, ready to defend the republic. When only the ruling class has arms, say good bye to liberty. And Anon from Reston has his facts wrong -- guns are used in self-defense somewhere around 2 million times a year in America. It is our responsibility to defend ourselves, not to rely on government agents for our protection. Independence and Courage -- two ideals very much lacking in Americans today.

Dylan, Kansas

It's amazing how some people don't get it. The 2nd Amendment isn't in the Bill of Rights for the purpose of hunting or sportsmanship; it's for protection from tyranny in government! "Each day...roughly 30ish people are intentionally killed by guns..." I hear all the time about guns running around shooting people...and you never can tell about those magic bullets!

Danny, Hickory N.C

When the founders wrote the Second Amendment they did not expect all to come from miles about to a quarter master to Draw Arms and ready for fight. They were to meet on the path of battle or join the fight when they arrived.

brett hoopes, boise, idaho

It should be only debated the god given right to have fredom of worship or the god given right to defend yourself (from your gov. or your neighbor) came first in the founders thoughts. I gess the second admendment was second most important thing in their lives and their childrens children.(so on and forever) The only reason the founders didnt say you could have a tank they didnt know what it was or they would have. They where into over throwing a tyranical gov. Dont you think you should have the means? You where given the right.!

Just another face in the crowd, KC

Actually ordinary citizens DO have a right to own flamethrowers... I'm not aware of any law in the US prohibiting them. Now, the military on the other hand...

Mike, Chicago

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." - George Washington

James, Crossville, TN

Mike in Chicago here's your rating

An American (one willing to stand for what I believe), Ekalaka

Go Dylan!! The founding fathers were seeing and reaping a tyrannical government already, they didn't want to have to do that again. And by the way according to the Oxford American Dictionary Infringed- act so as to limit or undermine. Sorry folk it's already happened, we can't have fully automatic weapons, that's limits. I could go on, if we didn't have weapons how could we back up our voice in gov.? They already aren't listening, so maybe we ought to remind them who paying their salary.

Chris Eargle, Columbia, SC

This quote is out-of-context and selectively edited.

"May we not discipline and arm them, as well as Congress, if the power be concurrent? so that our militia shall have two sets of arms, double sets of regimentals, &c.; and thus, at a very great cost, we shall be doubly armed. The great object is, that every man be armed. But can the people afford to pay for double sets of arms, &c.? Every one Who is able may have a gun. But we have learned, by experience, that, necessary as it is to have arms, and though our Assembly has, by a succession of laws for many years, endeavored to have the militia completely armed, it is still far from being the case."

J Carlton, Calgary

I'd love to ask the Liberals...if you walked in on a group of men raping your 12 year old...would you kill to stop the crime? If not, you have no morals, no spine and are completely unfit to raise children. That you would negate your right and responsibility to defend your families makes you disgustimg and immoral low lives.

H Martin Hansen, Phoenix

If you would read the document from whence it came you will discover that the quote is misconstruing the context. Henry was responding to what he considered wasteful spending of federal and state money for the purchase of arms. He was trying to convince his state of Kentucky to let the federal government purchase the arms in bulk, thus saving both federal and state money. He called the issue double arms when one will do. The issue of militia was worked out so that each state may arm thier own militia but those who receive them from the federal treasuryn would be oopen to call up in case of enemy invasion or insurrection.

robert, somewhere inthe USA

I see this one caused a bit of a stir; I just wish the same enthusiasm for rhetoric on this subject was also direct to the number of people killed each year by the police. And, the number of innocent people killed in foreign lands by our imperial army. Perhaps then I might have sympathy for some of the comments posted here today. Otherwise, I'll keep my gun. Perhaps a means test for those wishing to purchase a gun - if asked, I'll provide one... I wonder what would have happened if before the French Revolution they collected all the swords, daggers and muskets. If the citizenry had guns we could be called to arms when the time comes - it kind of makes sense. The Swiss all have guns and there's hardly any shootings - I'm afraid it's the American culture that is to blame... not the ownership of guns. Guns is where I draw the line; all that other stuff is another story....

Patrick Henry, Red Hill

Under the Constitution, ultimately, it is the association of Sovereign Individuals - We The People- who govern.

The matter of the ownership of firearms has been perfidiously rendered a matter of controversy.

The intentions of the Founders were, and remain, self evident.

Tony, Silver Spring, Md.

To "just another face in the crowd"

We the People are the boss, the government employees, elected officials and the military are our employees. Why should we allow our employees to have rights greater then We the People have ourselves?

Mike, Norwalk

The other Joe, following your logic - what is the magic number where individual rights are lost to a person and his singularlity and, assumed or increased by a multiple, - 2, 20, 200 ? ? ? (is there an intangible legal fiction that is innately and physically stronger - with more inalienable rights than an individual sovereign ? ? ?); AND, FYI - the initial use in the constitution of "well regulated" was a military term meaning "heavily armed". An ordering by rules and regulation was only applied after the fact to alter the meaning. The more the progressive / socialistic the herd, the greater the original meanings change. You are right, it does mean exactly what it originally said.

Mike, Norwalk

The other Joe, in the Second Amendment (disclosing a bill of “Rights”) exposes the “right” of individuals to unite in a military style gathering (militia’s being necessary to the security of a formally organized body politic of individuals). As conceived, the militia (lay individuals) would come together with their personally owned arms to do battle with enemies – foreign and domestic. The militia was not a standing or formally trained standing army. The individuals uniting in a militia (no government arms) needed be regulated (armed) as well as their opponents. That leading to the 1,000 pound gorilla in the room (after the clause ending in a coma – a new, enlightening and supporting clause of understanding was offered) “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Each and every, any and all “rights” are inalienably inherent in and to the individual; AND, "rights" can NOT transpose to an intangible legal fiction such as a militia.


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