Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, (1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President

Thomas Jefferson Quote

“The constitutions of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property and freedom of the press.”

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson
~ Thomas Jefferson


Ratings and Comments


Mike, Norwalk

A truth understood in a far off land, once upon a time.

J Carlton, Calgary

The District of Criminals could use a little reminding.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Like to know where Jefferson got this. The Constitution says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed (so as to keep the militia well formed) to my knowledge it does not say that we have a duty. The General Military Law of the United States does say that all men between 17 and 45 are in the unorganized militia so that it can be inferred from that law that yes these men should be at all times armed. That law is not the Constitution however. Since Tom appears to be misstating his case in reference to the Constitution of the US I give him only a one.

jim k, austin

Nice try Waff, but I'll take the words of Mr Jefferson over yours.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Go for the truth Jim and stop worshiping authority figures. Am I right about the Constitution or not? Mike from Norwalk also stated the other day that we are not required to bear arms. I suggested that if we all walked around with a gun on our hip it would put and end to this gun issue once and for all, so I was kind of in agreement with 'ol Tom. Mike said forcing people to carry an arm would be unconstitutional. I still do not know where in the Constitution it says that "it is our duty".

E Archer, NYC

Only Waffler could twist his own worship of authority to be Jim's. He really does live in a twisted world. "[A]ll power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves..." That is the key -- that we have the power and STILL DO! As far as a duty to be armed, do we have a duty to defend the Constitution? I never took an oath to do so, I didn't sign the Declaration of Independence. I think the point is that as the ultimate power holders in this free country, we DO have the obligation to uphold the principles of Liberty -- why? Because if we don't we will lose it -- that is not the law of the Constitution, that is the Law of Nature!

Ken, Milford Pa.

I think that Thomas Jefferson had a pretty good grip on what the founding fathers intended, after all he was one of the major founding fathers.

Ebon, Klamath Falls, OR

All the thoughtful heroes are dead. Those that raise their voice in protest to the vile villains dictating the United States are now deemed terrorists and thrown into holes without any due process whatsoever. If Jefferson saw the United States today I expect he'd just shoot himself between the eyes. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

Mike, Norwalk

Waffler, simply, the Constitution was addressed to the limitation of government. It did not address individual sovereign limitations. It was the sovereign's creation and limitation of/on government. The slave at heart and mind says "unless the Constitution or government tells me I can or must do something, I can't do it." The constitutional principle was that the individual sovereign could do or, not do, anything as long as it did not infringe on others. The second amendment, where addressing government's ability to infringe on an individual sovereign's right to own or not own an arm was absolute. The government shall not infringe of such right. The same was true of a different class of persons, a militia. The two rights are not the same but declare the government can not infringe on anyone's right to arms/regulation under any circumstance.

Logan, Memphis, TN

Waffler, did you really just make that lame argument? When a certain clause, like the second Amendment, is vague enough to cause dissension and misinterpretation by a populace, the wisest course of action is to see what other statements were made by the very men who stated the original clause. As Jefferson would most likely say to you, as he said to William Johnson, "On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invent against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed" (You need an education in the history of our foundation to begin to do this, however, which it has never appeared as though you've had). Jefferson, obviously, was not a signer of the Constitution, but is certainly as strong an authority on the subject as anyone you're going to find (being a person who actually wrote our nation's Declaration of Independence and who was constantly in correspondence with those that argued and penned the Constitution itself). It is a blatant fallacy to inject today's understanding of the Constitution back onto history and the setting of our founding fathers -- you can interpret history differently, that is fine, but don't be blatantly ignorant in your quest to rewrite history. Jefferson was not the only person to speak about such things, the founders made near countless comments on the "right" of the people to carry arms (and not solely in reference to a free militia); "The said Constitution [shall] be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms." (Samuel Adams at the ratification convention of the US Constitution - 1788); "A people armed and free forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition and is a bulwark for the nation against foreign invasion and domestic oppression." (James Madison, "Father of the Constitution); "Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense." And why is this? Because, "There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."(John Adams). The founding fathers, having giving their entire lives to the cause of freedom, were jealous of their liberty and "trusted" no man... Speaking of rebellions against government, and the need to carry arms, Jefferson wrote to William S. Smith "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Jefferson knew what he was talking about -- you'll find no where that the founding fathers limited the "right" of "arms" to merely a militia -- it's impossible, because this idea was no where present when they drafted, finalized, and passed the Bill of Rights. You can disagree with our founders and propose another idea -- that's just fine, we'll debate the issue -- but don't try to rewrite history to your own meandering conclusions.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Can anyone tell me in one sentence where the Constitution says that it is our duty to bear arms. Straight answers cut out the BS. I think it a good idea and would end this NRA business and sneaky concealed carry crap etcetera. But just because I think it is a good idea does not give me the right to say that "the Constitution requires me to be armed or that it is my duty to be armed". And Jefferson has no more rights than the rest of us and no less. A sentence Logan please not a book.

Logan, Memphis, TN

There is nowhere in the federal Constitution where the duties of the citizens are expressed -- it is not a document to do so. Some states (like Tennessee, for instance) stated that if a man opted out of defending himself (not owning an firearm) then he would pay a separate tax for those who would step up to defend him. No, Jefferson does not have any more rights than anyone else (he would say that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that men are equal in these rights -- oh wait, he already did). The question is not whether or not he has more rights, but whether or not his words have more validity than yours -- which I heartily agree with.

E Archer, NYC

Waffler, snap out of it. You are asking proof for something you know doesn't exist while implying that others have said it does (and they didn't). See if you can grasp this: the Constitution does not say anything is a duty of the citizen -- it says what are the duties, responsibilities and jurisdictions of government employees. It confers no rights -- nor any duties for the citizen as far as I know, perhaps the states themselves, but the federal government was supposed to take a hands off approach to individual citizens. Where is it in the Constitution that it is your duty to take care of your children? Where does our sense of duty come from anyway, government? No, I serve the cause of Liberty itself, and if I do not consider it to be my own duty to preserve those principles within me, then who will? Who should? I believe Jefferson reasons it all the way through, the duty of freedom rests with each one of us -- freedom isn't free, and it is our duty only because of the consequences of not doing our duty.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

So thank you all for saying Jefferson is wrong here. It saddens me because he is one of my favorites, and saddens me that I had to pull it out of youse. The sooner this blog becomes one of intellectual honesty rather then pushing ones world view the better it will be. I am also sadden that y'all can not just give straight answers without recrimination. Logan the Tennessee law was similiar to many states where a man could avoid the draft by paying a fee or tax. I think that is a lousy deal in a democracy. All should have an equal right to the honor of being killed for their country.

E Archer, NYC

Waffler, how can you be saddened that we all agree that your beloved Jefferson (that you usually disagree with) was wrong, when none have admitted such a thing (as you well know)? Jefferson is right -- the quote above is what he stood for. Yes, it is our duty to be armed -- it is not the purpose of the Constitution to assign duties to free citizens, but to limit governmental power. (Do you even read people's responses?) I'll say it again, the Constitution(s) of America do not confer rights or assign duties. The quote is not about Constitutions, it is about the People -- the first clause re-asserts that all power is inherent in the People not the Constitution.

warren, olathe

The duty is inferred by the constitution. Not stated.

Thomas, KC

Me thinks Waffler is a flaming liberal.

Pablo, Ciudad Juarez

http://www.monticello.org/library/reference/spurious.html I think that Jefferson never said that, and scholars agree with me.

anonomous
  • Reply
    anonomous    9/3/09

    Dear Mr. Waffler, as one who has served this once great republic, I believe it is my DUTY to be armed, and much to your socialist displeasure. It may, in the very near future be my not only my DUTY but also my RESPONSIBILITY to take up arms against the unconstitutional government in Washington D.C. The second revolution is a comin' .Joe six pack has awakened to the excess of the federal government.

    Just Me, Chicago

    Anyone who is unclear regarding our Second Amendment right to bear arms, has not read it. It is not vague, nor is it "open to interpretation." The dissent over gun control is between "useful idiots,"along with those who are fueled by hope for a nanny dictatorship, against American citizens trying to keep America free.
    As to Pablo, Ciudad Juarez, Anonymous, "scholars agree with (you)." No, they don't. You're making that up. For shame!

    E Archer, NYC

    I really wish people would stop using the expression 'our Second Amendment right to bear arms' -- in actuality it is 'the Second Amendment prohibition on weapons laws by Congress.' The Bill of Rights were enumerated prohibitions upon Congress. Calling it a 'Bill of Rights' was a corruption -- they were simply the first amendments to the Constitution.

    @

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