“We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed”
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it.
Then it is important to strengthen the state governments: and as this cannot be done by any change in the federal constitution…it must be done by the states themselves, erecting such barriers at the constitutional line as cannot be surmounted either by themselves or by the general
— Thomas Jefferson, letter to Archibald Stuart, on the need to defend States’ Rights against the Federal government
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“Our Union is now complete; our constitution composed, established, and approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties.”
Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood, and hunt us from the face of the earth?
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude, than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
— Samuel Adams, Son of Liberty, in a speech given to the Philadelphia state house (1776)
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Defend your opponents' rights, or lose your own
An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
— Thomas Paine, First Principles of Government (1795)
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Democracy is not freedom.
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch.
Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.
— James Bovard, “Individual Rights“, Sacramento Bee (1994)
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The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.
Elbridge Gerry, Constitutional Convention, Monday, May 31, 1787
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John DeWitt was the pseudonym used by a Founder in the writing of several key Anti-Federalist Papers, in defense of individual liberty. The name was chosen in homage to a famous Dutch patriot.
It is asserted by the most respectable writers upon Government, that a well regulated militia, composed of the yeomanry of the country have ever been considered as the bulwark of a free people; and, says the celebrated Mr. Hume;
“without it, it is folly to think any free government will have stability or security. When the sword is introduced, as in our constitution (speaking of the British) the person entrusted will always neglect to discipline the militia, in order to have a pretext for keeping up a standing army; and it is evident this is a mortal distemper in the British parliament, of which it must finally inevitably perish.”
— John DeWitt, Antifederalist Papers, John Dewitt IV
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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…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.
A select militia defined as only the privileged class entitled to keep and bear arms was considered an anathema to a free society, in the same way that Americans denounced select spokesmen approved by the government as the only class entitled to the freedom of the press.
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 18th century, for no known writing surviving from the period between 1787 and 1791 states such a thesis.
– Stephen P. Holbrook, That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right
Because the first two amendments of the Bill of Rights were not ratified, the right to keep and bear arms was actually number four in the original document
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Can any of you seriously say the Bill of Rights could get through Congress today?
It wouldn’t even get out of committee.
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Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him?
– Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (1801)
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These people are either too superstitiously religious, or too cowardly for arms; they either can not or dare not defend ; their property is open to anyone who has the courage to attack them…
The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like law, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property.
The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside.
Horrid mischief would ensue were one-half the world deprived of the use of them; for while avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong.
— Thomas Paine, Thoughts on Defensive War, 1775
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