Individual Right to Bear Arms, and The Militia

Federalist Papers’ index*
arms, second amendment 29[6-7]
citizen’s right to have, 46[9]
defense against ruler usurpation, 8[10], 28[10]

29[6] . . .Spending the time and money to train the entire militia would injure labor and industry. And if tried, it couldn’t succeed. Citizens would refuse to do it. Instead, we can only attempt to arm and equip the general population. And to do this, they will need to assemble once or twice every year.

29[7] Disciplining the whole nation is impractical. However, we should adopt a well-formed plan to create a militia as soon as possible. The government should form a small army that is fit for service in case of need. With a clear plan, a trained militia will be ready whenever the defense of the States requires it. We will need fewer military forts and bases. And if circumstances ever force the government to form a large army, it will never be a big threat to the liberties of the people. There will be a large body of citizens who are members of the militia. They will be disciplined and trained in the use of arms. They will be ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens. This is the only substitute for a standing army. And it is the best security against a standing army, if it exists.

8[10] The executive branch of government may use the army to suppress a small faction or an occasional insurrection. But it won’t be able to stop a rebellion staged by the united efforts of all the citizens.

28[10] Military force can be only as strong as the resources of the country permit. For a long time to come, maintaining a large army will be impossible. As we are able to strengthen our military, the population and community strength will also increase. Therefore, when will the federal government be able to raise and maintain an army capable of erecting a tyranny over all the people of an immense empire? The people can, by using their State governments, defend themselves with the swiftness and organization of independent nations. . .

46[9] Military force is the only other way that the federal government could usurp State power. And it would take a very large military force. The federal government would have to build up the military. Over a long period of time the people and the States would have to elect men ready to betray them both. The traitors would have to systematically enlarge the military. The State governments and the people would have to silently watch the gathering storm and continue to fund the military until it was prepared to burst on their own heads. . .Let’s say an army devoted to the federal government was formed. The State governments—with the people on their side—could repel the danger. According to the best computations, the size of a country’s standing army cannot exceed 1% of the total population or 4% of the number able to bear arms. In the United States, the army could be no bigger than 25,000 or 30,000 men. The militia with nearly half a million armed citizens and officers appointed by the States would oppose the federal army. The militia would fight for their common liberties. Local governments would lead the militia. And the militia would be loyal to the State governments. Such a small federal army probably couldn’t conquer the militia, just as we successfully resisted the British army. Americans, unlike the people of almost every other nation, have the advantage of being armed. And the people are attached to the State governments, which appoint the militia officers. This forms a barrier against federal ambition. Several European kingdoms have large military establishments. Yet they are afraid to trust the people with arms. Citizen arms alone might not be powerful enough to defeat a monarchy. But if the people had the additional advantage of local elected governments, who could direct the national attacks and appoint militia officers, the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions that surround it. Let’s not insult the free and gallant citizens of America. They can defend their rights more easily than the debased subjects of a tyrant can rescue their rights from their oppressors. And let’s not insult the American people with the supposition that they will ever allow the long series of insidious measures that would necessitate the use of armed force.

*The Federalist Papers: Modern English Edition Two, 2008, Mary E, Webster

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