"For a people who are free and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed
militia is their best security. It is, therefore, incumbent on us at every meeting [of
Congress] to revise the condition of the militia and to ask ourselves if it is prepared to
repel a powerful enemy at every point of our territories exposed to invasion... Congress
alone have power to produce a uniform state of preparation in this great organ of defense.
The interests which they so deeply feel in their own and their country's security will
present this as among the most important objects of their deliberation."
--Thomas Jefferson: 8th Annual Message, 1808. ME 3:482
"None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important." --Thomas Jefferson, 1803.
"It is more a subject of joy [than of regret] that we have so few of the desperate characters which compose modern regular armies. But it proves more forcibly the necessity of obliging every citizen to be a soldier; this was the case with the Greeks and Romans and must be that of every free State. Where there is no oppression there can be no pauper hirelings." --Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1813.
"A well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them, I deem [one of] the essential principles of our Government, and consequently [one of] those which ought to shape its administration."
--Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.
"[The] governor [is] constitutionally the commander of the militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms." --Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811.
"Uncertain as we must ever be of the particular point in our circumference where an enemy may choose to invade us, the only force which can be ready at every point and competent to oppose them, is the body of neighboring citizens as formed into a militia. On these, collected from the parts most convenient, in numbers proportioned to the invading foe, it is best to rely, not only to meet the first attack, but if it threatens to be permanent, to maintain the defence until regulars may be engaged to relieve them."
--Thomas Jefferson: 1st Annual Message, 1801. ME 3:334
"We must train and classify the whole of our male citizens, and make military instruction a regular part of collegiate education. We can never be safe till this is done."
--Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1813.
"I think the truth must now be obvious that our people are too happy at home to enter into regular service, and that we cannot be defended but by making every citizen a soldier, as the Greeks and Romans who had no standing armies; and that in doing this all must be marshaled, classed by their ages, and every service ascribed to its competent class."
--Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1814.
In a nation governed by the people themselves, the possession of arms to defend their nation against usurpers within and without was deemed absolutely necessary. This right was protected by the 2nd Amendment.
"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their right and duty to be at all times armed."
--Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824.
"One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them."
--Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1796. ME 9:341
"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the Body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind . . . Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks."
--Thomas Jefferson, Letter to his nephew Peter Carr, August 19, 1785.
"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements)."
--Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution with (his note added), 1776. Papers, 1:353
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
--Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment (1764).