Militias, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves and include all men capable of bearing arms. [...] To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.
The Constitution 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 and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. - Second Amendment to the Constitution An armed society is a polite society.
Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?
Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.
The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world not 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 ... the weak will become prey to the strong.
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.