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This page contains links to either primary historical sources on my page, or at other locations. If I have unintentionally violated someone's copyright (not very likely, considering the age of these sources), please let me know, and I will remove it. Otherwise, if you see something useful that needs to be here, email me and I will add it.
Documents Concerning Gun Scarcity (this is where the Arming America debunking stuff starts)
Race-Specific & Religion-Specific Gun Control Statutes
Colonial Sodomy and Other Capital Laws
Papers of American Revolutionaries
Papers of Americans From After The Revolution
Smedley Butler and the Coup d'Etat Plot Against President Roosevelt
Court Decisions Concerning the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
"One Nation, Under God": Why the claim that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Constitution makes me laugh
Nuclear Weapons History
How American history used to be written. This is a chapter from George Bancroft, History of the United States of America from the Discovery of the Continent (New York: 1886), vol. 4, chapter 9. It's patriotic in a way that no historian would write today. Is it good history? Not really. But it's rousing stuff, and I like it.
Archives of Maryland contains images, transcriptions, and is full text searchable--a very valuable resource.
What did various items cost in 1737-8 Georgia? Here's many pages of an inventory of goods purchased during that time.
The Plymouth Colony Archive Project at the University of Virginia contains a mixture of primary sources, early maps, as well as a number of undergraduate papers by University of Virginia students, some quite interesting and well done, others suffering from very predictable jargon. (Even some of these, however, contain useful information.)
Rick Gardiner's The American Colonist's Library is an esoteric collection of documents used in writing Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner's Never Before In History: America's Inspired Birth (Dallas, Tex.: Haughton Publishing Co., 1998). Some have claimed that not all of the documents are accurate (perhaps because Amos & Gardiner are arguing that Christianity played a dominant role in the formation of American Revolutionary political ideology); all that I have independently checked have been accurate.
Albert Bushnell Hart and Mabel Hill, Camps and Firesides of the Revolution (New York: Macmillan Co., 1937), is available from the University of Virginia's Electronic Text Center. This is a collection of primary sources about life in America before and during the American Revolution.
I have started gathering colonial sodomy laws together because some of them directly contradict the claim made in the recent Lawrence et. al. v. Texas (2003) decision that colonial laws prohibiting sodomy did not distinguish homosexual from heterosexual sodomy, nor did they distinguish either from bestiality:
At the outset it should be noted that there is no long-standing history in this country of laws directed at homosexual conduct as a distinct matter. Beginning in colonial times there were prohibitions of sodomy derived from the English criminal laws passed in the first instance by the Reformation Parliament of 1533. The English prohibition was understood to include relations between men and women as well as relations between men and men. ... Nineteenth-century commentators similarly read American sodomy,buggery,and crime-against-nature statutes as criminalizing certain relations between men and women and between men and men.... The absence of legal prohibitions focusing on homosexual conduct may be explained in part by noting that according to some scholars the concept of the homosexual as a distinct category of person did not emerge until the late 19th century.... Thus early American sodomy laws were not directed at homosexuals as such but instead sought to prohibit non-procreative sexual activity more generally. This does not suggest approval of homosexual conduct. It does tend to show that this particular form of conduct was not thought of as a separate category from like conduct between heterosexual persons.These statements are, for the colonial period, wrong because they make claims that are easily disproved for several colonies. First, a little background on buggery, sodomy, and bestiality, because the terms were not used consistently then, and have strong connotations today.
The policy of punishing consenting adults for private acts was not much discussed in the early legal literature. We can infer that one reason for this was the very private nature of the conduct. Despite the absence of prosecutions,there may have been periods in which there was public criticism of homosexuals as such and an insistence that the criminal laws be enforced to discourage their practices. But far from possessing "ancient roots," Bowers, 478 U.S.,at 192, American laws targeting same-sex couples did not develop until the last third of the 20th century.
The buggery statute of Henry VIII prohibited oral and anal sex, regardless of the sex of the participants, and all forms of sex with animals. It made no distinctions based the sex of the participants. Some colonies explicitly adopted the English buggery statute, such as North Carolina in 1749. Maryland's statutes are not explicit, but it appears from references such as this at Archives of Maryland 153:382 that Maryland also used the English statutory definition of buggery. Maryland executed at least one man for the crime of buggery, as this request for payment for his execution at Archives of Maryland 7:393 demonstrates--although it is unclear if this was homosexual, heterosexual, or bestial. There is a 1695 arrest warrant for John Jenner of Somerset County "by Vertue of Hue & Cry for Suspition of Buggery" at Archives of Maryland 687:110, with supporting details at 687:70 and 535:120. New Hampshire's Acts and Laws, Passed by the General Court orAssembly Of His Majesties Province of New-Hampshire in New England (Boston: B. Green, 1716), also seems to be using Henry VIII's definition of buggery: "the Destestable and Abominable Sin of Buggery with Mankind, or Beast, which is contrary to the very light of Nature...." Pennsylvania's 1682 sodomy law seems not to make any distinction between homosexual and heterosexual anal or oral sex, or any legal distinction between these and bestiality.
In other colonies, however, especially from Delaware northward, the laws often distinguish sodomy from buggery. This description from the First General Assembly of Providence Colony in 1647 describes, "Under the law for whoremongers, and those that defile themselves with mankind, being the chief of that nature, are comprehended those laws that concern sodomy, buggery, rape, adultery, fornication and their accessories." A few pages later, the legislature defines what they mean by those words:
First of sodomy, which is forbidden by this present Assembly throughout the whole colony, and by sundry statutes of England. 25 Hen. 8, 6; 5 Eliz. 17. It is a vile affection, whereby men given up thereto leave the natural use of woman and burn in their lusts one toward another, and so men with men work that which is unseemly, as that Doctor of the Gentiles in his letter to the Romans once spake, i. 27. The penalty concluded by that state under whose authority wo [sic] are is felony of death without remedy. See 5 Eliz. 17.There is nothing here that prohibits oral or anal sex between a man and a woman, nor is there anything that prohibits sex between two women. Only "men with men" are mentioned by the sodomy statute. Then they define buggery:
Buggery is forbidden by this present Assembly throughout the whole colony, and also strengthened by the same statutes of England. It is a most filthy lying with a beast as with a woman, and is abomination and confusion, the just reward whereof prepared to our hands is felony of death without remedy. See 5 Eliz. 17.This statute, however, seems to apply equally to both men and women who have sex with animals. At least, it makes no explicit reference to just one sex--unlike the sodomy law.
After absorption into Rhode Island, it appears that the colony kept this distinction between buggery (referring to sex with animals) and sodomy (men having sex with men). Acts and Laws Of His Majesties Colony of Rhode-Island, and Providence-Plantations (Boston: John Allen, 1179 ) refers to "That whosoever shall Perpetrate and Commit the Destable and Abominable Crimes of Sodomy, or Buggery... shall suffer the Pains of Death...." If Rhode Island understood buggery to mean what Henry VIII's buggery statute prohibits, there was no need for them to list sodomy and buggery separately. Laws of the Government of New-Castle, Kent and Sussex Upon Delaware (Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1741), appears to recognize a similar distinction: page 10 lists various felonies, "if any Person or Persons shall commit Sodomy, or Buggery, or Rape, or Robbery...." Similarly, at pages 200-1, a correcting act lists "Bestiality," but not buggery.
Several colonies had statutes that specifically prohibited homosexual behavior. The capital laws of Plymouth Colony from 1671 and 1685 clearly punish specifically homosexual sodomy, as does this Connecticut statute of 1650, and the Duke of York's 1665 laws for New York Colony (which includes all of the capital laws). West New Jersey's 1668 Capital Laws, starting on page 78, with the buggery and sodomy laws on page 79, of Aaron Learning and Jacob Spicer, The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New-Jersey (Philadelphia: W. Bradford, 1752), contain essentially identical text. (Sorry for the quality; I had to photograph this off a screen; no way to make prints.) The same laws reappear in 1675 on pages 104 and 105.
East New Jersey (which had a different government during part of the colonial period) made bestiality a capital offense in 1682 on page 235, but I have not found any explicit law about oral or anal sex, regardless of the sex of the parties. Perhaps the English buggery statute was considered sufficient; but why adopt their own bestiality statute then?
This statute book, New-Haven's Settling in New-England. And Some Lawes For Government: Published for the Use of that Colony... (London: Livewell Chapman, 1656), uses nearly identical language to the Connecticut, Plymouth, and New York statutes, clearly putting bestiality in a separate category from sodomy:
If any man or woman, shall lye with any beast, or bruite creature by carnall Copulation, he, or she, shall surely be put to death, and the beast shall be slaine, buried, and not eaten. Levit. 20. 15, 16.The New Haven statute, however, unlike the Connecticut, New York, and Plymouth statutes, seems to prohibit heterosexual oral or anal sex, as well as sexual abuse of children and masturbation: "by abusing the contrary part of a grown woman, or Child of either sex, or unripe vessel of a Girle...."
If any man lyeth with mankinde, as a man lyeth with a woman, both of them have Committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. Levit. 20. 13. And if any woman change the naturall use, into that which is against nature, as Rom. 1. 26. she shall be liable to that same Sentence....
Having clearly demonstrated that at least some colonies prohibited only homosexual sodomy, and a number distinguished sodomy from bestiality, there is a larger problem of interpretation in the Lawrence decision: "sought to prohibit non-procreative sexual activity more generally." This is not the only conclusion that you can draw from the evidence. The New Haven statute does directly reference procreation, but the other statutes do not, and most are explicit that they are forbidden because they are disruptive to the society and contrary to the Bible. The laws against sodomy are grouped with laws against murder, bigamy, rape, incest, and child molestation--all of them terribly serious crimes, and yet only some have to do with sex, and some, such as bigamy and rape, are procreative sexual activity. It makes as much or more sense to understand these laws as an expression of Christian views about the importance of sex inside of marriage, as to imagine these to be prohibitions on "non-procreative sexual activity more generally."
Here are various Maryland laws on sodomy. The 1809 session law at Archives of Maryland 570:91 provides that:
Every person duly convicted of the crime of sodomy, shall be sentenced to undergo a similar confinement for a period not less than one year nor more than ten years, under the same conditions as are herein after directed.Demonstrating that this was not a punishment for forcible rape of a man, the same session law makes the penalty for forcible rape of "carnal knowledge" of a "Woman-child under the age of ten years" one to twenty-one years, or death.
As late as 1976, Maryland passed a law criminalizing oral sex "with any other person or animal," punishing it by a fine "not more than one thousand dollars" or imprisonment "not exceeding ten years" or both. See Archives of Maryland 734:1530 for the session law.
The Thomas Jefferson Papers is both image and full text searchable, although unlike The George Washington Papers, you can't see transcripts for many of the images yet.
While not a primary source, I have also reproduced John L. Spivak's bizarre two articles in the socialist New Masses. When Spivak isn't trying to persuade you that Jews put Hitler in power, he is presenting some interesting evidence of what the House Committee chose to leave out of their report. They had good reasons, I would say, to have done so, when many of the accused and possibly innocent parties were still alive. They aren't now.
Bliss v. Commonwealth (Ky. 1822): struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons as a violation of the Kentucky Constitution's right to keep and bear arms provision.
State v. Mitchell (Ind. 1831): upheld a ban on concealed carrying. The whole decision is one sentence.
Simpson v. State (Tenn. 1833): ruled that a conviction for "affray" based on frightening the public by carrying dangerous or unusual arms was in conflict with the Tennesee Constitution's "right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence."
Aymette v. State (Tenn.1840): upheld a ban on concealed carrying of a Bowie knife, and incorrectly claimed that Simpson v. State (Tenn. 1833)'s claim was not binding..
Reid v. State (Ala. 1840): upheld a ban on concealed carrying of a handgun. The person whose conviction was upheld, Reid, was the sheriff of Montgomery County! Try not to laugh when you read the claim that the sheriff didn't need to carry a gun to protect himself from a man making threats against his life: "the defendant needed no arms for his protection, his official authority furnished him an ample shield."
State v. Buzzard (Ark. 1842): upheld a ban on concealed carrying. This is the only nineteenth century decision that argues that the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual right to keep and bear arms, but only a collective right of the state to maintain a militia against federal power. It also argues that the Arkansas Constitution's right to keep and bear arms clause similarly guarantees not an individual right, but the right of the state to maintain a militia. But against whom does the state constitution's guarantee apply? Surely not against the federal government, and the state hardly needs a guarantee of a right to maintain a militia to protect itself from itself, as Justice Lacy's dissenting opinion points out.
State v. Huntly (N.C. 1843): ruled that the common law prohibition on "riding or going armed with unusual and dangerous weapons, to the terror of the people" was not contrary to the North Carolina Constitution's right to keep and bear arms. While acknowledging that it was somewhat unusual to regularly carry a gun, "For any lawful purpose--either of business or amusement--the citizen is at perfect liberty to carry his gun. It is the wicked purpose--and the mischievous result--which essentially constitute the crime."
State v. Newsom (N.C. 1844): deals with the question of whether free blacks could use the Second Amendment or the North Carolina Constitution's right to keep and bear arms provision to strike down a law requiring free blacks to have a license to possess or carry a gun. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment restricted only the federal government, and the North Carolina Constitution's provision was not offended by such a law. "Its only object is to preserve the peace and safety of the community from being disturbed by an indiscriminate use, on ordinary occasions, by free men of color, of fire arms or other arms of an offensive character. Self preservation is the first law of nations, as it is of individuals." At no point does the Court dispute that the right is individual in nature.
Nunn v. State (Ga. 1846): ruled that a state ban on concealed carrying of weapons would be constitutional, but a ban on all modes of carrying of weapons was a violation of the Second Amendment. Similarly, a ban on sales of concealable handguns was found to be contrary to the Second Amendment, and therefore invalid.
Cooper and Worsham v. City of Savannah (Ga. 1848): not a gun control case, but takes the position that free blacks are not citizens. "Free persons of color have never been recognized as citizens; they are not entitled to bear arms, vote for members of the legislature, or to hold any civil office." It did strike down the Savannah head tax on free blacks that was intended to discourage them from settling there.
State v. Chandler (La. 1850): this manslaughter case ruled that a ban on "carrying concealed weapons is not unconstitutional." The ban "interfered with no man's right to carry arms... 'in full open view,' which places men upon an equality. This is the right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, and which is calculated to incite men to a manly and noble defence of themselves, if necessary, and of their country, without any tendency to secret advantages and unmanly assassination." The volume was tightly bound--a few words on the edge of some pages are hard to read.
State v. Smith (La. 1856): upheld a ban on partially concealed weapons. "The statute against carrying concealed weapons does not contravene the second article of the amendments of the Constitution of the United States. The arms there spoken of are such as borne by a people in war, or at least carried openly."
State v. Jumel (La. 1858): upheld a ban on concealed carrying of weapons, echoing the previous Louisiana precedents that the Second Amendment guaranteed the individual the right to carry arms openly, not concealed.
Owen v. State (Ala. 1858): upheld a ban on concealed carrying of deadly weapons as not violating the Alabama Constititution's guarantee of a right to keep and bear arms. "That section was not designed to destroy the right, guarantied by the constitution to every citizen, 'to bear arms in defense of himself and the State'; nor to require them to be so borne, as to render them useless for the purpose of defense. It is a mere regulation of the manner in which certain weapons are to be borne...."
Cockrum v. State (Tex. 1859): upheld a sentence enhancement for manslaughters committed with a Bowie knife, but acknowledged that the Texas Constitution's right to keep and bear arms guaranteed a right to carry such a weapon, and appears to have conceded that the Second Amendment also guaranteed an individual right. "The object of the clause first cited [the Second Amendment], has reference to the perpetuation of free government, and is based on the idea, that the people cannot be effectually oppressed and enslaved, who are not first disarmed. The clause cited in our Bill of Rights, has the same broad object in relation to the government, and in addition thereto, secures a personal right to the citizen. The right of a citizen to bear arms, in the lawful defence of himself or the State, is absolute.... The right to carry a bowie-knife for lawful defence is secured, and must be admitted."
A.E. Smith v. Conrad Ishenhour (Tenn. 1866): ruled that confiscation of guns from citizens under authority of the governor, acting under a statute adopted by the legislature during the Confederacy, violated Tennessee's guarantee that "the free white citizens of this State have a right to keep and bear arms for the common defence."
Hopkins v. Commonwealth(Ky.App. 1868): upheld a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon. It does not appear that either side raised a constitutional question here. Image quality is poor.
Cutsinger v. Commonwealth (Ky.App. 1870): upheld a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, even though the weapon was being carried as merchandise for delivery, not useful as a weapon. It does not appear that either side raised a constitutional question here. Image quality is poor.
Andrews v. State (Tenn. 1871): combined with State v. Frank O'Toole and State v. Elbert Custer. Andrews argued that the state's ban on concealed carrying of deadly weapons violated both the 2nd Amendment and the Tennesse Constitution's provision. The court ruled that the 2nd Amendment limited only the authority of the federal government, not of the states. With respect to the Tennesee Constitution's provision, "The keeping of arms is protected, but that right is not infringed by this law. The citizen may keep arms in his house, may carry them about his own premises, may buy and carry them home, may take them to have them repaired." This is an 11 MB file--if you are dialup, you probably don't want to try it!
English v. State (Tex. 1872): combined with State v. G.W. Carter and State v. Wm. Daniel. This statute cites Bishop to the effect that the 2nd Amendment was a limitation on both the federal and state governments, but limits "arms" to
the arms of a militiaman or solider.... The arms of the infantry soldier are the musket and bayonet; of cavalry and dragoons, the sabre, holster pistols and carbine; of the artillery, the field piece, siege gun, and mortar, with side arms.Dirks, daggers, sword-canes, and a variety of other weapons were not protected arms, according to this decision.
It is useless to talk about personal liberty being infringed by laws such as that under consideration. The world has seen too much licentiousness cloaked under the name of natural or personal liberty; natural and personal liberty are exchanged, under the social compact of states, for civil liberty.(Obviously, not ACLU members.)
Amazing description of how the court thought that Texas's right to keep and bear arms provision ended up in their state constitution:
We will not say to what extent the early customs and habits of the people of this state should be respected and accommodated, where they may come in conflict with the ideas of intelligent and well-meaning legislators. A portion of our system of laws, as well as our public morality, is derived from a people to most peculiar perhaps of any other in the history and derivation of its own system. Spain, at different periods of the world, was dominated over by the Carthagenians, the Romans, the Vandals, the Snevi, the Allani, the Visigoths, and Arabs; and to this day there are found in the Spanish codes traces of the laws and customs of teach of these nations blended together into a system by no means to be compared with the sound philosophy and pure morality of the common law.Okay, I'm skipping around a bit on date; I'll backfill the 19th century and early 20th century later:
State v. Wilburn (Tenn. 1872): The legislature had been warned by the courts that they could regulate the carrying of arms; ban concealed carry of handguns; ban the carrying of handguns that were not the Army model; but they could not completely ban the carrying of Army model handguns. So they banned carrying all handguns, and allowed carrying the Army model handgun as long as you were a traveler, or you were carrying it in your hand at all times. (No holsters.) The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld this measure; it would also appear that the defendant, Robert Wilburn, may have had been carrying the Army model concealed.
Fife v. State (1876): A bully was convicted of "carrying a pistol as a weapon." The decision acknowledges that the Second Amendment was an individual right, but limits only the federal government. The Arkansas Constitution's arms provision was held to protect only those arms that qualified as "a weapon of war," not concealable weapons such as are "used in private quarrels and brawls."
Wilson v. State (Ark. 1878) and Holland v. State (Ark. 1878): Rather similar to the State v. Wilburn (Tenn. 1872) question. Arkansas had banned the carrying of any "pistols and other arms easily concealed about the person" and Fife v. State (Ark. 1876) had upheld this ban. In these two cases, the question is whether large military pistols ("a large army size six shooter") were banned. The Arkansas Supreme Court acknowledged that while the state could regulate the carrying of such weapons, it could not ban it completely.
If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege.
City of Salina v. Blaksley (Kan. 1905): An interesting case because this is the first decision to make a "states' right" argument concerning the right of the people to keep and bear arms--but it makes the argument concerning the Kansas Constitution's guarantee. If this argument were used with respect to the Second Amendment, it could be logical, but historically wrong. Using it with respect to a state constitutional protection, it isn't even logical: the state constitution would be guaranteeing a right of the state government to arm its militia against tyranny by the state government!
State v. Keet (Mo. 1916): Upheld a state law prohibiting carrying concealed weapons, holding that the Second Amendment limited only the federal government, and that the state constitutional provision protected only open carry:
Less than a century ago the arms of the pioneer were carried openly, his rifle on his shoulder, his hunting knife on his belt. Since then deadly weapons have been devised small enough to be carried effectively concealed in the ordinary pocket. The practice of carrying such weapons concealed is appreciated and indulged in mainly by the enemies of social order. Our State has been one of the slowest to act in meeting this comparatively new evil, but she has finally spoke in no uncertain language.
Watson v. Stone (Fla. 1941): Interesting because of the concurring opinion by Justice Buford:
I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.
1705: A similar but longer law at 2:234-36, with branding provisions, was passed by the legislature in passed January 12, 1705/6, but did not become law until 1709, when the Queen in Council declined to act upon it. This law remained on the books until March 1, 1780.
Here is the 1755 Georgia slave law, from Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 18:102-44. I think the legislators of colonial Georgia were paid by the word. :-)
Also worth reading because of their slavery significance are Georgia's 1757 slave patrol law. From Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 18:225-235, and the Georgia's 1759 night watch law for Savannah, at Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 18:290-295.
Ely v. Thompson, 3 A.K. Marshall (Ky.) 70, 75 (1820): this case found that "Although free persons of color are not parties to our social compact, yet they have many privileges secured thereby, and have a right to its protection." The law subjecting free persons of color to whipping for "raising his hand in opposition to a white person" was unconstitutional because it denied a free person of color the right to self-defense.
Transcription of INWARD SLAVE MANIFESTS 1818 to 1860: Port of New Orleans,
Record Group 36, United States
Customs Service Collector of Customs at New Orleans; Microfilm Rolls 1-3, 12 of 25 Rolls Housed at National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Transcribed by Dr. DEE PARMER WOODTOR (Chicago) and ALMA McCLENDON.
A variety of images, including manumission papers, bills of sale for
slaves, and slave birth certificates can be found at the Delaware
From Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States of North America, and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada During the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797, 4th ed. (London: John Stockdale, 1807). On pages 1:117, 1:118, and 1:119 is a discussion of rifle manufacturing and rifle use in America. On page 1:234 is a discussion of how Americans travel, and what weapons they carry with them (pistols and swords). On pages 1:237 and 238, Weld discusses the militia system in America, and how every man is obligated to provide his own arms. On pages 2:150 and 2:151, he compares Canadians to Americans, and points out the differences in their hunting styles--but he is clear that in both countries, hunting (with rifles) is common.
Robert Carleton [Baynard Rush Hall], The New Purchase, or Seven and a Half Years in the Far West (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1843), is so awash in references to guns, hunting, and violence, that I can only give you a few examples: at least 13% of the pages have such references. I've picked whole chapters devoted to guns that Bellesiles seems to have missed, such as this paean to the rifle that starts on page 1:122 and 1:123. It went on and on like this for several more pages--it hardly seemed necessary to give you it all. Sorry about the image quality; there were photocopies of bad originals.
1642: 1:79 and 1:80 prohibit sale of guns or ammunition to the Indians.
1644: Because merchants in the Dutch and French colonies were selling guns to the Indians, Connecticut next prohibited sale of guns outside the colony: 1:113 and 1:114.
1646: Okay, that didn't work. So on 1:138, and again on 1:145, ammunition sales to the Dutch and French were prohibited, in the hopes of keeping the Indians disarmed.
1649: That didn't work, either. So on 1:197
foreigners were prohibited from trading with Indians in Connecticut as
retaliation for continued sales of guns to the Indians by Dutch and French
traders outside Connecticut.
1637: 1:196, contains an ordinance prohibiting sale of guns, gunpowder, shot, lead, or shot molds, or repair of guns, to the Indians.
1705: A similar but longer law at 2:234-36, with an identical provision, was passed by the legislature in passed January 12, 1705/6, but did not become law until 1709, when the Queen in Council declined to act upon it. This law remained on the books until March 1, 1780.
1680: William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (New York: R. & W. & G. Bartow, 1823), 2:481and 2:482 prohibited "any negroe or other slave to carry or arme himselfe with any club, staffe, gunn, sword or any other weapon of defence or offence"" This is the earliest such statute that I have found in Virginia. Please let me know if you know an earlier one.
1723: William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Richmond: Franklin Press, 1820), 4:131. There seem to have been enough free blacks and Indians in the militia that the law was changed, "That every free negro, mulatto, or indian, being a house-keeper, or listed in the militia, may be permitted to keep one gun, powder, and shot"." Those blacks and Indians who were "not house-keepers, nor listed in the militia" were required to dispose of their weapons by the end of October, 1723. Blacks and Indians living on frontier plantations were required to obtain a license "to keep and use guns, powder, and shot"."
1738: Even the small number of blacks and Indians who were members of the militia were apparently no longer trusted with guns by 1738. They were still required to muster, but "shall appear without arms"." William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Richmond: Franklin Press, 1819), 5:17.
1757: From William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Richmond: Franklin Press, 1820), 7:95, Indians and blacks to appear unarmed for muster reiterated.
I looked up 17 of his 19 sources, and all of the primary sources (colonial statutes). I found that none of these 17 sources make any such claim; a number directly contradict him; and a few are completely irrelevant to the subject of guns, ammunition, and militia. (In short, it appears that he cited documents that he didn't read.) In the following statutes, if Bellesiles cited this statute to prove his case on Arming America p. 73 n. 10, there is **** next to it.
In the event that you would like some more examples of Bellesiles's remarkable inability to read, click to my very detailed analysis of Bellesiles's claims in Arming America and go down to page 136, and start reading.
New Haven Colony
1636: 1:3 requiring all militia members to have powder and bullets at home; 1:4 obligating militia members to train, and their arms to be inspected.
1637: 1:15 requiring "all persons shall beare Armes that are above the age of sixteene yeers" with a few exceptions. Every community was obligated to have a magazine of powder and bullets, and continuing on 1:16 every individual was required to have in his home gunpowder, and bullets "sutable to his peece" with a fine for failure to do so.
1645: 1:134 **** orders the gathering of the military materials used in a recent expedition, including "knapsacks, powder & bulletts" -- but not guns.
1648: 1:165 orders the provision of half a pound of powder per gun to every militia member per year for training purposes. If guns were, as Bellesiles claims, kept in central storehouses, why not issue the powder when the guns were issued?
1650: 1:542 and 1:543 contain the militia laws portion of the 1650 Code of Laws, including the provision requiring every male over 16 to have "in continuall readines, a good muskitt, or other gunn, fitt for service."
1665: 2:19 and 2:20 reiterate the order that all members of the militia keep powder and bullets, and be ready to appear "at a time and place appointed with their Armes and amunition" or pay a five shillings fine.
1673: 2:217 and 2:218 reiterate the order of militia men to show up armed for militia muster, or be fined five shillings.
1696: 4:177 fines militia men who show with guns not "compleat and well fixt upon the days of trayning" to pay a two shilling fine.
1722: 6:363 orders an inspection of "the town stock of ammunition" but no mention of inspecting town stocks of guns. Either there were few guns to inspect (in which case the ammunition was not very useful), or the guns belonged to individuals, not the town. ****
1724: 6:436 requires all militia men to show up on the same day with their guns, to make sure those who lacked a suitable gun weren't borrowing one from someone else. This might be evidence that some militia members weren't armed, or weren't armed with the right sort of gun, but after 1724, it would have been quite obvious if most of the militia really wasn't armed with guns.
1741: 8:379 and 8:380 contain a statute directing "that the inhabitants...be armed" and requiring "every listed souldier and other house-holder" except calvarymen "shall always be provided with, and have in continual readines, a well-fixed firelock...." If not, he was subject to ten shillings fine for failure to have a gun and ammunition, and three shillings for defects in either. Bellesiles cites 8:386, **** but that only directs that the towns maintain sufficient supplies of ammunition for the militia--not a word about restricting or controlling gun ownership. (There is a duplicate page image at 8:228-229 in The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776. If the links for 8:379 and 8:380 start taking you to 8:381 and 8:382, or 8:386 takes you to 8:388, that means that they fixed this problem, so please email me so that I can fix my links.)
1742: From Laws of the Government of New-Castle, Kent and Sussex Upon Delaware (Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1741). (I can't figure out how Franklin published this volume the year before the law was passed.. Perhaps the title page was for the first volume in a series.) This is a militia statute for the entire colony. On page 171, "That every Freeholder and taxable Person residing in this Government (except such as are hereafter excepted) shall, on or before the First Day of March next, provide himself with the following Arms and Ammunition, viz. One well fixed Musket or Firelock, one Cartouch-Box, with Twelve Charges of Gun-Powder and Ball therein, and Three good Flints, to be approved of by the Commanding Officer of the respective Company to which he belongs, and shall be obliged to keep such Arms and Ammunition by him, during the Continuance of this Act...." There is a fine of forty shillings for those who failed to do so.
While "every Freeholder and taxable Person" in Delaware was obligated to provide himself with a gun, not all were required to enlist in the militia, only "all Male Persons, above Seventeen and under Fifty Years of Age" with a few exceptions. On page 172, members of the militia are ordered to appear for musters "with their Muskets or their Firelocks" and ammunition for them under threat of a fine. Other provisions appear on pages 173, 174, and 175.
The exemptions from militia duty are quite interesting. On page 176 and 177 Quakers are exempted from the requirement to provide themselves with guns, from militia duty, and from nightly watch duty, in exchange for paying two shillings six pence for every day that "others are obliged to attend the said Muster, Exercise, or Watch...." On the same page, "all Justices of the Peace, Physicians, Lawyers, and Millers, and Persons incapable through Infirmities of Sickness or Lameness, shall be exempted and excused from appearing to muster, except in Case of an Alarm: They being nevertheless obliged, by this Act, to provide and keep by them Arms and Ammunition as aforesaid, as well as others. And if an Alarm happen, then all those, who by this Act are obliged to keep Arms as aforesaid... shall join the General Militia...."
On page 178, all indentured
servants and slaves are prohibited from being arms, or mustering in any
company of the militia. It is unclear from the language used whether
this ban applied to free blacks as well.
1757: This is a slave patrol law, but requires members of the slave patrol to picked from the militia rolls. From Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 18:225-235, it on 231 it requires that every person performing slave patrol duties "shall provide for himself and keep always in readiness and carry with him on his Patrol Service, one good Gun or Pistol in Order, a Cutlass and a Cartridge Box with at least Six Cartridges, in it...."
1758: This act is a limitation on the number of times that militiamen could be ordered to muster in a year. It comes from Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 18:249-252.
1759: This is a colony law mandating that members of the militia participate in a night watch in the city of Savannah, to keep the slaves under control. From Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 18:290-295. On p. 292 is the requirement that members of the watch "shall provide themselves each with a good gun, a Catridge [sic] Box with six Catridges [sic] at least filled with good Gun powder and a Ball in each...."
1770: "An act for the better security of the inhabitants by obliging the male white persons to carry fire arms to places of public worship." From Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 19(part 1):137-140, this law required all white male inhabitants to carry either a long gun or a pair of pistols to church (p. 138), and required "That the church warden or church wardens of each respective parish, and the deacons, elders or select men... to examine all such male persons" to make sure that they were armed. (pp. 138-39)
1778: This is a state law imposing a broad duty to perform militia duty on "all Male Persons" from 15 to 60--which would seem to include blacks, both free and slave--but later imposes a requirement to own a gun on "every person liable to appear and bear Arms" without defining who such persons are. From Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 19(part 2):103-27.
1784: This law, passed after the Revolutionary War was over, is a little more restrictive. Unlike the 1778 law, this one no longer included slaves in the militia, limiting it to "the Male free Inhabitants of this State" from 16 to 50 years of age. The statute still distinguished between those liable to bear arms and those who were not (probably excluding free blacks), requiring "those liable" to appear "completely armed and furnished with one rifle musket, fowling-piece or fusee fit for action" along with ammunition. Militiamen could be fined five shillings for failure to be armed at a general muster, or two shillings, six pence at an ordinary muster. The statute seems to treat indentured servants as not free" but then obligated masters to arm their indentured servants as required for "every Male free inhabitant". From Allen D. Candler, comp., The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.: Chas. P. Byrd, 1910), 19(part 2):348-59.
1642: As with the other colonies, the law prohibited providing gunpowder or shot to the Indians, but also, at 3:103 ****, "That all housekeepers provide fixed gunn and Sufficient powder and Shott for each person able to bear arms." "Noe man able to bear arms to goe to church or Chappell or any considerable distance from home without fixed gunn and 1 Charge at least of powder and Shott."
1658: This revision of the law at 3:345 required "every househoulder provide himselfe speedily with Armes & Ammunition according to a former Act of Assembly viz 2 [pounds] of powder and 5 [pounds] of shott & one good Gun well fixed for every man able to bear Armes in his house." Failures to do so were subject to fines of 100, 200, or 300 pounds of tobacco, for the first, second, and third failures to keep every man in the house armed.
1629: 1:392, is a request to the colonists, "wee pray you lett all such as live under our govnment, both of servants and other planters & their servants, bee exercised in the use of armes, and certain tymes appointed to muster them...."
1630/1: 1:84 ****, 1:85 (also requires travelers to Plymouth Colony to be armed).
1632/3: Modified at 1:93, the law now required any single person who had not provided himself with acceptable arms would be compelled to work for a master. The work earned him the cost of the arms provided to him.
1634: at 1:125 **** is order that directs that the muskets and other firearms accessories "lately come over this yeare, shalbe equally devided amonst the severall plantacions; and the townes to have att all tymes soe many in a readynes as a towne stocke." There seemed to be a need to identify that some arms were specifically for town stocks. This suggests that there were guns in private hands, and that this caused no difficulties for those in charge. In no way does this statute require guns to be centrally stored, nor does it show any evidence of fear of an armed population. This is the only source that Bellesiles cites in this footnote that could be read in isolation as suggesting that all guns were to be stored in central storehouses"and even this would require both a zealous desire to find such a requirement, and ignoring the other pages that Bellesiles cites.
1634/5: at 1:138 is an order for every town to build a magazine for storing powder and ammunition, but not a word about requiring guns to be stored there.
1636/7: At 1:190, Because of the danger of Indian attack, and because much of the population was neglecting to carry guns, every person above eighteen years of age (except magistrates and elders of the churches) were ordered to "come to the publike assemblies with their muskets, or other peeces fit for servise, furnished with match, powder, & bullets, upon paine of 12d. for every default". And no person shall travel above one mile from his dwelling house, except in places wheare other houses are neare together, without some armes, upon paine of 12d. for every default"."
1637: At 1:210, "The order for bringing armes to the meeting house is repealed." This page also contains orders for militia trainings eight times a year, with exceptions for a few church officials.
1637: On pages 1:211 and 1:212 are instructions for disarming the heretics who took Anne Hutchinson's side. A total of 77 people--out of a population then in the thousands--were disarmed. That there was even a need to cause "certain persons to be disarmed" suggests that arms were not stored in central storehouses. Many people were armed (as the laws required), and only as punishment for a specific crime (heresy) were people disarmed. The number disarmed"77 out of a population then in the thousands"is far less than the percentage legally disarmed in America today.
1641: On 1:344 is an order for creating an armory at Boston, but nothing that requires or even suggests that private arms were to be stored there.
1643: From Charles J. Hoadly, ed., Records Of The Colony And Plantation Of New Haven, From 1638 To 1649 (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Tiffany, 1857), 96-97. Effectively a restatement of the 1639 statute with minor differences in the required accessories. Still no central storehouses, and "every male, fro 16 yeares olde to sixty, within this jurisdiction" was obligated to show up with guns, or be subject to a fine.
Of course, laws are sometimes passed, but not enforced. This one was definitely enforced. A few months later, on January 4, 1643/4 (Old Style, that's why it's a few months later but says January 4, 1643), on pages 122 and 123, twelve men were fined two shillings each "for defect. guns." Four other men were fined one shilling each, "for defect in their cocks," indicating that their guns would either not cock or fire correctly, though apparently this was considered a less serious problem than the defects that led to two shilling fines. Two of the twelve men who were fined two shillings for defective guns were also fined six pence "for want of shott," and two others were fined one shilling for "want of shott and pouder." Three men were fined six pence for "want of flints" and another, apparently a matchlock owner, "for want of match." Two men were fined six pence "for want of worme and skourer" (used for cleaning the channel from flintlock pan to chamber). Eight men were fined three shillings, four pence "for total defect in armes."
1644: From Charles J. Hoadly, ed., Records Of The Colony And Plantation Of New Haven, From 1638 To 1649 (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Tiffany, 1857), 131-132. **** Bellesiles cites this one, but it doesn't fit his claims--quite the opposite. It was "ordered that every male from 16 to 60 yeares olde within this jurisdiction be furnished forthwith, with a good gun, a sword, a pound of good pouder, 4 fathom of match for a matchlock, 5 or 6 good flints fitted for every fyre lock, and 4 pound of pistol bullets, or 24 bulletts fitted for every gun, and so continue furnished from time to time, under the penalty of 10s. fine for every person found faulty or defective." Officers were to "take a strict [view] once every quarter of a yeare, that all the males from 16 to 60 be furnished as above"." Not only were individual militiamen subject to a 40s. fine, but so were the officers if they failed to inspect and fine their subordinates.
This statute does require towns to provide for "a common stock of pouder and shott" but there is no mention of guns in that common stock. When militiamen were called by the beating of the drum "to the publique worship of God" they were to show up "with their armes compleat, their guns ready charged, with their match for their matchlocks and flints ready fitted in their firelocks"." There is no mention of going to any "central storehouse" first; one must assume that New Haven militiamen were thus to have their guns available to them at home.
1646: From Charles J. Hoadly, ed., Records Of The Colony And Plantation Of New Haven, From 1638 To 1649 (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Tiffany, 1857), 201-202. This statute requiring "every male from 16 to 60 yeares of age" to have a gun, provided by either himself or his master, was also enforced. At pages 486-487 we have records of fines imposed in 1649 on several men "for not bringing ther armes to the meeting [church] on day when it was their turne" and failure to bring slowmatch (for matchlock guns), bullets, flints, and other accessories. That same year (on page 501) we have the legislature hearing a request from a William Paine "that he might be freed from bringing his armes [on] the Lord's day and lecture dayes, because he lives farr of and hath three small children, and his wife is lame and cannot help to bring the children."
1656: From Charles J. Hoadly, ed., Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven, from May 1653, to the Union (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Lockwood & Co., 1858), this statute directs the towns on the shore to provide horses, halberds, drums, pikes, and half a pound of gunpowder per soldier"but no guns: 173. The requirement of gunpowder to be issued for each soldier shows that guns were present, and the militia were obligated to practice "by shooteing at a marke three times in a yeare"." 174 and 175. Prizes were awarded as encouragements for marksmanship.
1663: Charles J. Hoadly, ed., Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven, from May 1653, to the Union (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Lockwood & Co., 1858), 500 ****, is cited by Bellesiles as evidence of disarmed and distrusted freemen. There is not a word on the subject on that page.
1679: From Aaron Learning and Jacob Spicer, The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New-Jersey (Philadelphia: W. Bradford, 1752). Sorry for the quality; I had to photograph this off a screen; no way to make prints. Page 135 and 136 require all males from 16 to 60 to show up on training days, "in compleat Arms...."
1703: From a compilation of The Laws and Acts of the General Assembly of His Majesties Province of Nova Caesarea or New-Jersey... (William Bradford, 1717), on pages 139, 140, 141, and 142. It required all men "between the Age of Sixteen and Fifty years" with the exception of ministers, physicians, school masters, "Civil Officers of the Government," members of the legislature, and slaves, to be members of the militia. "Every one of which is listed shall be sufficiently armed with one good sufficient Musquet or Fusee well fixed, a Sword or [Bayonet], a Cartouch box or Powder-horn, a pound of Powder, and twelve sizeable Bullets, who shall appear in the Filed, so armed, twice every year..." (I have found the 1703 session law at The Laws and Acts of the General Assembly of Her Majesties Province of Nova Caesarea or New-Jersey (W. Bradford, 1709), 12-13, in Clifford K. Shipton, ed., Early American Imprints, 1639-1800 (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1967), imprint 1412, but I couldn't get a useful copy of it.)
These pages come from The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution" (Albany, New York: James B. Lyon, 1894), 1:49 and 1:50 are cited by Bellesiles as, "The Duke of York's first laws for New York required that each town have a storehouse for arms and ammunition." As you can see, 1:49 **** require a storehouse for "keeping Powder and Ammunition" and "the Constable and Overseers shall provide and maintan for a General Stock to the use of the Town in Case of necessity...." There is nothing requiring guns to be centrally stored.
At the bottom of 1:49 and the top of 1:50 ****, where Bellesiles seems to have missed it, is a direct contradiction of his claim of disarmed and distrusted freemen: "Besides the Generall stock of each Town Every Male within this government from Sixteen to Sixty years of age, or not freed by public Allowance, shall[,] if freeholders at their own, if sons or Servants[,] at their Parents and Masters Charge and Cost, be furnished from time to time and so Continue well furnished with Arms and other Suitable Provition hereafter mentioned: under the penalty of five Shillings for the least default therein[:] Namely a good Serviceable Gun, allowed Sufficient by his Military Officer to be kept in Constant fitness for present Service...."
The rest of the pages that make up this militia statute are included:
those who cannot afford to buy a gun and ammunition to supply goods equal
to 1/5th more than the value of the gun and ammunition sold to him by the
militia officers), 1:53,
those militia assigned to cavalry duty to furnish themselves with pistols
and carbine), 1:55.
1746: These five pages (215,
and 219) are from A
Collection of all the Public Acts of Assembly, of the Province of North-Carolina:
Now in Force and Use... (Newbern, N.C.: James Davis, 1751).
Like the statute from 1715, it obligated "all the Freemen and Servants...
between the Age of Sixteen Years, and Sixty" to enlist in the militia (that's
on page 215), and further, required all such persons "be well provided
with a Gun, fit for Service, a Cartouch Box, and a Sword, Cutlass, or Hanger,
and at least Twelve Charges of Powder and Ball, or Swan Shot, and Six spare
Flints....." Failure to have those when called to militia muster
would subject you to a fine of five shillings, four pence, or two shillings,
eight pence, "for Want of any of the Arms, Accoutrements, or Ammunition...."
(on page 216). Still nothing prohibiting free blacks in the militia.
1756: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 5:197-201. This is unusual in being a voluntary militia law. The Quakers had resisted any sort of mandatory militia statute (like those in the other colonies) because they were generally pacifists. This statute allowed militias to form with the approval of the governor. This law carefully explained that the Quakers "do not" condemn the use of arms in others, yet are principled against bearing arms themselves". The statute made provisions for militia companies to organize themselves with approval of the governor. Specifically prohibited from joining were those under 21 years of age, "nor any bought servant or indented apprentice" without consent of parents, guardians, masters, or mistresses. The Crown disallowed the statute because it was voluntary, lacked sufficient provision for discipline, and did not require conscientious objectors to pay for a substitute (5:532, included with the other pages).
1757: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 5:609-634. This statute is very long, and while it exempts members of "those religious societies or congregation whose tenents and principles are against bearing arms" and "all papists and reputed papists" it otherwise required all men 17 to 55 to enroll in the militia. Like the other colonial militia statutes, the law required all militia members "shall be sufficiently armed with one good musket, fuzee or other firelock well fixed". They were required to appear at musters "with the accoutrements, arms and ammunition aforesaid in good order".
NOTE: It turns out that in spite of appearing in Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania, this was never actually signed into law.
1777: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 9:75-94. Another long militia statute, obligating (on page 77) every white male inhabitant from 18 to 53 to be enlisted in the militia, with exemptions for members of the Continental Congress, state officials, ministers, faculty of colleges, and "servants purchased bona fide" (which would seem to include slaves as well as indentured servants). Much of this statute is a very tedious organization of the militia to ensure that not everyone would get called out simultaneously, and to make sure that no one was unfairly forced to serve more than others, dividing the militia into multiple "classes" Unlike previous militia statutes of Pennsylvania, this provides for the government to arm at least two classes in each company.
1777: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 9:110-14. Not really a militia law, the Test Act is sometimes cited by those attempting to prove that the right to keep and bear arms was not considered a fundamental right, because those refusing to swear an oath of loyalty to the revolutionary government would be disarmed. The theory then is that if this was not considered a fundamental right, then it should not be considered a fundamental right today, subject to whatever restrictions the government sees fit. As the Act explains on page 111, "whereas allegiance and protection are reciprocal, and those who will bear the former are not nor ought not to be entitled to the benefits of the latter" the Act specifies (on pages 112-113) that all white males refusing to take the oath "shall during the time of such neglect or refusal be incapable of holding any office or place of trust in this state, serving on juries, suing for any debts, electing or being elected, buying, selling or transferring any lands, tenements or hereditaments, and shall be disarmed by the lieutenant or sub-lieutenants of the city or counties respectively." Hmmm. By the "not a fundamental right" logic, there would be a lot of other rights lost as well.
1777: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 9:131-6. This supplement to the militia law above is primarily technical in providing for election of officers.
1777: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 9:167-9. This militia law was to make "more equal the burden of the public defense" by preventing wealthy people from just paying to avoid militia duty. From all accounts I have read, it wasn't a raging success, and the Philadelphia militia in particular became filled with poor and radical artisans.
1777: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 9:185-9. This "further supplment" to militia law seems to be a simplification of the method of calling out the militia, along with provisions for fines for militiamen failing to do their duty.
1780: From James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, ed., Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, Penn.: William Stanley Ray, 1898), 10:144-73. This seems to be primarily technical changes in how the militia is structured, but I have an odd feeling from what I have read about the radicals in the Philadelphia militia and their struggle against what they perceived as economic oppression, that some of this was to prevent a repeat of the militia's attempt to scare the wealthier classes into submission.
1636: The law at page 31 was reiterated in slightly different form at 44 and 45.
1641: At 70 is a requirement that "every Towneship... shall provide a barrell of powder and leade or bullets answerable, to be kept by some trusty man or men in every towne that it may be ready for defence in tyme of neede and danger." That it says nothing about guns implies that the guns are somewhere readily accessible to the town, but not, apparently, under the control of the township. Later on the same page, "It is enacted That every Towneship within this Government do carry a competent number of pieeces fixd and compleate with powder shott and swords every Lord's day to the meetings--one of a house from the first of September to the middle of November, except their be some just & lawfull impedyment." While not terribly clear writing, it is consistent with the other colonial statutes requiring all to attend church with guns, and it also seems to indicate that at least one person from every home should bring either gun or sword.
1646: A slightly later statute cited by Bellesiles is on The Compact with the Charter and Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth" at the bottom of page 84 **** says nothing that would support Bellesiles"s claim of disarmed and distrusted freemen. There is an order that "every Township within this Government before the next October Court" shall provide two sufficient snaphaunces or firelock peeces two swords and two pouches for every thirty men they have in their Towneship" which shalbe ready at all tymes for service". Why did they only require towns to store two guns for every thirty men if this was a requirement that all guns be kept in "central storehouses"? Bellesiles cites one source specific to Plymouth Colony for his claim of distrusted and disarmed free colonists"and that source does not support his claim, and could be read as contradicting it.]
1658: On page 115 is an order that 1/4 of the militia "carry theire armes" to church every Sunday, defined as "some serviceable peece and sword and three charges of powder and bullets" or be fined "2 shillings and six pence...."
1671: On pages 285 and 286 is a "Military Affairs" statute that appears, from its wording, to be an addition to existing statutes. It requires that there be kept at the capital in Plymouth "a General or Public Stock of Arms and Amunition... for the common safety" as well as a similar stock in every town. "And every man from the age of sixteen years and upward, shall also be provided with such Arms and Amunition as the Court have determined, upon penalty expressed in our said Book of Records."
1675: On page 176 is an order by the legislature, "That during the time of publicke danger every one that comes to the meeting on the Lords day bring his Armes with him and furnished with att least six charges of powder and shott untill further order shall be given" with a two shilling fine for failure to do so.
1681: On pages 192 and 193 is an order, "That every souldieer in this Jurisdiction that beares armes be with all convenient speed furnished with a compleat sword or cutlas." Also, the statute of 1658 requiring 1/4 of the militia to bring their guns to church every Sunday was updated to require "six charges of powder same shott" from "beginning of Aprill to the end of October yearly...." It would appear that Plymouth did not fear Indian attack in winter.
1643: from Bartlett, Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England 1:79-80, reiterated an earlier order "for every man to have so much powder, and so many bullets, and so the forwarning is to stand still in force; and also that every man do come armed unto the meeting upon every sixth day" with orders for militia officers to go to "to every inhabitant [in Portsmouth and] see whether every one of them has powder" and bullets.****
1650: from Bartlett, Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. Bellesiles cites pages 223-34, but only two of those pages 1:224 and 1:226 have anything to say about guns, ammunition, or militia, the rest of these pages being laws concerning divorce, adultery, payment of legislators, testimony before the courts. (Hint to aspiring historians: if you actually read the documents you cite, it prevents this sort of embarrassing mistake.) Page 1:224 specifies the number of barrels of powder, pikes, and muskets that each town was to keep in its magazine. There is nothing that indicates that these were privately owned arms, or that there were any restrictions on private gun ownership. On 1:226 there are provisions for determining whether privately owned guns, "his owne proper goods" had been sold to the Indians, but no limitation on private ownership.****
1699: from Laws and Acts of Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations Made from the First Settlement in 1636 to 1705, reprinted in John D. Cushing, ed., The Earliest Acts and Laws of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1647-1719 (Wilmington, Del.: M. Glazier, 1977), 57, 106-7. It is written in what seems to me to be astonishingly archaic English for the time. It is less clear-cut than the other militia laws of the time, but does require, "all persons within this Colony Above the Age of Sixteen Years and Under the Age of Sixteen yeares as well housekeepers as others Shall be Obliged to watch or ward or find or procure A Sufficient man to watch or war Upon Legall Notice..." (I think that they meant, "Under the Age of Sixty years.") As members of the militia, they were obligated to "appear Compleat in armes (Viz.) with A Good & Sufficient muskett or Fuze a Sword or Bayenet, Catooch box or Bandelers with twelve Bulets fitt for his Peice half a Pound of Powder & Six good Flints Upon the Precise Training Days...." This means, I believe, muskett or fusee, and sword or bayonet. It doesn't make much sense to require you to have bullets, powder, and flints, if you weren't required to have a gun.
1718: From Acts and Laws, Of His Majesties Colony of Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantations in America (Boston: John Allen, 1179 ), 85-94, reprinted in John D. Cushing, ed., The Earliest Acts and Laws of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1647-1719 (Wilmington, Del.: M. Glazier, 1977), 135, 221-228. This statute orders "that all Male Persons Residing for the space of Three Months within this Colony from the Age of Sixteen, to the Age of Sixty Years, shall bear ARms in their Respective Train-bands or Companies whereto by Law they shall belong" with exceptions for general officers, justices of the peace, "one Minister or Teacher of each respective Congregation in teach respective Town," doctors, pharmacists, schoolmasters, "one Miller to each Grist Mill," one ferryman per ferry, one jailer per jail, and what seems to be elected officials. The obligation to be armed was, "That every Listed Soldier of the said Militia, shall be always provided with one good Musket, or Fuzee, the Barrel whereof not to be less than three foot and an half in length, to the satisfaction of the Commission Officers of the Company; also one pound of good Gunpowder, thirty Bullets, fit for his Gun, six good Flints, fit for Service; one good Sword, or Baionet, a Cartouch Box, ready fitted with Cartiges of Gunpowder and Bullets, on the penal ty of Three shillings, for each time shall be found not provided as aforesaid...."
1743: from David J. McCord, ed., The Statutes at Large of South Carolina: Edited Under Authority of the Legislature(Columbia, S.C.: A. S. Johnston, 1840), 7:417, 418, 419.**** As it apparent from reading it, 7:397 **** says nothing about guns at all; 7:417-419 require everyone to bring their guns to church; they aren't stored "in some central place."
1623: This statute at William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (New York: R. & W. & G. Bartow, 1823), 1:127, requires "That no man go or send abroad without a sufficient parte will armed". That go not to worke in the ground without their arms (and a centinell upon them.)" That the commander of every plantation take care that there be sufficient of powder and am[m]unition within the plantation under his command and their pieces fixt and their arms compleate". That no commander of any plantation do either himselfe or suffer others to spend powder unnecessarily in drinking or entertainments, &c." This does not sound like guns centrally stored or freemen distrusted with guns.
1632: This statute requiring one to be armed in the fields was reissued at 1:198. On 1:199 is a statute prohibiting the killing of wild pigs without a license, but declaring, "But it is thought convenient that any man be permitted to kill deare or other wild beasts or fowle in the common woods, forests, or rivers in regard that thereby the inhabitants may be trained in the use of theire armes, the Indians kept from our plantations, and the wolves and other vermine destroyed."
1639/40: The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (New York: R. & W. & G. Bartow, 1823), 1:226, is short and simple: "All persons except negroes to be provided with arms and amunition or be fined at pleasure of the Governor and Council." Who is to provide the arms and ammunition under threat of punishment? Clearly, not the colonial government, or there would be no point in the colonial government threatening itself with a fine. This could be interpreted as a requirement that local governments do so, or that individuals arm themselves. What is unambiguous is that everyone "except negroes" was to be armed.
1673: Bellesiles cites William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (New York: R. & W. & G. Bartow, 1823), 2:304 **** as evidence of distrusted and disarmed freemen. What this page includes is an order for militia captains to "take a strict and perticuler account of what armes and ammunition are wanting in their severall companies and troops". The county courts were empowered to tax the population "for the providing of armes and ammunition for supplying the wants aforesaid, that is to say, muskitts and swords for the ffoote, and pistols, swords and carbines for horse". The militia officers were to keep these arms "for them to dispose of the same as there shalbe occasion; and that those to whome distribution shalbe made doe pay for the same at a reasonable rate". Those who were not armed would be sold guns by the government. There is nothing to suggest that the guns remained the property of the government, and certainly nothing to indicate that guns would be centrally stored.
1676/7: Bellesiles also cites William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (New York: R. & W. & G. Bartow, 1823), 2:405 **** as evidence for his claim. This statute, passed during Bacon's Rebellion, says only that "armes and ammunition sent byt he kings majestie" could not be issued to the counties "untill Mr. Secretary arrives.... There is nothing in this statute that requires guns to be centrally stored, nor any indication that freemen were not trusted with guns.
1676/7: But two pages earlier, at 2:403, is an explicit statement of trust. "It is ordered that all persons have hereby liberty to sell armes and ammunition to any of his majesties loyall subjects inhabiting this colony"."
1684: From William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Philadelphia: Thomas DeSilver, 1823), 3:13 required free Virginians to "provide and furnish themselves with a sword, musquet and other furniture fitt for a soldier" two pounds of powder, and eight pounds of shott". More provisions related to this, and fines for failing to arm themselves can be found on page 3:14.
Also on page 3:13 is a provision that clearly demonstrates that guns were privately owned -- not, as Bellesiles claims, the property of the government: "FOR the encouragement of the inhabitants of this his majesties collony and dominion of Virginia, to provide themselves with arms and ammunition, for the defence of this his majesties country" and to encourage the inhabitants to be "well and compleatly furnished when commanded to musters" all "swords, musketts... pistolls, carbines, guns, and other armes and furniture, as the inhabitants of this country shall provide and furnish themselves with, for their necessary use and service, shall henceforth be free and exempted from being imprest or taken from him or them, that already are provided or shall soe provide or furnish himselfe" all were exempted from impressment, seizure, attachment, or execution by law.
1738: There are minor modifications to the 1684 statute at William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Richmond: Franklin Press, 1819), 5:16-17, that still required all members of the militia to appear at musters with the same list of gun choices. The militiamen were still obligated to supply themselves with weapons, but reduced the ammunition requirement to one pound of powder and four pounds of lead balls. Additional provisions of the militia statute appear at 5:18-19. On 5:21is a restatement of the exemption of "his arms and ammunition" from seizure in civil suits.
1748: The militia statute is against reiterated with minor changes at William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Richmond: Franklin Press, 1819), 6:112-119. At 6:112-113 and 6:114-115 are general provisions for organizing the militia. On 6:116 is a statement that militiamen were obligated to provide themselves with "arms and ammunition". On 6:117 are various provisions for impressing services and equipment into militia service. On 6:118 is a provision that strongly suggests that most militiamen were armed with their own guns. It provided "it may be necessary in time of danger, to arm part of the militia, not otherwise sufficiently provided, out of his majesty"s magazine and other stores within this colony"." Contrary to Bellesiles"s claim that all guns were considered the property of the government, the same statute criminalized embezzlement of "arms or ammunition" that were issued to those who were too poor to arm themselves, and thus treated private arms and public arms differently.
1755: At 6:537, all cavalry officers were obligated to provide themselves with "holsters and pistols well fixed"."
1757: From William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Richmond: Franklin Press, 1820), 7:94, reiterates the requirement that, "Every soldier shall be furnished with a firelock well fixed... and constantly appear with the same at the time and place appointed for muster and exercise, and shall keep at his place of abode one pound of powder and four pounds of ball, and bring the same with him into the field when he shall be required... However, "any soldier" so poor as not to be able to purchase the arms aforesaid" would be provided with publicly owned arms.
1765: From William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (Richmond: J. & G. Cochran, 1821), 8:125 and 8:126 is the ultimate repudiation of Bellesiles"s claim of distrusted and disarmed free Virginians: "That the commanding officer of each of the counties from which the militia has been sent into service in the pay of this colony shall, within the space of three months after the passing this act, sell, for the best price that be had for the same, all arms, ammunition, provisions, and necessaries purchased at the publick expense in the said counties"."