Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on changing the constitution

December 21st, 2012 § 3 comments

"I am certainly not an advocate for for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

– Thomas H. Jefferson

I’m pretty sure we can extend that to the 2nd amendment as well. Times change and the laws had damn well better change with them if they want to stay relevant.

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§ 3 Responses to Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on changing the constitution"

  • Ben says:

    Actually, an originalist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would probably limit the right to members of militias. The more expansive right to personal ownership of a handgun is a pretty modern, living constitution-type interpretation, as I understand it. Not sure if that’s what you were saying, anyway, but thought I’d mention it at least for context.

  • Chip says:

    One quote from Jefferson that speaks of possible changes in our Constitution could not be twisted to include unalienable rights which assure the defense of freedom. To confuse those conditions that could change with those that the government did not ever have the power to bestow to begin with is an infantile, if not drooling insane, perception of what the Founders provided.

    “No one can read our Constitution without concluding that the people who wrote it wanted their government severely limited; the words “no” and “not” employed in restraint of government power occur 24 times in the first seven articles of the Constitution and 22 more times in the Bill of Rights.” –Edmund A. Opitz

    “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson (1762-1826)

    “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” — Daniel Webster

    “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…” – Tench Coxe 1788

    “The right of the people to keep and bear…arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country…” 
–James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789)

    “To disarm the people is the best and most effective way to enslave them.” – George Mason

    “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.” – Richard Henry Lee, 1778

    Proof: The Founders Wanted Americans Armed

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