FPC wrote a delightful amicus brief on Young v. Hawaii about the history of bearing arms in the colonies before and soon after the Constitution was written. Not only was bearing arms normal, but even children as young as 9 years old carried muskets for hunting after class, and churchgoers were often required to carry arms and fined for failure to do so.
Here are some gems:
- Virginia, 1619:
All persons whatsoever upon the Sabaoth daye shall frequent divine service both forenoon and afternoon, and all suche as beare armes shall bring their pieces, swordes, poulder and shotte.
- Massachusetts Bay, 1636:
no person shall travell above one mile from his dwelling house, except in places wheare other houses are neare together, without some armes, upon paine of 12d. [pence] for every default.
- Rhode Island, 1639:
noe man shall go two miles from the Towne unarmed, eyther with Gunn or Sword; and that none shall come to any public Meeting without his weapon.
- South Carolina: Beginning in 1740, any churchgoing militiaman had to “carry with him a gun or a pair of horse-pistols…with at least six charges of gunpowder and ball.’’
- Georgia, 1770: “[F]or the security and defence of this province from internal dangers and insurrections," militiamen who attended church unarmed were fined.
- As a 9- or 10-year-old schoolboy, [John] Adams carried a gun daily so that he could go hunting after class.
- [Thomas] Jefferson wrote to his fifteen-year-old nephew about the best exercise: “I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independance to the mind….Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.”
- Every day, “[w]ell before dawn, [11-year-old] James [Monroe] left for school, carrying his books under one arm with his powder horn under the other and his musket slung across his back.”
- 1766: Ordinary citizens carried arms. British Captain Thomas Preston—commander of the unpopular Redcoats who had been stationed in Boston—noted the admonition of a trial judge: being “most thoroughly acquainted with the people and their intentions,” the judge stated “that the inhabitants carried weapons concealed under their clothes, and would destroy them [Redcoats] in a moment, if they pleased.”