St. George Tucker was one of the most influential legal scholars of the early American republic. His View of the Constitution of the United States was the first extended, systematic commentary on the Constitution after it had been ratified by the people of the several states and amended by the Bill of Rights. And his Blackstone’s Commentaries, from which the following excerpt originates, was the major treatise on American law in the early 19th century. Lawyers arguing before the Supreme Court of the United States would frequently cite to Tucker’s Blackstone – more often than any other commentator until 1827.
The following excerpt is Tucker’s short commentary on the importance and meaning of the 2nd Amendment.
St. George Tucker, Blackstone’s Commentaries 1:App. 300
This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty.