The other night, I got to thinking, which is the most important right?

I’m not sure you can really put one right above another, but it is an interesting thought experiment.

A lot of people I know will tell you the right to keep and bear arms is the most important. Our ability to arm ourselves and fight tyrannical government is the ultimate protection of all of our other rights.

Many in the founding era agreed, In fact, the right to defend ourselves was often described as the “palladium of liberty.”

Palladium is defined as “anything believed to provide protection or safety.” So, the right to self-defense serves as the protector of our liberties. That’s why the right to keep and bear arms is so crucial. It provides the means to defend all of our other rights.

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, and it served as one of the country’s most important law books for the next 50 years. He also wrote Blackstone’s Commentaries, the major treatise on American law in the early 19th century.

The following excerpt is from Tucker’s Commentaries emphasizing the importance of the right to keep and bear arms.

“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.”

This is why so many people in the founding generation insisted on an absolute prohibition on the federal government when it comes to interfering with the right to keep and bear arms. As the Second states, it “shall not be infringed.”


End of story.

Mike Maharrey

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