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Following Jefferson’s Advice (on Guns at Least)

Writing the Declaration of Ind


I love this painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris of the writing of the Declaration of Independence.  It is idealized, but it captures something of how we Americans feel about how our Declaration of Independence, and therefore our nation, came into being.  Three great minds, (from left to right) Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, gathered around a table hashing out the ideals upon which the nation would be founded.  It didn’t exactly happen this way in history, but it certainly feels that way to us.

That said, Jefferson is not one of my favorite founders.  He can be great at times, and at other times he is simply awful.  I think so much attention is put on Franklin and Jefferson nowadays because these were about the least religious of the founds, not because they were the most important.  But, I digress.  That is a topic for another post.  The point of this post is following Jefferson’s advice, as least as it pertains to guns.

In a letter giving advice to his nephew Peter Carr dated August 19, 1785 (which is well worth the read in its entirety,) Jefferson writes this about exercise:

Give about two of them [Jefferson is writing of his free hours] every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning.  A strong body makes the mind strong.  As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun.  While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independance to the mind.  Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind.  Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks. 

(Yes, that is how Jefferson spelled enterprise and independence.  You can read it for yourself here.)  So, bad news for all the Jefferson-loving yet anti-liberty folks out there, but Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t appear to have been much of a fan of modern gun control measures.

I own some guns that have been given to me as gifts when I was a child (receiving a shotgun and/or a rifle as a gift is a normal part of growing up in Appalachia,) but I did not, until today, own a handgun.  Today, at Gander Mountain in Roanoke, that all changed for the better!  I bought a Ruger LC9 9MM.  It is an awesome gun, and I can’t wait to go fire it.  It is a good feeling knowing that if someone did try to break in here, etc. to harm me or my family that we could defend ourselves.  Jefferson is right.  A gun does give one boldness, enterprize, and independance!