First Advisor

Thomas D. Morris

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






United States -- Constitutional law -- Amendments -- 2d United States -- Militia



Physical Description

1 online resource (79 p.)


Research into the background of the Second Amendment is hampered by its relationship to the current highly emotional debate over gun control. Many otherwise useful secondary sources either ignore the issue completely or give accounts which reflect the controversies of the twentieth century rather than those of the eighteenth. Fortunately, however, the Americans of the revolutionary era wrote extensively about the subject.

With independence, the Americans were faced with the problem of organizing and controlling a defense establishment. The new nation was virtually defenseless: the

Continental Army was disbanded and the militia, after years of neglect, emasculated. During the decade following the War for Independence, many unsuccessful attempts were made to revitalize the militia and thus prevent the establishment of a professional army. With the adoption of the Constitution in 1787, military affairs reached a turning point. The central government was granted almost unlimited power to rise a standing army without any firm mandate to reform the militia. In an attempt to prevent this and assure that the people would continue to control the military power of the nation, the Second Amendment was adopted as a part of the Bill of Rights.


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