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Provisions of the Various State Constitutions

Following are the provisions of the eight states which had adopted a bill of rights within the context of their state constitutions prior to the adoption of the US Constitution (ordered alphabetically):

Delaware
September 11, 1776

18. That a well-regulated militia is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free government.

Maryland
November 11, 1776

XXV. That a well-regulated militia is the proper and natural defence of a free government.

Massachusetts
October 25, 1780

XVII. The people have a right to keep and bear arms for the common defence.

New Hampshire
June 2, 1784

XXIV. A well regulated militia is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a state.

North Carolina
July 8, 1777

XVII. That the people have a right to bear arms, for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under the strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Pennsylvania
September 28, 1776

XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Vermont
July 8, 1777

XV. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State; and, as standing armies, in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Virginia
(June 12,1776)

13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Note: The term militia ought be understood in the sense it was used at the historical time of its use and not in contemporary usage. The closest dictionary available from the time of the Constitutions instantiation is Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language and it provides the following definition:

  • MILI'TIA, n. [L. from miles, a soldier; Gr. war, to fight, combat, contention.  The primary sense of fighting is to strive, struggle, drive, or to strike, to beat, Eng. moil, L. molior; Heb. to labor or toil.]  The body of soldiers in a state enrolled for discipline, but not engaged in actual service except in emergencies; as distinguished from regular troops, whose sole occupation is war or military service.  The militia of a country are the able bodied men organized into companies, regiments and brigades,with officers of all grades, and required by law to attend military exercises on certain days only, but at other times left to pursue their usual occupations.