76 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 27 (2000-2001)
To Hold and Bear Arms: The English Perspective

handle is hein.journals/chknt76 and id is 51 raw text is: TO HOLD AND BEAR ARMS: THE ENGLISH PERSPECTIVE
LOIS G. SCHWOERER*
INTRODUCTION
For the last quarter of the twentieth century, the Second
Amendment to our Constitution has attracted increasing attention
from the general public, legal commentators, and historians of
colonial and early national American history. As incidents of gun
violence have multiplied, and the public has become polarized into
groups that favor gun control versus those who believe in a
constitutional right of the individual to own guns, academics have
enlarged their efforts to discover exactly what the intentions of our
forefathers were in writing the Second Amendment and precisely
what that awkwardly worded amendment meant. Interest in the
English background to the Second Amendment was only marginal for
a time, but it has grown as the debate hardened. In the 1970s and
1980s several historians and legal commentators wrote about the
English origins of the Second Amendment, but their essays met
largely with indifference or criticism.1
Then, in 1994, Joyce Lee Malcolm, an American professor
specializing in English history who teaches at Bentley College in
* Elmer Louis Kayser Professor Emeritus of History at George Washington University.
I owe thanks to many people. Charlene Bangs Bickford, Kenneth Bowling, Catherine A. Cline,
Robert J. Frankle, Eliga Gould, Howard Nenner, John G.A. Pocock, Barbara Taft, and Melinda
Zook offered advice and comment, not all of which I followed. Michael Bellesiles, Carl Bogus,
Mark Goldie, Janelle Greenberg, and Linda Levy Peck also talked with me about the English
perspective on guns. I am also indebted (as always) to the staff at the Folger Shakespeare
Library in Washington, D.C., especially to Georgiana Spiegal, and to the staff at the Library of
Congress, especially Bruce Martin, and the librarians in the Rare Book Room and the Law
Library there. I cheerfully declare that errors that remain are my own.
1. See, e.g., STEPHEN P. HALBROOK, THAT EVERY MAN BE ARMED: THE EVOLUTION
OF A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT (1984); Lawrence Delbert Cress, An Armed Community: The
Origins and Meaning of the Right to Bear Arms, 71 J. AM. HIST. 22, 22-42 (1984); Robert E.
Shalhope, The Ideological Origins of the Second Amendment, 69 J. AM. HIST. 599, 599-614
(1982); Roy G. Weatherup, Standing Armies and Armed Citizens: An Historical Analysis of the
Second Amendment, 2 HASTINGS CONST. L.Q. 961, 961-1001 (1975). These essays varied in
merit. For a measured but critical review, see Joyce Lee Malcolm, Book Review, 54 GEO.
WASH. L. REV. 452 (1986) (reviewing STEPHEN P. HALBROOK, THAT EVERY MAN BE ARMED:
THE EVOLUTION OF A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT (1984)).

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