St. George Tucker’s Second Amendment: Deconstructing ‘The True Palladium of Liberty’


St. George Tucker, known as “America’s Blackstone” and author of the first commentary on the Constitution in 1803, described the Second Amendment right of the people to keep and bear arms as “the true palladium of liberty.” In a recent symposium at the William and Mary College of Law, Prof. Saul Cornell presented Tucker as an adherent of the view that the Amendment guarantees a collective or civic right to bear arms in the militia, not an individual right to have arms for self defense or as a dissuasion to tyranny. In response, my article scrutinizes Tucker’s work in detail to demonstrate that Tucker did indeed interpret the Amendment as protecting individual rights, and that Tucker’s views are a significant reflection of the intent of the Framers.


Constitutional Law | Law and Society | Legal History

Date of this Version

October 2006