During the work and debate around the Constitution of the United States; where there much background-material like surveys, notes and minutes (from debates)? How much of such material have survived? I guess especially minutes from committee-meetings and the actual debate is of special interest.

I'm particular interested in the Bill of Rights, especially the 2nd amendment - how a strong militia is unnecessary for the security of the individual state, and how this depended on the citizen's right to own arms.

Are there any background material left that could clear-up what was most important for the founders; a militia to secure the state, or that the citizen could own arms (regardless of the state's security)?

I believe there are at least some information that have survived, in particular regarding how one representative was against the whole enumeration of rights, as he feared a future government would read it as "citizens have no rights except these", instead of "citizen have many/all rights, but we'll mention these in particular because they're so important" - which is the reason for the 9th amendment.

  • There are PLENTY of materials proving that it's the latter for many Founding Fathers (e.g. "the citizen could own arms" option) - it was covered in some detail on Politics.SE
    – DVK
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


The minutes of the Constitutional Convention were suppressed; the participants agreed to never reveal what was said. Some people took notes, and some have survived. The best source is probably the Federalist papers, closely followed by the notes taken at the state ratifying conventions.

More than one representative opposed enumeration of rights. The chief opponent was Madison, who was also the man who proposed the Bill of Rights. That is the kind of story that happens only in history.

The best source I've found to combine and summarize all this is

Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution - a deep and insightful analysis of who said and thought what.

There is also a nice set of audio lectures by Jack Rakove available on iTunes; the last third of the lectures and the panel discussion touch on the topics you're interested in.

I don't remember a thorough discussion of the second amendment - the topic doesn't interest me. But that would be the place to start.

  • Thanks! I'm mostly interested in the 2nd as an argument against pro-guns, as (to me at least ) it's obvious that it's the state's "need" to build a "well-regulated militia" that's paramount - and three drunk men with shot-guns in a pick-up truck does not a well-organized militia make. Still, strange they're suppressing it, as an understanding of how they thought would be nice to interpret them correctly - especially where it's ambiguous and unclear. Commented May 22, 2013 at 19:41
  • 1
    They suppressed it because it enabled them to speak freely, and because the constitutional convention was technically treason - a meeting to replace the existing government with a new, different government. Just as an example, during the convention, Hamilton advocated that we replace the Articles of Confederation with a monarchy. Can you imagine his political career if that had gotten out?
    – MCW
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 19:45
  • I did my best to answer the history question; the rest is politics, and as I said, politics that bores me. I just did a quick google to see if I could find anythign to stimulate my memory on history. Wikipdedia is reasonable - has links to most of the other sources. Halbrook has an article that may be up your alley. Both sources are full of modern interpretations of the Founders intent.
    – MCW
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 19:52
  • Sigh! Would it have killed them (except in the future history-books) to just suppress it for 100-200 years, and then make sure it would be released? ;-) Commented May 23, 2013 at 0:28
  • @BaardKopperud: That puts the cart before the horse - there was as yet no government structure in place that could enforce such, because they were meeting precisely to create that. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 12:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.