The claim: Did George Washington say citizens should arm themselves against the government?
A photo of a plaque circulating on social media attributes a quote to George Washington that says: “A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”.
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In 2016, when President Barack Obama issued stricter background checks and pushed other gun control measures, and even before that, memes and pictures touting the Second Amendment and gun rights have circulated online.
A recent post of a plaque in Texas stating the Second Amendment, then the alleged Washington quote, was making the rounds on Facebook.
A replica plaque sits at the foot of the “Second Amendment Cowboy,” in Amarillo, Texas. Such large, fiberglass figures known as “Muffler Men,” were constructed in the 1960s to lure travelers to roadside attractions.
The figure, which stands in front of the Cadillac RV Ranch, was named the “Second Amendment Cowboy,” because it had been riddled with bullets after being used for target practice in another location.
Did Washington say that?
But the plaque beneath it misrepresents Washington’s words on the Second Amendment.
According to the National Archives site Founder’s Online, during his Jan. 8, 1790, speech to Congress, Washington said: “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”.
But the Washington quote on the plaque reads: “A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”.
Only the first 10 words of the Washington quote are accurate. The rest are false and misleading.
The context of Washington’s speech, given in January 1790 to Congress, focused on the establishment of national defense and the idea that the new nation shouldn’t have to depend on foreign entities for its defense.
Washington did not say people should amass arms to possibly fight their own government, as what’s inscribed on the plaque, which is actually a faux Texas historical marker.
The website of Mount Vernon, Washington’s home on the Potomac River, also points out the quote is taken out of context.
Our rating: Partly false
We find the claim that George Washington made the statement that often accompanies the Second Amendment to be PARTLY FALSE, based on our research. The quotation attributed to him is correct in its first words but then takes his speech out of context.
Our fact-check sources
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