FACT CHECK: Did George Washington Say Free People Need ‘Sufficient Arms and Ammunition’?

Aryssa Damron | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook Sunday claimed that President George Washington said, “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.”

Verdict: False

This quote is a distortion of Washington’s first annual address to Congress in 1790.

Fact Check:

In an everlasting debate about gun control and the 2nd Amendment, this meme attempts to use the authority of Washington, the country’s first president, to argue that Americans need arms to protect themselves from those who might wish to take away their freedom, including the government.

However, Washington did not actually say this.

Rather, the quote appears to borrow the opening words from Washington’s address to Congress in January 1790 and then alter the rest.

According to Mount Vernon, what Washington actually said was, “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.”

Washington, while advocating for a strong national defense, was not discussing the possible tyranny of the newly formed government. The states ratified the 2nd Amendment in 1791.

“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace,” Washington said.

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Aryssa Damron

Fact Check Reporter