Militia Act establishes conscription under federal law

Militia Act establishes conscription under federal law

On May 8, 1792, Congress passes the second portion of the Militia Act, requiring that every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years be enrolled in the militia.

Six days before, Congress had established the president’s right to call out the militia. The outbreak of Shay’s Rebellion, a protest against taxation and debt prosecution in western Massachusetts in 1786-87, had first convinced many Americans that the federal government should be given the power to put down rebellions within the states. The inability of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation to respond to the crisis was a major motivation for the peaceful overthrow of the government and the drafting of a new federal Constitution.

WATCH: Shays' Rebellion: America's First Civil War on HISTORY Vault

The Militia Act was tested shortly after its passage, when farmers in western Pennsylvania, angered by a federal excise tax on whiskey, attacked the home of a tax collector and then, with their ranks swollen to 6,000 camped outside Pittsburgh, threatened to march on the town. In response, President Washington, under the auspices of the Militia Act, assembled 15,000 men from the surrounding states and eastern Pennsylvania as a federal militia commanded by Virginia’s Henry Lee to march upon the Pittsburgh encampment. Upon its arrival, the federal militia found none of the rebels willing to fight. The mere threat of federal force had quelled the rebellion and established the supremacy of the federal government.


THE MILITIA CLAUSES

The states as well as Congress may prescribe penalties for failure to obey the President’s call of the militia. They also have a concurrent power to aid the National Government by calls under their own authority, and in emergencies may use the militia to put down armed insurrection.1784 The Federal Government may call out the militia in case of civil war its authority to suppress rebellion is found in the power to suppress insurrection and to carry on war.1785 The act of February 28, 1795,1786 which delegated to the President the power to call out the militia, was held constitutional.1787 A militiaman who refused to obey such a call was not “employed in the service of the United States so as to be subject to the article of war,” but was liable to be tried for disobedience of the act of 1795.1788


Militia Act establishes conscription under federal law - HISTORY

Militia Act of 1792 ,
Second Congress, Session I. Chapter XXVIII
Passed May 2, 1792,
providing for the authority of the President to call out the Militia

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, to call forth such number of the militia of the state or states most convenient to the place of danger or scene of action as he may judge necessary to repel such invasion, and to issue his orders for that purpose, to such officer or officers of the militia as he shall think proper and in case of an insurrection in any state, against the government thereof, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, on application of the legislature of such state, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) to call forth such number of the militia of any other state or states, as may be applied for, or as he may judge sufficient to suppress such insurrection.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act, the same being notified to the President of the United States, by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such state to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. And if the militia of a state, where such combinations may happen, shall refuse, or be insufficient to suppress the same, it shall be lawful for the President, if the legislature of the United States be not in session, to call forth and employ such numbers of the militia of any other state or states most convenient thereto, as may be necessary, and the use of militia, so to be called forth, may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the ensuing session.

Sec. 3. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That whenever it may be necessary, in the judgment of the President, to use the military force hereby directed to be called forth, the President shall forthwith, and previous thereto, by proclamation, command such insurgents to disperse, and retire peaceably to their respective abodes, within a limited time.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the militia employed in the service of the United States, shall receive the same pay and allowances, as the troops of the United States, who may be in service at the same time, or who were last in service, and shall be subject to the same rules and articles of war: And that no officer, non-commissioned officer or private of the militia shall be compelled to serve more than three months in any one year, nor more than in due rotation with every other able-bodied man of the same rank in the battalion to which be belongs.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That every officer, non-commissioned officer or private of the militia, who shall fail to obey the orders of the President of the United States in any of the cases before recited, shall forfeit a sum not exceeding one year's pay, and not less than one month's pay, to be determined and adjudged by a court martial and such officers shall, moreover, be liable to be cashiered by sentence of a court martial: and such non-commissioned officers and privates shall be liable to be imprisoned by the like sentence, or failure of payment of the fines adjudged against them, for the space of one calendar month for every five dollars of such fine.

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That court martial for the trial of militia be composed of militia officers only.

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That all fines to be assessed, as aforesaid, shall be certified by the presiding officer of the court martial before whom the same shall be assessed, to the marshal of the district, in which the delinquent shall reside, or to one of his deputies and also the supervisor of the revenue of the same district, who shall record the said certificate in a book to be kept for that purpose. The said marshal or his deputy shall forthwith proceed to levy the said fines with costs, by distress and sale of the goods and chattels of the delinquent, which costs and manner of proceeding, with respect to the sale of the goods distrained, shall be agreeable to the laws of the state, in which the same shall be, in other cases of distress and where any non-commissioned officer or private shall be adjudged to suffer imprisonment, there being no goods or chattels to be found, whereof to levy the said fines, the marshal of the district or his deputy may commit such delinquent to gaol, during the term, for which he shall be so adjudged to imprisonment, or until the fine shall be paid, in the same manner as other persons condemned to fine and imprisonment at the suit of the United States, may be committed.

Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That the marshals and their deputies shall pay all such fines by them levied to the supervisor of the revenue, in the district in which they are collected, within two months after they shall have received the same, deducting therefrom five per centum, as a compensation for their trouble and in case of failure, the same shall be recoverable by action of debt or information in any court of the United States, of the district, in which such fines shall be levied, having cognizance therefor, to be sued for, prosecuted and recovered, in the name of the supervisor of the district, with interest and costs.

Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That the marshals of the several districts and deputies, shall have the same powers in executing the laws of the United States, as sheriffs, and their deputies in the several states have by law, in executing the laws of their respective states.

Sec. 10. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force, for and during the term of two years, and from thence to the end of the next session of Congress thereafter, and no longer.

The Militia Act of 1792, Passed May 8, 1792, providing federal standards for the organization of the Militia.

An ACT more effectually to provide for the National Defence, by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States.

I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.

II. And be it further enacted, That the Vice-President of the United States, the Officers, judicial and executives, of the government of the United States the members of both houses of Congress, and their respective officers all custom house officers, with the clerks all post officers, and stage-drivers who are employed in the care and conveyance of the mail of the post office of the United States all Ferrymen employed at any ferry on the post road all inspectors of exports all pilots, all mariners actually employed in the sea service of any citizen or merchant within the United States and all persons who now are or may be hereafter exempted by the laws of the respective states, shall be and are hereby exempted from militia duty, notwithstanding their being above the age of eighteen and under the age of forty-five years.

III. And be it further enacted, That within one year after the passing of the Act, the militia of the respective states shall be arranged into divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, and companies, as the legislature of each state shall direct and each division, brigade, and regiment, shall be numbered at the formation thereof and a record made of such numbers of the Adjutant-General's office in the state and when in the field, or in serviced in the state, such division, brigade, and regiment shall, respectively, take rank according to their numbers, reckoning the first and lowest number highest in rank. That if the same be convenient, each brigade shall consist of four regiments each regiment or two battalions each battalion of five companies each company of sixty-four privates. That the said militia shall be officered by the respective states, as follows: To each division on Major-General, with two Aids-de-camp, with the rank of major to each brigade, one brigadier-major, with the rank of a major to each company, one captain, one lieutenant, one ensign, four serjeants, four corporals, one drummer, and one fifer and bugler. That there shall be a regimental staff, to consist of one adjutant, and one quartermaster, to rank as lieutenants one paymaster one surgeon, and one surgeon's mate one serjeant-major one drum- major, and one fife-major.

IV. And be it further enacted, That out of the militia enrolled as is herein directed, there shall be formed for each battalion, as least one company of grenadiers, light infantry or riflemen and that each division there shall be, at least, one company of artillery, and one troop of horse: There shall be to each company of artillery, one captain, two lieutenants, four serjeants, four corporals, six gunners, six bombardiers, one drummer, and one fifer. The officers to be armed with a sword or hanger, a fusee, bayonet and belt, with a cartridge box to contain twelve cartridges and each private of matoss shall furnish themselves with good horses of at least fourteen hands and an half high, and to be armed with a sword and pair of pistols, the holsters of which to be covered with bearskin caps. Each dragoon to furnish himself with a serviceable horse, at least fourteen hands and an half high, a good saddle, bridle, mail-pillion and valise, holster, and a best plate and crupper, a pair of boots and spurs a pair of pistols, a sabre, and a cartouchbox to contain twelve cartridges for pistols. That each company of artillery and troop of house shall be formed of volunteers from the brigade, at the discretion of the Commander in Chief of the State, not exceeding one company of each to a regiment, nor more in number than one eleventh part of the infantry, and shall be uniformly clothed in raiments, to be furnished at their expense, the colour and fashion to be determined by the Brigadier commanding the brigade to which they belong.

V. And be it further enacted, That each battalion and regiment shall be provided with the state and regimental colours by the Field-Officers, and each company with a drum and fife or bugle-horn, by the commissioned officers of the company, in such manner as the legislature of the respective States shall direct.

VI. And be it further enacted, That there shall be an adjutant general appointed in each state, whose duty it shall be to distribute all orders for the Commander in Chief of the State to the several corps to attend all publick reviews, when the Commander in Chief of the State shall review the militia, or any part thereof to obey all orders from him relative to carrying into execution, and perfecting, the system of military discipline established by this Act to furnish blank forms of different returns that may be required and to explain the principles of which they should be made to receive from the several officers of the different corps throughout the state, returns of the militia under their command, reporting the actual situation of their arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, their delinquencies, and every other thing which relates to the general advancement of good order and discipline: All which, the several officers of the division, brigades, regiments, and battalions are hereby required to make in the usual manner, so that the said adjutant general may be duly furnished therewith: From all which returns be shall make proper abstracts, and by the same annually before the Commander in Chief of the State.

VII. And be it further enacted, That the rules of discipline, approved and established by Congress, in their resolution of the twenty-ninth of March, 1779, shall be the rules of discipline so be observed by the militia throughout the United States, except such deviations from the said rules, as may be rendered necessary by the requisitions of the Act, or by some other unavoidable circumstances. It shall be the duty of the Commanding Officer as every muster, whether by battalion, regiment, or single company, to cause the militia to be exercised and trained, agreeably to the said rules of said discipline.

VIII. And be it further enacted, That all commissioned officers shall take rank according to the date of their commissions and when two of the same grade bear an equal date, then their rank to be determined by lots, to be drawn by them before the Commanding officers of the brigade, regiment, battalion, company or detachment.

IX. And be it further enacted That if any person whether officer or solder, belonging to the militia of any state, and called out into the service of the United States, be wounded or disabled, while in actual service, he shall be taken care of an provided for at the publick expense.

X. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the brigade inspector, to attend the regimental and battalion meeting of the militia composing their several brigades, during the time of their being under arms, to inspect their arms, ammunition and accoutrements superintend their exercise and maneuvres and introduce the system of military discipline before described, throughout the brigade, agreeable to law, and such orders as they shall from time to time receive from the commander in Chief of the State to make returns to the adjutant general of the state at least once in every year, of the militia of the brigade to which he belongs, reporting therein the actual situation of the arms, accoutrement, and ammunition, of the several corps, and every other thing which, in his judgment, may relate to their government and general advancement of good order and military disciple an adjutant general shall make a return of all militia of the state, to the Commander in Chief of the said state, and a duplicate of the same to the president of the United States.

And whereas sundry corps of artillery, cavalry and infantry now exist in several of the said states, which by the laws, customs, or usages thereof, have not been incorporated with, or subject to the general regulation of the militia.

XI. Be it enacted, That such corps retain their accustomed privileges subject, nevertheless, to all other duties required by this Act, in like manner with the other militias.

[Act of February 28, 1795, made small revisions in Sections 2, 4, 5, and 10 of Act of May 2, 1792. The 1795 act was the authority for ruling in Houston v. Moore, 1820. Other revisions were enacted April 18, 1814]

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act, [words requiring notification by an associate justice or district judge were omitted in 1795 revision. The revision gave the President more authority] the same being notified to the President of the United States, by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such state to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. And if the militia of a state, where such combinations may happen, shall refuse, or be insufficient to suppress the same, it shall be lawful for the President, if the legislature of the United States be not in session, to call forth and employ such numbers of the militia of any other state or states most convenient thereto, as may be necessary, and the use of militia, so to be called forth, may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the ensuing session.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the militia employed in the service of the United States, shall receive the same pay and allowances, as the troops of the United States, [omitted in 1795: "who may be in service at the same time, or who were last in service, and shall be subject to the same rules and articles of war"]: And that no officer, non-commissioned officer or private of the militia shall be compelled to serve more than three months in any one year, nor more than in due rotation with every other able-bodied man of the same rank in the battalion to which be belongs.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That every officer, non-commissioned officer or private of the militia, who shall fail to obey the orders of the President of the United States in any of the cases before recited, shall forfeit a sum not exceeding one year's pay, and not less than one month's pay, to be determined and adjudged by a court martial and such officers shall, moreover, be liable to be cashiered by sentence of a court martial: [words added in 1795:] and be incapacitated from holding a commission in the militia, for a term not exceeding twelve months, at the discretion of the said court: and such non-commissioned officers and privates shall be liable to be imprisoned by the like sentence, or failure of payment of the fines adjudged against them, for the space of one calendar month for every five dollars of such fine.

Sec. 10. [revised to read:] And be it further enacted, That the act, intitled "Act to provide for calling forth the militia, to execute the laws of Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions," passed the second day of May one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, shall be, and the same is hereby repealed.


Militia Act establishes conscription under federal law - May 08, 1792 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

On this day in 1792, Congress passes the second portion of the Militia Act, requiring that every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years be enrolled in the militia.

Six days before, Congress had established the president’s right to call out the militia. The outbreak of Shay’s Rebellion, a protest against taxation and debt prosecution in western Massachusetts in 1786-87, had first convinced many Americans that the federal government should be given the power to put down rebellions within the states. The inability of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation to respond to the crisis was a major motivation for the peaceful overthrow of the government and the drafting of a new federal Constitution.

The Militia Act was tested shortly after its passage, when farmers in western Pennsylvania, angered by a federal excise tax on whiskey, attacked the home of a tax collector and then, with their ranks swollen to 6,000 camped outside Pittsburgh, threatened to march on the town. In response, President Washington, under the auspices of the Militia Act, assembled 15,000 men from the surrounding states and eastern Pennsylvania as a federal militia commanded by Virginia’s Henry Lee to march upon the Pittsburgh encampment. Upon its arrival, the federal militia found none of the rebels willing to fight. The mere threat of federal force had quelled the rebellion and established the supremacy of the federal government.


Organizing the Militia

The Congress shall have Power To . provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

The militia, long a staple of republican thought, loomed large in the deliberations of the Framers, many of whom were troubled by the prospect of a standing army in times of peace. For the Founders, a militia, composed of a “people numerous and armed,” was the ultimate guardian of liberty. It was a means to enable citizens not only to protect themselves against their fellows but also, particularly for the Anti-Federalists, to protect themselves from an oppressive government. “The militia . . . is our ultimate safety,” said Patrick Henry during the Virginia ratifying convention. “We can have no security without it. . . . The great object is, that every man be armed. . . . Every one who is able may have a gun.” Both the Pennsylvania and Vermont constitutions asserted that “the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state. . . .”

The Anti-Federalists feared that Congress would permit the militia to atrophy, leaving the states defenseless against the central government. In the Virginia ratifying convention, George Mason, while advocating a stronger central control over the militia, nevertheless argued that there was a danger that Congress could render the militia useless “by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has an exclusive right to arm them &c [et cetera].” The desire to prevent enfeebling state militias, which provided a check to a standing army, prompted the ratifying conventions to call for an amendment guaranteeing the right of citizens to bear arms. The First Congress responded, but the Second Amendment did not remove national control over armed forces or the state militias.

Federal preemption of state-militia legislation commenced very early in the history of the Republic. In Houston v. Moore (1820), the Supreme Court stated that the federal government’s power over the militia “may be exercised to any extent that may be deemed necessary by Congress.”

Despite the generally poor performance of the militia during the Revolution, Federalists recognized that without a militia, there would be no United States military establishment. They believed, however, that they could minimize the weaknesses of the militia by creating a select militia corps in each state and establishing federal control over officership and training. The ultimate Federalist goal was to turn the militia into a national reserve of uniform, interchange-ble units. In 1792, Congress passed the Uniform Militia Act, which remained the basic militia law of the United States until the twentieth century. This act established an “obligated” militia, based on universal military service. All able-bodied white men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were required to enroll. But the act fell far short of Federalist goals. It did not create select state corps and, most importantly, did not impose penalties on the states or individuals for noncompliance. For the most part, the states ignored the provisions of the act. The abysmal performance of the militia during the War of 1812 ensured the demise of the obligated reserve as established by the Founding generation.

The obligated militia was succeeded by the “uniformed” militia, local volunteer units generally equipped and supported by their own members. In addition, the states continued to provide volunteer citizen-soldiers when the regular U.S. Army had to be expanded, as was the case during the Mexican War and the Civil War. After the Civil War, the uniformed militia reemerged as the National Guard, but, unhappy with their largely domestic constabulary role, guardsmen lobbied for the mission of a national reserve. In the Militia Act of 1903 (the Dick Act), amended and expanded in 1908, Congress divided the eligible male population into an “organized militia” (the National Guard of the several states) and a “reserve,” or “unorganized,” militia.

In response to an opinion by the Attorney General that the Militia Clause and the Dick Act precluded the employment of guardsmen outside of United States borders, Congress included in the National Security Act of 1916 (amended in 1920 and 1933) provisions that explicitly “federalized” the National Guard. This act, as amended, has continued to govern federal-state military relations. By giving the United States Army extensive control of National Guard officers and units, and by making state forces available for duty overseas, the National Security Act of 1916 essentially stripped the states of all of their militia powers. It effectively repealed the power of the states to appoint officers by limiting such appointments to those who “shall have successfully passed such tests as to . . . physical, moral and professional fitness as the President shall prescribe.” The law stated that the army of the United States now included both the regular army and “the National Guard while in the service of the United States.” In Cox v. Wood (1918), the Supreme Court validated the action of Congress, holding that the plenary power to raise armies was “not qualified or restricted by the provisions of the Militia Clause.”

The World War I draft completely preempted state sovereignty regarding the militia by drafting individual guardsmen directly into the United States Army. In The Selective Draft Law Cases (1918), the Court held that the states held sway over the militia only “to the extent that such control was not taken away by the exercise by Congress of its power to raise armies.” Congress was given power to “direct the organization and training of the militia . . . leaving the carrying out of such command to the states.”

The transition of the National Guard into a national reserve reached its completion during the Cold War. Despite the existence of a large regular army, Guard units were included in most war plans. But with federal funding, which covered about ninety-five percent of the costs, came federal control. While governors continued to call up the Guard to quell domestic disturbances and to aid in disaster relief, they discovered that their control was trumped by federal demands. For instance, in protest against United States actions in Central America during the 1980s, several governors attempted to prevent units from their states from deploying to Honduras and El Salvador for training. In response, Congress passed the Montgomery Amendment (10 U.S.C. 672(f) (Supp. V 1987), a law “prohibiting a governor from withholding consent to a unit of the National Guard’s being ordered to active duty outside the United States on the ground that the governor objects to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of that duty.” In such cases as Perpich v. Department of Defense (1990), the Court supported Congress’s position.

With the end of the Cold War, the National Guard’s role as a national reserve was called into question. As a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some observers believed that the Guard could return to a domestic constabulary role. On the other hand, extensive military commitments abroad have required the Guard to remain an active element in the United States armed forces.


First Federal Militia Act: 1868

A major effect of the Fenian Raids (1866-1870) was to illustrate the need for the establishment of a permanent military force for Canadian security. Consequently, the Canadian Parliament passed the first federal Militia Act in 1868. George-Étienne Cartier drafted and introduced the legislation. While a conscription (mandatory enlistment) provision was in place, the Active Militia was to be raised on a volunteer basis with an initial strength of 40,000. The Active Militia was required to drill from 8 to 16 days a year. A reserve militia was also established that included all males between the ages of 18 and 60 years of age, but this was essentially a "paper" force.

By February 1869, the Active Militia numbered 37,170 officers and men. When examined on a province-by-province basis, Nova Scotia had 928 militia members New Brunswick, 1,789 Quebec, 12,637 and Ontario, 21,816. The Reserve Militia theoretically numbered 618,896: Nova Scotia possessed 68,948 reservists New Brunswick, 53,833 Quebec, 202,579 and Ontario, 293,536.

According to provisions contained within the British North America Act, the British government retained the command of all Canadian militia forces, and the 1868 federal Militia Act confirmed this point. Under this law, the adjutant-general must be a field officer of the British regular army. In 1868, General Frederick Middleton was appointed to this position.


The Militia: In History and Today

The Founding Fathers had mixed feelings about military forces. At least 19 (probably more) of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention had served in the armed forces, several with the rank of general. They knew they owed a debt of gratitude to the continental army and the colonial militias for securing their independence from England.

But they also knew that a standing army could be, in the words of Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, "the bane of liberty." One of the grievances the colonists raised against King George III of England in the Declaration of Independence was that "he has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our Legislature," and further, that he had enacted legislation "for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us."

Recognizing the right of the people to organize locally for their mutual defense, the Founders therefore devised a system of government in which military power is divided between federal forces and a popular militia, between federal and state governments, with power over the military divided between the legislative and executive branches of government.

Not only does the right of the people to organize locally for their mutual defense still exist today, the exercise of that right is every bit as important today as it was during colonial times.

Constitution Provides for the Militia

When the Constitutional Convention met in 1787, they gave considerable attention to matters of national defense. They knew the new nation needed a military defense, but they also knew a standing army could be oppressive. Accordingly, they crafted a Constitution that balanced the power of the national government against that of the state and local governments and their militias. Article I, § 8 provided that

The Congress shall have power …

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years

To provide and maintain a Navy

Notice the different language. Congress is empowered to "raise and support" Armies and to "provide and maintain" a Navy, and the two-year appropriation limit for Armies does not apply to the Navy. "Provide and maintain" implies a more permanent force than does "raise and support." The Framers apparently believed a permanent naval force was necessary, but they believed armies should be raised and supported as needed, and in peacetime the nation would rely upon the local and state militias.

Article I, § 8 of the Constitution also addresses the militia:

The Congress shall have power…

To make rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

Congress has supervisory authority over the armed forces generally, but the authority to train the militia and appoint militia officers is reserved to the states, provided they conduct that training "according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." Congress also has power to provide for calling the militia into federal service, meaning that Congress can federalize the militia of one or more states or pass legislation authorizing the president to call the militia into federal service.

One more provision of the Constitution deserves our attention &mdash the Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The reference to the militia states a reason for the right to bear arms, not a condition thereto. Note that the word "people" is not used interchangeably with the word "state," and that the term "keep and bear arms" implies individual ownership of weapons. Collectivists have argued that the Second Amendment protects only the right of the state to maintain a military force. However, in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the amendment protects the individual citizen’s right to bear arms (although the court also errantly said this right is subject to state regulation).

In 1792, Congress passed the Uniform Militia Act to give limited direction to the state militias. Section 1 of the act defined militia according to the common historic understanding:

That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizens shall reside, and that within 12 months of the passing of this act…. That every citizen so enrolled and notified shall, within 6 months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack [etc.] … and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise, or [into] service … and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets for arming the militia as herein required shall [be] of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound. And every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.

The definition of the militia as all able-bodied male citizens was in keeping with the understanding of the time.

One purpose of the militia is to defend the liberty of the people against foreign invaders. Throughout history it has worked effectively, and it still works today. In "The Rationale of the Automatic Rifle," Massad Ayoob recounts part of a conversation that took place when Cmdr. Robert Menard attended a 1960 meeting between U.S. Navy personnel and their Japanese counterparts. One American naval officer asked why the Japanese did not invade America’s west coast during WWII. A Japanese admiral answered: "We knew that probably every second home in your country contained firearms. We knew that your country actually had state championships for private citizens shooting military rifles. We were not fools to set foot in such quicksand."

But the militia serves another purpose: the defense of the people’s liberty against domestic tyrants. To many Americans today, this thought seems radical and almost subversive. But consider James Madison’s words in The Federalist, No. 46:

Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government still it would not be going too far to say, that the state governments with the people on their side would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls or one twenty-fifth of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield in the United States an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.

And Alexander Hamilton, a continental colonel but hardly a wild-eyed revolutionary, expressed a similar thought in The Federalist, No. 29:

Little more can reasonably be aimed at with respect to the people at large than to have them properly armed and equipped… This will not only lessen the call for military establishments but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and in the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens.

Across the ocean and across the millennia, Aristotle would have agreed:

A king’s bodyguard is composed of citizens carrying arms a tyrant’s of foreign mercenaries…. Members of the constitution must carry [arms] even among themselves, both for internal government and in the event of civil disobedience and to repel external aggression…. For those who possess and can wield arms are in a position to decide whether the constitution is to continue or not.

From the adoption of the Uniform Militia Act of 1792 through the passage of the Dick Act in 1903, militias continued to be a bulwark of the nation’s defense. Usually they were organized locally and consisted of men who were mostly friends and neighbors of each other, and commonly they elected their own officers, although they were subject to state regulation. Just before the War Between the States, the United States Army consisted of 1,108 officers and 15,259 enlisted men, but there were thousands of militias, each consisting of about 30 to 60 men. Quickly after the war began, the Union Army swelled to 2,500,000 men, and the Confederate Army consisted of 1,000,000 men. Both sides relied upon the militia units that fought for their respective states.

After the war, the status of discipline of many militias gradually declined. In the North many of the militias simply ceased to exist, and in the South they were suppressed by the Reconstruction regime. In the 1870s, many states passed new laws requiring male citizens to serve in the militias, but these laws were poorly enforced and largely ignored.

Federalizing the Guard

In 1903, Congress passed the Dick Act, which began the process of federalizing the National Guard. Rep. Charles Dick’s bill divided the American adult male population, other than those serving on active duty, into two categories: (1) the National Guard (the organized militia), and (2) the Reserve Militia (the unorganized militia, all other able-bodied adult male citizens). The 1916 National Defense Act revised the Dick Act and provided that "the militia of the United States shall consist of all able-bodied male citizens of the United States … who shall be more than 18 years of age and … not more than 45 years of age, and said militia shall be divided into 3 classes, the National Guard, the Naval Militia, and the unorganized militia."

And as federal funding for the Guard increased, so federal control over the Guard also increased, and the Guard gradually ceased to be a defender of the people’s liberty against domestic tyranny.

A further reorganization took place in 1933, under which certain specially designated National Guard units received special attention and funding from the federal government. Men who enlisted in these Guard units were considered to have simultaneously enlisted in both their state’s Guard Unit and the National Guard of the United States. Members of these units could be ordered to active duty with the United States armed forces, and upon completion of that service, their status would revert to that of members of their state’s Guard. Guard units were better funded than before, but much of their independence and their identity as representatives of their respective states was lost. It is an old story, repeated many times before and many times since: federal aid leads to federal control.

At first, members of these units could be ordered to federal service only in the event of a national emergency. (Article I, § 8 says Congress can call the militia into federal service "to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.") In 1952, Congress removed that requirement but provided that, in the absence of a national emergency, a state Guard unit could be federalized only with the governor’s consent. That consent requirement was partially repealed by the Montgomery Amendment of 1986, which provided that a governor may not withhold his consent to federalization of his state’s Guard unit for service outside the United States because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such duty.

In 1987, Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich objected to the deployment of the Minnesota National Guard to Central America, alleging that the Montgomery Amendment unconstitutionally interfered with his authority over the Guard pursuant to Article I of the Constitution. In Perpich v. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334 (1990), the Supreme Court held that, under the dual-enlistment system established in 1933, guardsmen lose their status as militia members when they are ordered to federal service, and therefore the militia clauses of Article I, § 8 afford them and their units with no constitutional protection. The practical effect of this decision is that National Guardsmen are, first and foremost, federal troops their connection with the state militias is increasingly tenuous.

Over the years from 1903 to 1990, Guard units have increasingly come under the authority of the United States government. They still bear the name of their respective states, i.e. the Idaho National Guard, and they still perform functions for their respective states. But it is now clear that they are federal forces first, state forces only second, and only at the sufferance of the federal government. The Guard continues to perform admirable service in the defense of our nation, and they serve heroically to defend their states and local communities against natural disasters like Tropical Storm Katrina. Any American who serves or has served in the Guard should be proud indeed. But the guardsman’s role as defender of the people of his state against domestic tyranny, as envisioned by Madison and Hamilton, has virtually disappeared.

Enter the State Guard/Defense Force

The role the Founders once envisioned for the militia as guardian of states’ rights and the people’s liberties, now falls upon State Guard units, or as some states call them, State Defense Force units. But many Americans have never heard of state defense forces and incorrectly assume the state guard is the same as the National Guard.

During the 1950s, several governors objected to their guard units being federalized and called out of the country. Who, they asked, is going to man the armories or do riot or flood control, if the guard is engaged elsewhere? Congress responded in 1956 by adopting 32 U.S.C. § 109, titled "Maintenance of Other Troops," which provides that

(c) In addition to its National Guard, if any, a State or Territory, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or the District of Columbia may, as provided by its laws, organize and maintain defense forces. A defense force established under this section may be used within the jurisdiction concerned, as its chief executive (or commanding general in the case of the District of Columbia) considers necessary, but it may not be called, ordered, or drafted into the armed forces.

The act also provides that enlistment in a state’s defense force shall not exempt a person from the draft, and that a person may not belong to a defense force if he is already a member of a reserve component of the armed forces.

At least 26 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have established defense forces or State Guard units, and they are spread throughout the country: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. Most states call this force either the State Guard (as distinguished from the National Guard) or the State Defense Force, but others use different titles, like the California State Military Reserve, the Indiana Guard Reserve, the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, the New Jersey Naval Militia, or the Ohio Military Reserve. I will refer to them generally as State Guard units. Some of these are very active, others less so.

These State Guard units are not the same as the privately organized militias that received so much media attention during the 1980s and 󈨞s. State guard units are organized under state auspices and have distinctive chains of command that start with the governor (not the president because they cannot be federalized), and then the adjutant general of the state, followed by the commander of the state guard, then the brigade commanders, battalion commanders, and company commanders. In Alabama, as in many other states, the adjutant general is appointed by the governor, and he commands the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, and the Alabama State Defense Force. The Alabama adjutant general and the commander of the State Defense Force are major generals, and the brigade commanders are either brigadier generals or colonels.

Because they cannot be called to federal service, state guardsmen receive no federal pay. They generally do not receive pay from the state for regular drills and commander’s calls, but they can receive pay when called to active duty by the governor, and for certain other activities they can receive per diem and mileage.

The headquarters brigades of most State Guard organizations contain many retired military personnel, or at least many who have had some prior active or reserve military service. Prior military service is not a requirement at the brigade, battalion, or company levels, but many who serve at these levels do have prior military service and/or service in law enforcement, firefighting, homeland security, or emergency management. Many state guardsman want a military connection but did not choose the total commitment of an active military career and do not have the time to serve in a reserve or National Guard unit. Age limits are often relaxed, and while State Guard units stress physical fitness, they can often work around disabilities and limitations that the active duty military and the National Guard cannot accept. Those who lead and compose State Guard units have a tremendous wealth of experience in military service, law enforcement, homeland security, emergency management, and many other fields that contribute to the defense of their communities and states.

Missions Accomplished

The missions of the State Guard units are set forth in state statutes or regulations. These may vary from state to state, but generally their role is to fulfill the duties of the National Guard when the National Guard is called out of state or otherwise overtaxed and in need of assistance. For example:

&bull During Tropical Storm Katrina (2005), guardsmen of the Alabama 3rd Brigade (South Alabama) were called up to the Gulf states to man food distribution centers and otherwise assist in flood control and crowd control the 2nd Brigade (Central Alabama) and the 1st Brigade (North Alabama) also provided assistance.

&bull After the 9/11 attack, the Alaska 49th Military Police Brigade performed classified security missions for Alaskan pipelines, railroads, harbors, and ports.

&bull In 2007, the Maryland State Defense Force performed assessments of National Guard facilities, joined the National Guard for Exercise Vigilant Guard, a homeland security emergency and terrorism response exercise, and performed health screenings for over 900 National Guardsmen deploying overseas.

&bull During Katrina the Texas State Guard activated more than 1,000 state guardsmen to paid active duty, receiving evacuees at Kelly Air Force Base, the Houston Astrodome, and other emergency centers.

&bull Also during Katrina, the Virginia State Defense Force provided security for armories and assisted in the deployment of National Guard troops.

The South Carolina State Guard has established an effective communications system whereby every state guardsman has an "sg.sc.gov" e-mail address, thus facilitating prompt emergency readiness responses. (Paul Revere would be envious!)

The State Guard is a uniformed service, and most guardsmen wear a variation of the U.S. Army BDU (battle dress uniform) for regular drill and duty, and the army Class A, Class B, or dress uniform for special occasions, always with distinctive State Guard insignia. (Alabama State Defense Force regulations provide that members with prior Air Force service may wear the Air Force Class A or B or mess dress with ASDF insignia.) Most state guard units follow a ranking system similar to that of the U.S. Army. Personnel with prior military service commonly enter the State Guard at the rank they held when they left active duty, with the possibility of promotion thereafter.

The mission of the State Guard is to augment the National Guard, and therefore guardsmen spend much time training and preparing for the missions they might someday be called upon to perform. This training can take many forms: instruction in military procedures, courtesies, drill and ceremony, leadership training, emergency response, CPR, counter-terrorism, funeral protocol, and many others. Several schools for training state guardsmen have been established, including the School of the Soldier and Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) Academy, and specialized schools for chaplains, medics, communications specialists, and others.

True Successors to the Militia

Besides constituting a cost-effective means of fulfilling America’s defense needs and providing many Americans with the opportunity for military service, State Guard units are now the true successors to the militias that the Framers intended as state and local checks upon federal power. In 1997, when the Alabama Freethought Association and the ACLU of Alabama sued to force Etowah County Circuit Judge (later Alabama Chief Justice) Roy Moore to remove a Ten Commandments display from his courtroom, Governor Fob James promised to call up the Alabama National Guard, if necessary, to defend the Ten Commandments display. Had he done so, President Clinton could have countered by federalizing the National Guard. But if Governor James had called up the State Defense Force, President Clinton could not have federalized them. Although State Guard units are not overtly political, their existence is consistent with a constitutional states’ rights philosophy, and in this author’s experience, state guardsmen generally tend to be politically and socially conservative.

Readers who are interested in the State Guard may go to the website of the State Guard Association of the United States (sgaus.org) and click on the link to their respective State Guard unit, or contact the adjutant general of their respective state for further information.

An addendum from the author (March 27, 2009):

My thanks to all who have written the many comments (see below) demonstrate that there is substantial interest in state guard units or state defense forces.

Mr. Gates, my list of state guard units was taken from the State Guard Association of the United States website (sgaus.org). I have brought your comments to SGAUS&rsquos attention, and they assure me that they are checking the states you have mentioned. If in fact these links are not legitimate, you have done SGAUS a great service by bringing this to our attention.

Mr. Cronkhite, I appreciate your kind words. I respectfully disagree with your assertion that modern state defense forces are not within the meaning of the term &ldquomilitia&rdquo as used in the Constitution. The phrase &ldquowell regulated militia&rdquo in the Second Amendment clearly indicates that the Framers expected the militia to have some training and organization, as do Madison&rsquos and Hamilton&rsquos comments in The Federalist, No. 46 and 29. As to whether state defense forces or state guard units constitute &ldquotroops&rdquo as the term is used in Art. I § 10 of the Constitution, the answer might depend on the functions these units perform in their respective states. In either event, Article I § 10 says that states may not keep troops in time of peace &ldquowithout the Consent of Congress.&rdquo Federal statutes authorizing the organization of national guard units and state defense forces clearly constitute the consent of Congress.

Mr. Stertz, recent changes to the Insurrection Act are a valid concern and a good subject for a future article.

Badger, I&rsquoll let you and Mr. Gates work out your differences &mdash hopefully without having to activate the Colorado Front Rangers. I believe people have a God-given right to self-defense, individually and/or collectively. When this right is exercised collectively, that is normally done through a militia with ties to state and local government, because defense is one of the few legitimate functions of government. But that does not mean defense is exclusively the function of government. When government abdicates or fails in its responsibility to defend the populace, the people may organize outside government. But state guard units and state defense forces recognized by SGAUS are linked to state and local government.

Again, my thanks to all who have written. I hope constitutionalists will see state guard units as opportunities for service.

John Eidsmoe, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, holds the rank of colonel in the Alabama State Defense Force, is a professor at the Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy, and serves as legal counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law.


The Militia Clauses

Clause 15. The Congress shall have Power * * * To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.

Clause 16. The Congress shall have Power * * * To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

Annotations

Calling Out the Militia

The states as well as Congress may prescribe penalties for failure to obey the President’s call of the militia. They also have a concurrent power to aid the National Government by calls under their own authority, and in emergencies may use the militia to put down armed insurrection. 1784 The Federal Government may call out the militia in case of civil war its authority to suppress rebellion is found in the power to suppress insurrection and to carry on war. 1785 The act of February 28, 1795, 1786 which delegated to the President the power to call out the militia, was held constitutional. 1787 A militiaman who refused to obey such a call was not “employed in the service of the United States so as to be subject to the article of war,” but was liable to be tried for disobedience of the act of 1795. 1788

Regulation of the Militia

The power of Congress over the militia “being unlimited, except in the two particulars of officering and training them . . . it may be exercised to any extent that may be deemed necessary by Congress. . . . The power of the state government to legislate on the same subjects, having existed prior to the formation of the Constitution, and not having been prohibited by that instrument, it remains with the States, subordinate nevertheless to the paramount law of the General Government. . . .” 1789 Under the National Defense Act of 1916, 1790 the militia, which had been an almost purely state institution, was brought under the control of the National Government. The term “militia of the United States” was defined to comprehend “all able-bodied male citizens of the United States and all other able-bodied males who have . . . declared their intention to become citizens of the United States,” between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. The act reorganized the National Guard, determined its size in proportion to the population of the several States, required that all enlistments be for “three years in service and three years in reserve,” limited the appointment of officers to those who “shall have successfully passed such tests as to . . . physical, moral and professional fitness as the President shall prescribe,” and authorized the President in certain emergencies to “draft into the military service of the United States to serve therein for the period of the war unless sooner discharged, any or all members of the National Guard and National Guard Reserve,” who thereupon should “stand discharged from the militia.” 1791

The militia clauses do not constrain Congress in raising and supporting a national army. The Court has approved the system of “dual enlistment,” under which persons enlisted in state militia (National Guard) units simultaneously enlist in the National Guard of the United States, and, when called to active duty in the federal service, are relieved of their status in the state militia. Consequently, the restrictions in the first militia clause have no application to the federalized National Guard there is no constitutional requirement that state governors hold a veto power over federal duty training conducted outside the United States or that a national emergency be declared before such training may take place. 1792

1784 Moore v. Houston, 3 S. & R. (Pa.) 169 (1817), aff’d, Houston v. Moore, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 1 (1820).

1785 Texas v. White, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 700 (1869) Tyler v. Defrees, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 331 (1871).

1786 1 Stat. 424 (1795), 10 U.S.C. § 332.

1787 Martin v. Mott, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 19, 32 (1827).

1788 Houston v. Moore, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 1 (1820) Martin v. Mott, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 19 (1827).

1789 Houston v. Moore, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 1, 16 (1820). Organizing and providing for the militia being constitutionally committed to Congress and statutorily shared with the Executive, the judiciary is precluded from exercising oversight over the process, Gilligan v. Morgan, 413 U.S. 1 (1973), although wrongs committed by troops are subject to judicial relief in damages. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 233 (1974).

1790 39 Stat. 166, 197, 198, 200, 202, 211 (1916), codified in sections of Titles 10 & 32. See Wiener, The Militia Clause of the Constitution, 54 Harv. L. Rev. 181 (1940).


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