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Congress, therefore, delegated to the President the emergency power to call out the state militias for frontier defense. Clair, went down to ignominious defeat at the hands of the Indians. However, because most of the militia in the previous campaigns had been drafted, whereas the regulars were volunteers, his victory could as logically prove the inferiority of conscription. Indeed, the frequent condemnations of the American militia by professional military officers, from Washington forward, assume a whole new meaning in light of the extensive resort to militia drafts during early U.

At the same time the Federalists created a standing army, they also attempted to consolidate control over the state militias. Service in the advanced corps would, in fact, become a prerequisite for citizenship.

The Federalist Papers

The advanced corps could then be continuously ready for immediate mobilization. Although military historians have tended to denigrate this act because it failed to go as far as Knox wished, the Uniform Militia Act firmly etched into national statute the principle of universal military obligation. It required the enrollment of every free, white, able-bodied male citizen between eighteen and forty-five with some exemptions, to which the states could add in the militia of his state.

Each citizen was to equip himself at his own expense. A second Congressional measure that passed at the same time, the Calling Forth Act, specified the general conditions under which state militias could be called into national service. In a clause all but ignored by historians, the Act instituted heavy fines for failure to report when drafted for national service. Just as when responding to state calls, each militia district had a quota to be filled first by volunteers and then by draftees. Because the Act still left the actual drafting to the states, fines became the dual responsibility of both levels of government.

State militia courts-martial would assess fines, and the national government would collect them. The Federalist State first found use for its new militia legislation in , when it smashed the Whiskey Tax rebellion in western Pennsylvania. For this demonstration, Washington called up from four state militias no fewer than 12, men—more than he had usually commanded during the Revolution.

Militia drafts proved necessary to raise this overwhelming force, and hostility to these drafts sparked further disturbances in eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. Liberal provisions of various states for exemptions and substitutes made the conscription inherent in the two national militia acts far from universal. Historians have therefore tended to view these acts as minor and inconsequential. Because militia service could be avoided by paying a fine or hiring a substitute, some economic historians have treated compulsory militia duty as a mere tax-in-kind infrequently substituting for what should be considered a monetary tax.

Exemptions, fines, and substitutes clearly made conscription less onerous. Yet, the Civil War drafts of both Union and Confederacy started out with exemption fees and substitutes, and no one has ever argued that these were not true drafts.

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Even if viewed as a tax, militia fines and substitutes were a regressive one. In addition, research by John Mahon indicates that, in amount, the fines were far from nominal.

The Bill of Rights & All Amendments

And, as this was a period in which imprisonment for unpaid debts—especially unpaid debts to the government—was standard, prison was, in fact, the ultimate penalty for evading militia service. No other governmental relationship except taxpaying touched so many individuals. In the early national period, both national and state governments turned frequently to the common militia. After the Whiskey Rebellion, the national government not only called up the militia to put down resistance to other national laws, 27 but also passed at every foreign crisis special acts ordering the states to prepare militia detachments for instant mobilization.

When the Jeffersonian Republicans came to power in , they proceeded to dismantle the Federalist State. In particular, they slashed expenditures on the army and navy. However, this made their attachment to the coercive militia system even more pronounced than that of the Federalists. Whatever its alleged dangers, the national standing army that the Federalists created was composed entirely of volunteers. In effect, they hoped to conscript a massive reserve of citizen soldiers, as was done in Switzerland.

Throughout this period, whenever the idea of militia classification was resurrected, it was simply a code that, in modern terminology, meant a national system of universal military training. The appropriation was the first grant-in-aid in U.

The original bill was introduced, ironically, by John Randolph of Roanoke, a stalwart Republican opponent of centralization. It called for a much larger annual amount. Jefferson also secured the power to use state militias in the routine, day-to-day imposition of his hated and widely resisted embargo. Monroe offered two possible ways of doing this: either the national government could draft men into the regular army for two years, or it could classify and directly draft the militia into national service for two years without going through state governments.

The Constitution of the United States

Because the war ended before national conscription could pass, this has left the mistaken impression that the U. On the contrary, state governments continuously relied upon drafts to raise more than , soldiers who served in the militia at various moments and for various durations. At other times, states drafted the militia to meet their own military needs. Many of the Maryland militia who failed to defend the U. A third plan that Monroe suggested, in the event that Congress refused to consider national conscription in any form, confirms the importance of these militia drafts.

Men who could provide another to volunteer for the regular army would receive exemptions from state militia service. Congress eventually instituted this alternative method of bringing U. Obviously, such exemptions would have been valueless if militia drafts had been rare or nonexistent. The organization of the militia is an act of public authority, not a voluntary association. The service required must be performed by all, under penalties, which delinquents pay.

The [conscription] plan proposed is not more compulsive than the militia service, while it is free from most of the objections to it. The militia service calls from home, for long terms, whole districts of the country. None can elude the call. Few can avoid the service; and those who do are compelled to pay great sums for substitutes. These numbers strikingly belie the common impression that militia drafts were nominal and unimportant. Only the awkward administrative dualism that divided responsibility between the state and national governments, coupled with increasing popular opposition to the militia, prevented the full collection of national fines after the war had ceased.

In other words, the issue that Daniel Webster so eloquently debated on the floor of the House of Representatives was not whether there should be conscription at all, but, rather, who should do the conscripting, states or the national government. Instead, each class would meet its quota through taxes, proportional to wealth, that would be sufficiently high to pay for volunteers.

Top 10 Battles of the Revolutionary War

Thus, the Troup Bill would have established a kind of primitive decentralized income tax to finance a volunteer army. It was an alternative to conscription that the militias of some states had tried during the Revolution. The House eventually passed its own version of the Giles Bill, but since the two houses could not resolve their differences, they instead passed in January of an act allowing the national government to accept up to 40, special troops organized by the states, plus any privately organized volunteer units that offered themselves, to serve for one year, with the total force not to exceed 80, Eight states, with New York at the fore, began creating special state forces.

This usually involved modifying militia laws by adding a more effective system of state classification and conscription. Peace came, however, before these forces became fully operational, and the act of January was repealed. The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut and the legislature of Rhode Island had refused at various times to furnish their state militias for national service, while a newly elected governor of Vermont had ordered his state militia to return home in the midst of a military campaign.

Not until did the U. Supreme Court, in Martin v. Mott , finally settle this jurisdictional controversy by endorsing unchecked Presidential discretion in calling state militias into national service. Less often cited, but equally significant, was the Supreme Court decision in Houston v. Moore seven years earlier.

This virtually unknown militia case actually yielded the first Court ruling on conscription. It involved a Pennsylvania man who had been drafted into the militia during the War of in response to a Presidential call. When he evaded the draft, a Pennsylvania court fined him under the national Calling Forth Act. The draft resistor challenged the constitutionality of his punishment, arguing that because he had been drafted in response to a Presidential call, only a federal court could fine him.

How an anti-government militia grew on a U.S. Army base.

In effect, he denied that Congress had either the authority or the intention to establish a concurrent administration for militia drafts, in which the state governments assessed fines that the national government collected. The Court, however, disagreed and upheld the fine. Meanwhile, nearly every subsequent President continued to suggest militia reorganization in his annual messages. Poinsett, made the last serious effort to nationalize the state militias in The national government relied for the most part upon a small regular army.

Still, during the Second Seminole War — —the first protracted counter-insurgency campaign by the U. Although the state governments continued to depend heavily upon their militias throughout the post-War of period, the entire militia system by this time was coming under sustained criticism at the state level. Launching these political attacks was a collage of radical Jacksonians, peace advocates, and moralistic reformers. The common militia also became the butt of an effective campaign of ridicule and civil disobedience.

As a result of these attacks, the compulsory features of the common militia began to ease. Delaware became the first state to repeal some of its militia fines as early as , and, in , it abolished the common militia system altogether.

Massachusetts eliminated all compulsory militia service in , followed by Maine, Ohio, and Vermont in , Connecticut and New York in , Missouri in , and New Hampshire in New Jersey eliminated imprisonment for failure to pay a militia fine in , followed by Iowa in , Michigan in , and California in In several states, fines were no longer enforced, or became truly nominal. Mandatory training days were already less frequent, and had degenerated into more social than military events.

A remarkable growth in the volunteer militia was concomitant with this decline in the common militia. Expanding steadily since the Revolution, the number of volunteer units exploded during the Jacksonian period.


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Three hundred sprang up in California between and One out of every twenty-nine people in the District of Columbia belonged to a volunteer company. With this burgeoning mass appeal, the volunteer militia was no longer the preserve of a wealthy elite.