“Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins".


Massachusetts Representative Elbridge Gerry was absolutely accurate in his statement! Before any government can impose tyranny upon the populace, they first have to disarm them! In the case of the United States, that meant that anyone in government who wished to terminate Constitutional rule and impose totalitarianism, would first have to end the Militia system, and then outlaw and confiscate all firearms in the hands of the People. The first of these two steps has already been accomplished! Although Militia laws still exist at both the Federal and State level, the whole concept that the ‘Citizen Militia’ is the ‘Palladium of Liberty’, which was so embedded in our Fore Fathers ideals, has now been entirely eradicated from the Populace. (Palladium means Safeguard).


How to Defend Home and Land?


Ever since the establishment of the Colonies in North America in the early 17th Century, and right through into the later half of the 19th Century, the Idea of an ‘Armed Populace’ or ‘Citizens Militia’ to defend home and land was predominant. It was believed that, instead of depending on a compensated military, that each and every individual, armed, trained, and ready, was indeed the best way to secure one’s nation against foreign invasion or tyranny in government! What Follows are some examples of early American Militia Statutes.



16th Century Militia Laws in Massachusetts - The Bay Colony


"The first General Court (legislative session) in the New World took place on 25 August 1630. On 22 March 1631 the General Court established the first military legislation—a simple requirement for universal military service phrased as a requirement for all adult males (except ministers and magistrates) to possess arms; towns were to furnish arms to indigents (and later collect the costs) . This law implemented a concept fundamental in England since the Assize of Arms (1185), and marked the first of a long series of laws attempting to enforce this requirement (for example on 12 April 1631 a basic load of ammunition was specified)... Yet another comprehensive militia law was enacted on 26 May 1652 to codify the various features which had crept in through amendments and special purpose laws. This law required for the first time that all minorities (defined in the act as Scotsmen, Negroes and Indians) living in a town either as settlers, or servants of settlers, to participate in training as members of companies" (From Massachusetts Militia Roots - Bay Colony - 17th Century).


Militias in Virginia between 1600 - 1785


"Organized armed Civilians, known as the Militia, were the Colonies only protection against Indian raids, internal revolt, and the threat of Spanish and Dutch invasions. During the Early years of the century (1600's) All able bodied men, including indentured servants and slaves, were expected to participate in Militia activities. By the end of the century, membership in the Militia was more restrictive" (John D. Rockefeller, Jr Library at Colonial Williamsburg - Researching 17th Century Virginians - Page 4).


During the Revolutionary War years, Thomas Jefferson was the Governor of Virginia from June 1779 - June 1781. While Governor of Virginia, Jefferson stated that by law, all males ages 16 to 50, who were not disabled, were enrolled in the Virginia Militia. Jefferson wrote: "Query IX - The Number and Condition of the Militia and Regular Troops, And Their Pay - Every able-bodied freeman, between the ages of sixteen and fifty, is enrolled in the militia. Those of every county are formed into companies, and these again into one or more battalions, according to the numbers in the county. They are commanded by Colonels, and other subordinate officers, as in the Regular Service. In every county is a country-lieutenant, who commands the whole militia of his country, but ranks only as a Colonel in the field. We have no General officers existing. These are appointed occasionally, when an invasion or insurrection happens, and their commission determines with the occasion. The Governor is head of the military as well as civil power. The law requires every militia-man to provide himself with the arms usual to the Regular Service. But this injunction was always indifferently complied with, and the arms they had have been so frequently called for to arm the Regulars, that in the lower parts of the country they are entirely disarmed. In the middle country a fourth or fifth part of them may have such firelocks as they had provided to destroy the noxious animals which infest their farms; and on the western side of the Blue Ridge, they are generally armed with rifles. The pay of our militia, as well as our Regulars, of whom we have none but Continentals, and part of a battalion of state troops, is so constantly on the change, that a state of it at this day would not be its state a month hence. It is much the same with the condition of the other Continental troops, which is well enough known" (Thomas Jefferson's Writings, Paris - dated 1782).


North Carolina Militias - 1777


North Carolina had a Militia Statute similar to that of Virginia. Hugh Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome tell us on pages 225-226 in their book 'North Carolina - The History of a Southern State' published in 1954, that: "State Militia - Realizing that the militia was the 'first line of defense', the first General Assembly of the new state in 1777 passed an 'Act To Establish A Militia in This State' under which all free white males, ages sixteen to sixty, inclusive, were subject to militia service... Governor Martin, in 1782, placed the figure of state militia at 26,822".


Who is the Militia


In Fact, every Colony (and later every State), had some type of Law or Statute that Required Militia Service! Why? Because our Fore-Fathers felt that it was each man’s Duty to Protect his Family, his Home, his State, his Country; and yes, His Liberties and Freedoms as well! While Debating in Congress the issue of Standing Armies vs. Militias, Representative Randolph stated: "A People who mean to continue Free must be prepared to meet Danger in Person, and not to rely upon the fallacious protection of mercenary armies". So, the first question we must answer is, exactly who are the ‘Militia’?


"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American.... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people" - Tench Coxe - The Pennsylvania Gazette - Feb. 20, 1788.


"A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves and include all men capable of bearing arms …To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms " - Richard Henry Lee - Letters From the Federal Farmer (1788). “I ask, who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." - George Mason, during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788).


Justice Joseph Story, in his highly esteemed Commentaries on the Constitution (1833) described the militia in this manner: "The Militia is the natural defense of a free country against foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample the rights of the people. The right of a citizen to keep and bear arms has justly been considered the palladium of the liberties of the republic, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them... We can see why the Articles of Confederation prescribed that 'every State shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage".



The Militia is Not the National Guard!


I can tell you that when the Founding Fathers used the word Militia, it meant something quite different than what it means to many today. When the Constitution was ratified, there was no such thing as the National Guard, or the Uniform (Enrolled) Militia. The National Guard didn’t exist when the 2nd Amendment was written, either. It came into existence well over a century later. The Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791. The act that created the National Guard wasn’t enacted until 1903. It was not until May of 1792, five months after the adoption of the 2nd Amendment, that the Militia Act became law (The Militia Act of 1792 - An Act more effectually to provide for the National Defense, by establishing a Uniform (Enrolled) Militia throughout the United States). The Militia Act required every able-bodied male citizen who was between the ages of eighteen years and forty-four years old to have a military rifle and the ammunition for it, and to report regularly for Militia Duties and Exercises. These military firearms were to be kept in the Militia Members' Private Homes; not in some State Armory, as is the case with the National Guard. The Militia Act, for the first time, brought standardization to all State Militias, and gave distinction between the Uniformed (Enrolled) Militia, and the Unorganized Militia. Before the passing of this act in 1792, there was only the Unorganized Militia, and it is that Militia to which the 2nd Amendment refers. It couldn’t refer to the Uniformed (Enrolled) Militia, because it didn’t exist yet. Read the Militia act. It will confirm that the 2nd Amendment came before the Federal law that created the Uniformed (Enrolled) Militia. Since the ONLY Militia that existed prior to the Passage of the Bill of Rights was the UNORGANIZED Militia, then it must be this Militia to which the Second Amendment refers. So, the 2nd Amendment was to ensure that the Unorganized Militia (All Citizens Capable of Bearing Arms) were to always be armed. Legally, both militias still exist.


Read this excerpt from the Virginia State Constitution written in 1776, many years BEFORE the adoption of the 2nd Amendment, and the passing of the Militia Act: “Constitution of Virginia - Article I - Bill of Rights - Section 13. Militia; standing armies; military subordinate to civil power - That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power”.


Another aspect to consider is the New Hampshire State Constitution, which makes an obvious distinction between the National Guard, the State Guard, and the Unorganized Militia. This distinction remains as a Part of New Hampshire’s Constitution to this day.


New Hampshire State Constitution- 110-B:1 Composition of the Militia

I. The militia shall be divided into 3 classes, namely the National Guard, the State Guard, and the Unorganized Militia.

II. The National Guard shall consist of an Army National Guard, an Air National Guard, and an Inactive National Guard. As used in this chapter, the term " National Guard” shall mean and refer to the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard unless otherwise indicated.

III. The State Guard shall consist of those persons serving in accordance with the provisions of RSA 111.

IV. The Unorganized Militia shall consist of all able-bodied residents of the state who are 18 years of age or older, who are, or have declared their intention to become, citizens of the United States, and who are not serving in the National Guard or the State Guard.


1982 Senate Subcommittee Report on the Constitution


"Subsequent legislation in the second Congress likewise supports the interpretation of the Second Amendment that creates an individual right. In the Militia Act of 1792, the second Congress defined ‘Militia of the United States’ to include almost every free adult male in the United States. These persons were obligated by law to possess a firearm and a minimum supply of ammunition and military equipment. This statute, incidentally, remained in effect into the early years of the present century as a legal requirement of gun ownership for most of the population of the United States. There can by little doubt from this that when the Congress and the people spoke of a ‘Militia’, they had reference to the traditional concept of the entire populace capable of bearing arms, and not to any formal group such as what is today called the National Guard. The purpose was to create an armed citizenry, which the political theorists at the time considered essential to ward off tyranny. From this Militia, appropriate measures might create a ‘Well Regulated Militia’ of individuals trained in their duties and responsibilities as citizens and owners of firearms” – 1982 Report by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, The Right To Keep And Bear Arms – Preface - Orrin G. Hatch.


Standing Armies; the Bane of Liberty!


The Founders believed that the right to arms was a necessary ingredient in a Free Society. Bearing arms enabled an individual citizen to defend himself, his home and family. A group of arms-bearing citizens functioning as a militia enabled the citizenry at large to defend itself against tyranny. A professional army was seen as an instrument that could be used by a tyrannical government to subjugate its citizens. The presence of an armed citizenry served as a visible reminder to the government of the ability of the people to remove such government by force if necessary. Militias also served to eliminate the possibility of a coup by ambitious military leaders. Finally, the militia served as an instrument through which republican virtues could be transmitted to generations of new citizens. Because its membership was universal, there was little danger the militia itself could be employed in the service of tyranny, since its interests were considered interchangeable to those of the community from which the militia drew its members. Furthermore, the local nature of the militia assured that its uses would be defensive. A professional army, on the other hand, tied geographically to no one place, might constantly agitate for a policy of expansion and military adventurism. Just how did the Founders feel about the idea of a ‘Standing Army’?


Noah Webster, a patriot and scholar, wrote that: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States".


"What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now, it must be evident, that, under this provision, together with their other powers, Congress could take such measures with respect to a militia, as to make a standing army necessary. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins" - Massachusetts Representative Elbridge Gerry, House of Representatives; Amendments to the Constitution - Amendment 2 - August 17th - 20th, 1789.


"Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction" - St. George Tucker (1803).


"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 the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens" - Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No 29.


Debate in Virginia Constitutional Ratifying Convention - 14 June 1788 - Article 1 - Section 8 - Clause 12: To Raise and Support Armies


Mr. George Mason: “But when once a standing army is established in any country, the people lose their liberty... Why should we not provide against the danger of having our militia, our real and natural strength, destroyed... But we need not give them power to abolish our militia. If they neglect to arm them, and prescribe proper discipline, they will be of no use... They may effect the destruction of the militia, by rendering the service odious to the people themselves, by harassing them from one end of the continent to the other, and by keeping them under martial law".


Mr. James Madison: “Mr. Chairman, I most cordially agree, with the honorable member last up, that a standing army is one of the greatest mischiefs that can possibly happen. It is a great recommendation for this system, that it provides against this evil more than any other system known to us, and, particularly, more than the old system of confederation. The most effectual way to guard against a standing army, is to render it unnecessary. The most effectual way to render it unnecessary, is to give the general government full power to call forth the militia, and exert the whole natural strength of the Union, when necessary. Thus you will furnish the people with sure and certain protection, without recurring to this evil".


Mr. Patrick Henry: “The militia, sir, is our ultimate safety. We can have no security without it... The great object is, that every man be armed".


Mr. George Nicholas: “We must either empower them (government) to employ, and rely altogether on, a standing army; or depend altogether on militia; or else we must enable them to use the one or the other of these two ways, as may be found most expedient. If a standing army were alone to be employed, such an army must be kept up in time of peace as would be sufficient in war. The dangers of such an army are so striking that every man would oppose the adoption of this government, had it been proposed by it as the only mode of defense. Would it be safe to depend on militia alone, without the agency of regular forces, even in time of war? Were we to be invaded by a powerful, disciplined army, should we be safe with militia? Could men unacquainted with the hardships, and unskilled in the discipline of war; men only inured to the peaceable occupations of domestic life, encounter with success the most skilful veterans, inured to the fatigues and toils of campaigns? Although some people are pleased with the theory of reliance on militia, as the sole defense of a nation, yet I think it will be found, in practice, to be by no means adequate... As these two ways are ineligible, let us consider the third method. Does this Constitution put this on a proper footing? It enables Congress to raise an army when necessary, or to call forth the militia when necessary. What will be the consequence of their having these two powers? Till there be a necessity for an army to be raised, militia will do. And when an army will be raised, the militia will still be employed, which will render a less numerous army sufficient. By these means, there will be a sufficient defense for the country, without having a standing army altogether, or oppressing the people".


Gov. Edmund Randolph: “With respect to a standing army, I believe there was not a member in the federal Convention, who did not feel indignation at such an institution. What remedy, then, could be provided? Leave the country defenseless? In order to provide for our defense, and exclude the dangers of a standing army, the general defense is left to those who are the objects of defense. It is left to the militia, who will suffer if they become the instruments of tyranny... Is it not incredible that men who are interested in the happiness of their country; whose friends, relations, and connections, must be involved in the fate of their country, should turn against their country... I appeal to every man whether, if any of our own officers were called upon to destroy the liberty of their country, he believes they would assent to such an act of suicide"?


The Beginning of the End of Militias


After the Spanish-American war of 1898, Federal defense policymakers, assisted by a group of retired professional military officers, began to lobby for changing the State Militia system. Secretary of War Elihu Root initiated a program of reorganization in the military establishment, resulting in the passage of ‘The Dick Act’ in 1903. The Dick Act signified the beginning of the end of the old, essentially state-controlled Militia system. The Act required the States to submit to numerous federal requirements regarding the training, housing, and equipping of the State Militias. The Dick Act was the first in a succession of Legislation from Congress that made the States an offer they couldn't refuse: “FREE” training and equipment, in exchange for relinquishing control of the Militia. The states happily complied. This was the birth of the National Guard System that we now have today in every State.


On January 3, 1916, President Wilson further diminished the powers of the People as a Militia by way of ‘The National Defense Act of 1916’. This Act authorized the use of the newly constituted 'National Guard' to serve beyond the borders of the United States. The inability to order the militia beyond the borders of the United States arose from the fact that the role of militias was entirely defensive. Without hesitation, Congress passed the National Defense Act, knowing that America was gearing up to become involved in WWI; the war to end all wars. The Federal Government had now devised a clever way to sidestep the Constitutional prohibition against foreign use of militia troops: President Wilson was authorized to draft state Guard members into federal service as ‘Reserve Troops’. Congress subsequently passed ‘The National Defense Act Amendments’ in 1920 as well!


For its part, the Supreme Court upheld this Constitutional end-run in ‘The Selective Draft Law Cases - Arver v. US’ (1918), Ruling that the power to draft members of the National Guard into the Regular (Standing) Army, as well as the power to compel civilians to render military service, was granted to the President by the Constitution. Subsequently, President Wilson began drafting whole regiments into the Reserves. Moreover, the National Defense Act, as a condition precedent to the receipt of federal funds, forced the states to cede most of whatever control over the Militia that remained, including the Constitutional prerogative to appoint officers to command the Militia.

Do you see the strategy starting to emerge? The federal government imposes ever increasing and costly demands upon the States; the States are forced to accept federal money in order to comply with these demands; yet must also accept the loss of control that goes along with the money. The end result? The Militia was destroyed, while a Standing Army was created! A Standing Army, by the way, which would be taking orders only from the President. What was once rule from the bottom up, had now become rule from the top down.


The Militia Today


The demonization of the lawful Militia that following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City put the final nails in the coffin for the ‘Citizen Militia’. Today, Militias are viewed as places where right wing, neo-nazi, gun-toting freaks gather to plot the next overthrow of America! What was once considered the ‘Palladium of Liberty’, is today looked at with abhorrence! And yet, some State Constitutions still not only recognize the ‘Unorganized Militia’, but provide for their calling forth in times of trouble! New Hampshire is one such State!


New Hampshire State Constitution- 110-C:3 Registration and Draft of Unorganized Militia.

I. Whenever it shall be deemed necessary, the governor may direct the members of the Unorganized Militia to present themselves for and submit to registration at such time and place and in such manner as the governor may prescribe in regulations issued pursuant to this chapter.

II. Whenever it shall be necessary in case of invasion, disaster, insurrection, riot, breach of the peace, or imminent danger thereof, or to maintain the National Guard at the number required for public safety or prescribed by the laws of the United States, the governor may call for and accept from the Unorganized Militia as many volunteers as are required for service in the National Guard, or the governor may direct the members of the Unorganized Militia or such of them as may be necessary to be drafted into the National Guard.


In Conclusion


"The whole history of Mankind proves that so far from parting with the powers actually delegated to it, Government is consistently encroaching on the small pittance of Rights reserved by the People to themselves, and gradually wresting them out of their hands until it either terminates in their Slavery or forces them to Arms, and brings about a Revolution" - Luther Martin, Delegate to the Philadelphia Convention, March 28th, 1788.


Without the ‘Unorganized Militia’ and our ‘Right To Keep And Bear Arms’, how could we abide by Luther Martin’s forewarning? The question is, how do we rebuild our Militia system, and take back what is rightfully ours? How do we rekindle in each and every Citizen, that burning Fervor and Desire for Liberty, Freedom, and Rights; that burned so Passionately in our Fore-Fathers Hearts and Minds? Because, I fear, if we fail to do so, the Consequences in the end will be to terrible to contemplate!


2003 - 2004 Northwdsnh

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