The Rise and Decline of the American Militia System

The Rise and Decline of the American Militia System

The Rise and Decline of the American Militia System

The Rise and Decline of the American Militia System


"The American militia system fulfilled many roles in colonial America. It offered protection for the colonists, provided a sense of community to the new settlers, and was an instrument of integration for subsequent immigrants. In the Revolution the militia did home-guard duty and acted as a reservoir of trained manpower for the Continental Line, although many militiamen fought alongside the regular army in crucial engagements. The emergence of a true standing army, and the general failure of the militia in the War of 1812, led to decreased reliance upon it. After 1900, Elihu Root demanded that the militia law and training be revised, leading to a nationalization of the system and the replacement of traditional militias with the national guard system. By World War I, the dual enlistment clause made militiamen simultaneously members of the militias of their own states and members of a national militia that could be deployed as the federal government chose. Still, as recently as the 1980s the national government and the states clashed over the training of militias beyond the nation's boundary." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The publication of this book marks the third part of my study of man and arms. in the first I studied the U. S. Constitution and its historical background; in the second I studied man and arms and the hunt in this book we will look at men organized into groups, known as militia, training to protect their homes and property. When my study of firearm legislation and the right to keep and bear arms, Our Vanishing Freedom, was published there had been only three books and two law review articles published on the subject. Likewise, when I published my study of firearms and hunting, The Right to Hunt, there were only a few other studies of this aspect of hunting, none of the scholarly type. There have been only a few studies of the militia to date, none concerned with the aspects with which we are concerned here.

Most studies of the right to keep and bear arms published heretofore have incorrectly assumed that the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and similar provisions in state constitutions were designed exclusively to protect militia rights, or the right of states to form, train, arm, discipline and appoint officers to the militias. the vast majority of the published articles that favor an individual right to keep and bear arms have assumed that the only way individuals have a right to have arms is as a member of the militia. This would seem to invalidate the right to bear arms of conscientious objectors (who may wish to hunt or shoot recreationally), those over or under the age for militia service, women, those physically unfit for militia duty, and any other person who is not a member of the militia.

A review of the relationship between man and arms is pertinent here. First, in any system of limited government, such as that found in America and based on John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and their respective views of the open society, there is the assumption that a person's property can be secure from arbitrary seizure and capricious controls. Does government have the right to arbitrarily, actually, or effectively confiscate an individual's arms? in the western liberal tradition it is very difficult to respond in the affirmative. Guns have been the legitimate tool for two lawful human activities: self-protection and recreational shooting.

Hunting rights were once reserved for kings and their courts, but with the expansion of liberal values, all humans acquired the right to hunt. As we shall see when we discuss the findings of the Arthur D. Little consulting firm, and as both classical and Renaissance writers such as Xenophon and Machiavelli knew, hunting skills are useful for the prospective soldier. But the reason one has the right to hunt has nothing to do with the formation of the community's militia. We would enjoy the right to hunt were there no improvement in the hunter's military skills. That hunting skills are useful to the armed forces is simply a desirable secondary effect of a citizen enjoying his hunting rights. the primary effect of hunting is to satiate the desire to track, locate, stalk, and kill wild animals.

Each person has a right to defend self, family, property, and even strangers and their property against an injury attempted by another party. the essential elements of protection . . .

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