Militia Act of 1792

Militia Act of 1792

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The Militia Act of 1792 was a series of statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

s enacted by the second United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 in 1792. The act provided for the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 to take command of the state militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

s in times of imminent invasion or insurrection.

History


The Militia Acts were passed in response to the overwhelming U.S. losses at St. Clair's Defeat
St. Clair's Defeat
St. Clair's Defeat also known as the Battle of the Wabash, the Battle of Wabash River or the Battle of a Thousand Slain, was fought on November 4, 1791 in the Northwest Territory between the United States and the Western Confederacy of American Indians, as part of the Northwest Indian War...

. There were, in fact, two Militia Acts passed by the U.S. Congress in 1792.

First Militia Act of 1792


The first Act, passed May 2, 1792, provided for the authority of the President to call out the militias of the several states
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

, "whenever the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe." The law also authorized the President to call the militias into Federal service "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". This provision likely referred to uprisings such as Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War....

 or the Whiskey Rebellion
Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion, or Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States in the 1790s, during the presidency of George Washington. Farmers who sold their corn in the form of whiskey had to pay a new tax which they strongly resented...

 in opposition to the judicial collection of debts and tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

es.

Second Militia Act of 1792


The second Act, passed May 8, 1792, provided for the organization of the state militias. It conscripted
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 every "free able-bodied white male citizen" between the ages of 18 and 45 into a local militia company overseen by the state. Militia members were to arm themselves with a musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

, bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

 and belt, two spare flints, a cartridge box with 24 bullets, and a knapsack. Men owning rifles were required to provide a powder horn, 1/4 pound of gun powder, 20 rifle balls, a shooting pouch, and a knapsack. Some occupations were exempt, such as congressmen, stagecoach drivers, and ferryboatmen. Otherwise, men were required to report for training twice a year, usually in the Spring and Fall.

Organization


The militias were divided into "division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s, brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s, regiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s, battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s, and companies
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

" as the state legislatures would direct. The provisions of the first Act governing the calling up of the militia by the President in case of invasion or obstruction to law enforcement were continued in the second Act. Court martial proceedings were authorized by the statute against militia members who disobeyed orders.

These Militia Acts were amended by the Militia Act of 1862
Militia Act of 1862
The Militia Act of 1862, , enacted July 17, 1862, was legislation enacted by the 37th United States Congress during the American Civil War that allowed African-Americans to participate as war laborers and soldiers for the first time since the Militia Act of 1792.The act created controversy on...

, which allowed African-Americans to serve in the militias of the United States. They were replaced by the Militia Act of 1903
Militia Act of 1903
The National Guard Bureau is the federal instrument responsible for the administration of the National Guard of the United States established by the United States Congress as a joint bureau of the Department of the Army and the Department of the Air Force. It was created by the Militia Act of 1903...

, which established the United States National Guard
United States National Guard
The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of state National Guard militia members or units under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United States. Militia members are citizen soldiers, meaning they work part time for the National...

 as the chief body of organized military reserves in the United States.

Portions of the Act


The first portion of the Act of 1792, the "providing for the authority of the President to call out the Militia"
was signed into law by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 on May 2, 1792 to give the President authority to call out the Militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...


"whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe...........[or]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 second portion of the Militia Act of 1792, providing federal standards for the organization of the Militia. was passed on May 8, 1792, and signed into law on February 28, 1795. The second portion clarified who the militia consists of and what duties, and penalties were placed upon the militia forces.
"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 power 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."


The Militia act of 1792 was amended in 1795 to grant the President even more power over the use of the militia;
"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,.........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."


After Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War....

, the need for an internal (and external if necessary) defense structure became quite evident to Washington and the Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

. In 1792, Congress enacted this law, strengthening the President's authority under Article 2, section 2, paragraph 1 of the Federal Constitution, by granting him the power to call forth the militia of the several states under certain conditions. The law was the very first to give the executive branch any war powers besides confirming a state of war if a declaration was passed by Congress. The law corrected the inefficiency and slow reaction of the Congress when it was not in session, as was evident during Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War....

. This law corrected the problem of any major rebellion becoming a significant threat to the shaky Federal unity of the various states.

The law was first invoked, in 1794, by George Washington to put down the Whiskey rebellion
Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion, or Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States in the 1790s, during the presidency of George Washington. Farmers who sold their corn in the form of whiskey had to pay a new tax which they strongly resented...

 in Western Pennsylvania.

Summary


  • An Act to provide for the National Defense
    National defense
    National defense may refer to:*National security, a nation's use of military, economic and political power to maintain survival*National missile defense, a military strategy to shield a country from missiles...

     by establishing a Uniform Militia throughout the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

    .
  • This act provides that "...every able-bodied white male citizen...of the age of 18 years and under the age of 45...be enrolled in the militia...Every citizen so enrolled...shall within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket
    Musket
    A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

     or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt "and...not less than twenty-four cartridges..."
  • The act also provided "that if any person, officer or soldier...called out into the service of the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

    , be wounded or disabled while in actual service, he shall be taken care of and provided for at the public expense."
  • This legislation creating the young nation's first National Conscription Act was passed by the Second Congress, and signed in script type by President George Washington
    George Washington
    George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

     on May 8, 1792.
  • The Act calls for the creation of brigades, divisions, regiments and battalions of companies within each state. It also calls for a specific number of officers and troops for each military unit.
  • Certain persons are exempt from military duty including the Vice President of the United States
    Vice President of the United States
    The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

    , the members of both Houses of Congress and Custom House
    Custom House
    A custom house or customs house was a building housing the offices for the government officials who processed the paperwork for the import and export of goods into and out of a country. Customs officials also collected customs duty on imported goods....

     officials, among others.
  • Page 1 of this newspaper also contains another Act "relative to the Compensation to certain officers employed in the Collection of the Duties of Impost and Tonnage."
  • Signed in script type by George Washington
    George Washington
    George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

    , May 8, 1792.
  • Also in this issue...on page 3: A report from the Massachusetts General Court
    Massachusetts General Court
    The Massachusetts General Court is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the Colonial Era, when this body also sat in judgment of judicial appeals cases...

     that John Hancock
    John Hancock
    John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

     and Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

     are sworn in as governor
    Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
    The Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts is the first in the line to discharge the powers and duties of the office of governor following the incapacitation of the Governor of Massachusetts...

     and lieutenant governor
    Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
    The Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts is the first in the line to discharge the powers and duties of the office of governor following the incapacitation of the Governor of Massachusetts...

    , respectively of the state of Massachusetts
    Massachusetts
    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

    after the recent election.

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