- Militia Acts of 1792
The Militia Act of 1792 was a series of statutes enacted by the second United States Congress in 1792. The act provided for the President of the United States to take command of the state militias in times of imminent invasion or insurrection.
The Militia Acts were passed in response to the overwhelming U.S. losses at St. Clair's Defeat. 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, "whenever the United States 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 or the Whiskey Rebellion in opposition to the judicial collection of debts and taxes.
Second Militia Act of 1792
The second Act, passed May 8, 1792, provided for the organization of the state militias. It conscripted 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, bayonet 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.
The militias were divided into "divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, and companies" 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, which allowed African-Americans to serve in the militias of the United States. They were replaced by the Militia Act of 1903, which established the United States National Guard as the chief body of organized military reserves in the United States.
Portions of the Act
The first portion of the Militia Act of 1792, the "providing for the authority of the President to call out the Militia" was signed into law by President George Washington on May 2, 1792 to give the President authority to call out the Militia
- "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, the need for an internal (and external if necessary) defense structure became quite evident to Washington and the Congress. 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. 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 in Western Pennsylvania.
- An Act to provide for the National Defense by establishing a Uniform Militia throughout the United States.
- 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 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, 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 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, the members of both Houses of Congress and Custom House 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, May 8, 1792.
- Also in this issue...on page 3: A report from the Massachusetts General Court that John Hancock and Samuel Adams are sworn in as governor and lieutenant governor, respectively of the state of Massachusetts after the recent election.
- ^ Schecter, Barnet (2010). George Washington's America. A Biography Through His Maps. New York: Walker & Company. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-8027-1748-1.
- ^ Militia Act of 1792, May 2, 1792, art. I, ss. 1
- ^ Militia Act of 1792, May 2, 1792, art. I, ss. 2
- ^ Militia Act of 1792, May 8, 1792, art. I, ss. 1(i)
- ^ Militia Act of 1792, May 8, 1792, art. I, ss. 1(iii)3
- ^ Militia Act of 1792, May 8, 1792, art. I, ss. 3
- ^ Militia Act of 1792, May 2, 1792, art. I, ss. 5
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