When a country starts, certain laws, regulations and acts must be instituted. There must be some control by the government and much of that is adopted through trial and error as well as discovering a problem that must be solved.
In 1791, the United States was facing major debt as a result of the Revolution and were also trying to deal with native Americans (Indians) who were not abiding by the terms of the treaty made between the U.S. and Britain.
What resulted was a disastrous battle between U.S. forces and the Western Confederacy of American Indians. Called the Battle of the Wabash, it is also known as St. Clair’s Defeat. General St. Clair led over 1,000 soldiers against Indians from these tribes:
- The Miamis
- and the Delawares
St. Clair’s forces were plummeted and only 24 escaped unharmed.
President Washington forced St. Clair to resign and Congress enacted a full investigation.
The results were the First and Second Militia Acts of 1792.
In today’s post, I am going to give you the top 11 facts about these militia acts. You can see just how they may affect you today.
Fact #1: Providing The President More Power Over State Militias
The original United States Constitution allowed Congress to call up State Militias, but in a dire emergency, could this be done quickly enough?
These Acts allowed the President the power to call forth State Militias without Congressional meeting.
Fact #2: What State Militias The President Can Call Up
The President is given the okay to use his/her judgment as to what Militias they can call up. It was generally stated that they should be in close proximity to the area of concern. But the President can call Militias from one State into another.
Fact #3: 18 – 45
Many people feel this part of the 2nd Militia Act should be reinstated.
It said that every free able-bodied white male citizen in their prospective State will be enrolled in that State’s Militia.
Fact #4: Must Own A Rifle
This may cause the anti-gun people to slew a bunch of debate, but the Militia Acts of 1792 actually required all those listed in Fact #3 to own a rifle.
It was not an option, it was required.
Now we have certain officials wanting to completely do away with that measure of safety.
It seems people like the North Korean leader and others would love it if they knew no American citizens could own firearms.
Fact #5: Replaced By Dick Act
Much of the first and Second Militia Act’s language was replaced by the Dick Act of 1903.
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Fact #6: Gave Federal Precedence Over State
The Militia Acts of 1792 allowed the President to send forth State Militias to enforce Federal Laws that any State was tempted to undermine.
If the Militia Acts were still in force, the President would have the right to send the National Guard to enforce the Federal laws against marijuana in States such as Colorado and others.
Fact #7: Short Term
While many people bring the First and Second Militia Acts into political debates now, often left out is the term of the acts. They were only good for 2 years. So many other Militia Acts came into the picture before the Dick Act of 1903 that is in main use today.
Fact #8: First Used
President Washington did invoke the 1792 Militia Acts just before they expired in 1794. He used it to halt the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. This was a tax put on liquors to help get the country out of financial problems. Many protesters equated it to similar taxation the British used.
Fact #9: Pay
Any Militia members called up will receive the same pay as United States troops. They are also subject to all the same rules and articles of war.
They also only had to serve 3 months in any given year.
Fact #10: Anti-Gun People Have Tried To Use The 1792 Militia Acts To Limit The Wording Of The 2nd Amendment
Anti-gun activists have actually attempted to use the process that gun ownership was only given to defend against enemies of the nation, not for all-around defense of families. They use the 1792 Militia Acts to try and make this point.
But gun rights attorneys pointed out that the 2nd amendment was worded quite carefully as if it was prophesied this would happen. The Supreme Court has agreed that Americans DO have a right to own guns.
Fact #11: If Anyone Disobeys
It is interesting to note that if anyone disobeyed the Presidential order within these 1792 Acts, they would be under court martial.
The penalties would be:
- Fined no more than 1 year’s pay and not less than 1 month’s pay.
- Officers would be liable to be relieved of duty and put down to enlisted ranks.
- NCOs and enlisted could be imprisoned for the sentence or for non payment of the fine which would be 1 month for every $5 of the fine.
I do sometimes wonder how our nation would be if these acts had never expired.
I will say that I am happy there are a few of my neighbors I am glad do not own firearms. This act would require them to do so.
It is interesting knowing how our country has progressed to where we are today. Believe it or not, we do live in the greatest nation in the world and we have great leadership.
You may not think so but the checks and balances keep everyone in line. The 1st and 2nd Militia Acts of 1792 showed just how checks and balances could work and our Government grew wiser as we moved forward.
No, we are not perfect. But we also don’t have a system that is holding us down like North Korea, Burma, and others.
What I mean is, be thankful for the country we live in. If you don’t like the political situation, use your rights to change it. But please, in doing so consider the rights of other people who may not agree with you.
That is what I have to say. Let’s hear your views.
You can leave all comments, questions and feedback below.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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2 thoughts on “First & Second Militia Acts Of 1792: Top 11 Facts”
When exactly did the federal government stop enforcing the requirements of the 1792 and 1795 Acts? Clearly no one was being fined or punished for not owning a musket by the middle of the 19th century. Did the federal government ever actually take enforcement of this provision on itself or was it left up to the states? Did anyone ever say “hey, you know, technically this is a law- why isn’t it being enforced?”
Great question, Michael. Unfortunately, I do not know the answer. Maybe someone else can chime in here and help.