The Potowmack Institute

Other historical resources are provided at:

John Kenneth Rowland, .../1197row.html, previously unpublished PhD dissertation, Ohio State, 1978.
John Kenneth Rowland, Appendix A, US v. Emerson,
Lawrence Cress, "An Armed Community: The Origins and the Meaning of the Right to Bear Arms," J. Am. Hist., 1984.
Leon Friedman, Conscription and the Constitution,Mich. L. Rev., 1969.
Don Higginbotham, The Second Amendment in Historical Context,Constitutional Commentary, October, 1999.

See our Resources File for more.

See also:
George Washington, 1783, "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment".

Henry Knox, George Washington, 1790, "Organization of the Militia,". Plan submitted to Congress, January 1790.




Henry Knox
Secretary of War

That a well constituted Republic is more favorable to the liberties of society, and that its principles give an higher elevation to the human mind than any other form of Government, has generally been acknowledged by the unprejudiced and enlightened part of mankind.

But it is at the same time acknowledged, that unless a Republic prepares itself by proper arrangements to meet those exigencies to which all States are in a degree liable, that its peace and existence are more precarious than the forms of Government in which the will of one directs the conduct of the whole for the defence of the nation.

A Government whose measures must be the result of multiplied deliberations, is seldom in a situation to produce instantly those exertions which the occasion may demand; therefore it ought to possess such energetic establishments as should enable it by the vigor of its own citizens, to controul events as they arise instead of being convulsed or subverted by them.

It is the misfortune of modern ages that Governments have been formed by chance and events instead of system— that without fixed principles they are braced or relaxed from time to time according to the predominating power of the rulers, or the ruled— The rulers possessing separate interests from the people excepting in some of the high toned Monarchies, in which all opposition to the will of the princes seems annihilated.

Hence we look round Europe in vain for an extensive Government rising on the power inherent in the people, and performing its operations entirely for their benefit— But we find artificial force governing every where, and the people generally made subservient to the elevation and caprice of the few— Almost every nation appearing to be busily employed in conducting some external War— grappling with internal commotion— or endeavoring to extricate itself from impending debts which threaten to overwhelm it with ruin— Princes and Ministers seem neither to have leisure nor inclination to bring forward institutions for diffusing general strength, knowledge, and happiness— But they seem to understand well the Machivalian maxim of politics, divide and govern.

May the United States avoid the errors and crimes of other Governments, and possess the wisdom to embrace the present invaluable opportunity of establishing such institutions as shall invigorate, exalt, and perpetuate, the great principles of freedom— an opportunity pregnant with the fate of millions, but rapidly borne on the wings of time, and may never again return.

The public mind unbiased by superstition or prejudice seems happily prepared to receive the impressions of wisdom— The latent springs of human action ascertained by the standard of experience, may be regulated and made subservient to the noble purpose of forming a dignified national character.

The causes by which nations, have ascended and declined through the various ages of the world, may be calmly and accurately determined; and the United States may be placed in the singularly fortunate condition of commencing their career of Empire with the accumulated knowledge of all the known societies and Governments of the Globe.

The strength of the Government like the strength of any other vast and complicated machine will depend on a due adjustment of its several parts— Its agriculture, its commerce, its laws, its finance, its system of defence, and its manners and habits all require consideration, and the highest exercise of political wisdom.

It is the intention of the present attempt to suggest the most efficient system of defence which may be compatible with the interests of a free people; a system which shall not only produce the expected effect, but in its operations shall also produce those habits and manners which will impart strength and durability to the whole Government.

The modern practice of Europe with respect to the employment of standing Armies has created such a mass of opinion in their favor that even Philosophers, and the advocates for liberty have frequently confessed their use and necessity in certain cases.

But whoever seriously and candidly estimates the power of discipline and the tendency of military habits will be constrained to confess, that whatever may be the efficacy of a standing Army in War, it cannot in peace be considered as friendly to the rights of human nature— The recent instance in France cannot with propriety be brought to overturn the general principle built upon the uniform experience of mankind— It may be found on examining the causes that appear to have influenced the Military of France, that while the springs of power were wound up in the nation to the highest pitch, that the discipline of the army was proportionably relaxed— But any argument on this head may be considered as unnecessary to the enlightened citizens of the United States.

A small Corps of well disciplined and well informed Artillerists and Engineers— and a Legion for the protection of the frontiers, and the Magazines and Arsenals are all the Military establishment which may be required for the present use of the United States— The privates of the Corps to be enlisted for a certain period and after the expiration of which to return to the mass of the Citizens.

An energetic National Militia is to be regarded as the capital security of a free republic, and not a standing Army forming a distinct class in the community.

It is the introduction and diffusion of vice and corruption of manners into the mass of the people that render a standing army necessary— It is when public spirit is despised, and avarice, indolence, and effeminacy of manners, predominate and prevent the establishment of institutions, which would elevate the minds of the youth in the paths of virtue and honor, that a standing Army is formed and rivetted forever.

While the human character remains unchanged, and societies and Governments of considerable extent are formed— a principle ever ready to execute the laws and defend the State must constantly exist— Without this vital principle, the Government would be invaded or overturned and trampled upon by the bold and ambitious— no community can be long held together unless its arrangements are adequate to its probable exigencies.

If it should be decided to reject a standing Army for the military branch of the Government of the United States as possessing too feirce an aspect, and being hostile to the principles of liberty it will follow that a well constituted Militia ought to be established. A consideration of the subject will show the impracticability of disciplining at once the mass of the people. All discussions on the subject of a powerful Militia will result in one or the other of the following principles.
Either efficient institutions must be established for the military education of the youth, and that the knowledge acquired therein shall be diffused throughout the community by the mean of rotation. Or Secondly:
That the Militia must be formed of substitutes, after the manner of the Militia of Great Britain.

If the United States possess the vigor of mind to establish the first institution, it may reasonably be expected to produce the most unequivocal advantages— A glorious national spirit will be introduced with its extensive train of political consequences— the youth will imbibe a love of their country— reverence and obedience to its laws— courage and elevation of mind— openness and liberality of character— accompanied by a just spirit of honor. In addition to which their bodies will acquire a robustness— greatly conducive to their personal happiness as well as the defence of their country— While habit with its silent but efficacious operations will durably cement the system.

Habit that powerful and universal law, incessantly acting on the human race, well deserves the attention of legislatures— Formed at first in individuals by seperate and almost imperceptible impulses until at length it acquires a force which controuls with irresistible sway— The effects of salutary or pernicious habits operating on a whole nation are immense and decides its rank and character in the world.

Hence the science of legislation teaches to scrutinize every national institution, as it may introduce proper or improper habits— To adopt with religious zeal the former and reject with horror the latter.

A Republic constructed on the principles herein stated would be uninjured by events, sufficient to overturn a Government supported solely by the uncertain power of a standing Army.

The well informed members of the community, actuated by the highest motives of self love, would form the real defence of the country— Rebellions would be prevented or suppressed with ease Invasions of such a Government would be undertaken only by madmen and the virtues and knowledge of the people would effectually oppose the introduction of Tyranny.

But the second principle— a Militia of substitutes— is pregnant in a degree with the mischeifs of a standing Army— As it is highly probable the substitutes from time to time will be nearly the same men, and the most idle and worthless part of the community— Wealthy families proud of distinctions which riches may confer will prevent their sons from serving in the Militia of substitutes— the plan will degenerate into habitual contempt— a standing Army will be introduced, and the liberties of the people subjected to all the contingencies of events.

The expence attending an energetic establishment of militia may be strongly urged as an objection to the institution, but it is to be remembered that this objection is levelled at both systems, whether by, rotation, or by substitutes— For if the numbers are equal the expence will also be equal— The estimate of the expence will show its unimportance when compared with the magnitude, and beneficial effects of the institution.

But the people of the United States will cheerfully consent to the expences of a measure calculated to serve as a perpetual barrier to their liberties— especially as they well know that the disbursements will be made among the members of the same community, and therefore cannot be injurious.

Every intelligent mind would rejoice in the establishment of an institution, under whose auspices, the youth and vigor of the Constitution, would be renewed with each successive generation, and which would appear to secure the great principles of freedom and happiness, against the injuries of time and events.

The following plan is formed on these general principles.
That it is the indispensible duty of every nation to establish all necessary institutions for its own perfection and defence.
That it is a capital security to a free State for the great body of the people to possess a competent knowledge of the military art.
That this knowledge cannot be attained in the present state of society but by establishing adequate institutions for the military education of youth— And that the knowledge acquired therein should be diffused throughout the community by the principles of rotation.
That every man of the proper age, and ability of body is firmly bound by the social compact to perform personally his proportion of military duty for the defence of the State.
That all men of the legal military age should be armed, enrolled and held responsible for different degrees of military service.
And 6thly,
That agreeably to the Constitution the United States are to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.


The period of life in which military service shall be required of the citizens of the United States to commence at eighteen and terminate at the age of sixty years.

The men comprehended by this description, exclusive of such exceptions as the legislatures of the different States may think proper to make, and all actual mariners shall be enrolled for different degrees of military duty, and divided into three distinct classes.

The first class shall comprehend the youth of eighteen, nineteen, and twenty years of age, to be denominated the ADVANCED CORPS.

The second Class shall include the men from twenty-one to forty-five years of age; to be denominated the MAIN CORPS.

The third class shall comprehend inclusively, the men from forty-six to sixty years of age to be denominated, the RESERVED CORPS.

All the militia of the United States shall assume the form of a legion, which shall be the permanent establishment thereof.

A legion shall consist of one hundred and fifty-three commissioned Officers, and two thousand eight hundred and eighty non-commissioned officers and privates formed in the following manner:

Each brigade of two regiments, each regiment of eight companies, forming two battalions, each company of a captain, lieutenant, ensign, six serjeants one drum, one fife, and sixty four rank and file.
Each company to have a captain, lieutenant, ensign, six serjeants, a buglehorn, one drum, and sixty four rank and file.
Consisting of four companies, each to have a captain, captain-lieutenants, one lieutenant, six serjeants, twelve artificers, and fifty two rank and file.
Consisting of two troops, each troop to have a Captain, two lieutenants, a cornet, six serjeants one farrier, one saddler, one trumpeter, and sixty-four dragoons.

In case the whole number of the advanced corps in any state should be insufficient to form a legion of this extent, yet the component parts must be preserved, and the reduction proportioned, as nearly as may be to each part.

The companies of all the corps shall be divided into SECTIONS of twelve each. It is proposed by this division, to establish one uniform vital principle, which in peace and war shall pervade the militia of the United States.

All requisitions for men to form an army, either for state or federal purposes, shall be furnished by the advanced and main corps, by means of the sections.

The executive government, or commander in chief of the militia of each state, will assess the numbers required, on the respective legions of these corps.

The legionary general will direct the proportions to be furnished by each part of his command; should the demand be so great, as to require one man from each section, then the operation hereby directed shall be performed by single sections. But if a less number should be required, they will be furnished by an association of sections or companies according to the demand. In any case, it is probable that mutual convenience may dictate an agreement with an individual, to perform the service required. If however no agreement can be made, one must be detached by an indiscriminate draught, and the others shall pay him a sum of money, equal to the averaged sum, which shall be paid in the same legion, for the voluntary performance of the service required.

In case any sections, or companies of a legion, after having furnished its own quota, should have more men willing to engage for the service required, other companies of the same legion, shall have permission to engage them. The same rule to extend to the different legions in the State.

The legionary general must be responsible to the commander in cheif of the militia of the state, that the men furnished are according to the description, and that they are equipped in the manner, and marched to the rendezvous conformably to the orders for that purpose.

The men who may be drafted shall not serve more than three years at one time.

The reserved corps being destined for the domestic defence of the state shall not be obliged to furnish men, excepting in cases of actual invasion, or rebellion, and then the men required shall be furnished by means of the sections.

The actual commissioned officers of the respective corps, shall not be included in the sections, nor in any of the operations thereof.

The respective states shall be divided into portions or districts, each of which to contain, as nearly as may be, some complete part of a legion.

Every citizen of the United States who, shall serve his country in the field, for the space of one year, either as an officer or soldier, shall if under the age of twenty-one years be exempted from the service required in the advanced corps. If he shall be above the age of twenty-one years, then every year he shall so serve in the field, shall be estimated as equal to six years service in the main or reserved corps, and shall accordingly exempt him from every service therein for the said term of six years, except in cases of actual invasion of the state in which he resides. And it shall also be a permanent establishment, that six years actual service in the field, shall entirely free every citizen from any further demands of service, either in the militia, or in the field, unless in cases of invasion or rebellion.

All actual mariners or seamen, in the respective states, shall be registered in districts, and divided into two classes. The first class to consist of all the seamen, from the age of sixteen to thirty years inclusively. The second class to consist of all those of the age of thirty-one to forty-five, inclusively.

The first class shall be responsible to serve three years on board of some public armed vessel, or ship of war, as a commissioned officer, warrant officer, or private mariner, for which service they shall receive the customary wages and emoluments.

But should the state not demand the said three years service during the above period, from the age of sixteen to thirty years, then the party to be exempted entirely therefrom.

The person so serving shall receive a certificate of his service, on parchment, according to the form which shall be directed, which shall exempt him from any other than voluntary service, unless in such exigencies as may require the services of all the members of the community.

The second class shall be responsible for a proportion of service in those cases, to which the first class shall be unequal. The numbers required shall be furnished by sections, in the same manner as is prescribed for the sections of the militia.


The advanced corps are designed not only as a school in which the youth of the United States are to be instructed in the art of war, but they are in all cases of exigence, to serve as an actual defence to the community.

The whole of the armed advanced corps shall be clothed according to the manner hereafter directed, armed and subsisted at the expence of the United States, and all the youth of the said corps, in each state, shall be encamped together, if practicable, or by legions, which encampments shall be denominated the annual camps of discipline.

The youth of eighteen and nineteen years, shall be displined for thirty days successively in each year; and those of twenty years shall be disciplined only for ten days in each year, which shall be the last ten days of the annual encampments.

The non-commissioned officers and privates are not to receive any pay during this said time; but the commissioned officers will receive the pay of their relative ranks, agreeably to the federal establishment for the time being.

In order that the plan shall effectually answer the end proposed, the first day of January shall be the fixed period, for all who attain the age of eighteen years, in any part, or during the course of each year, to be enrolled in the advanced corps, and to take the necessary oaths, to perform personally such legal military service as may be directed, for the full and complete term of three years, to be estimated from the time of entrance into the said corps, and also to take an oath of allegiance to the state, and to the United States.

The commanding officer, or general of the advanced legions of the district, shall regulate the manner of the service of the youth respectively, whether it shall be in the infantry, artillery, or cavalry; but after having entered into either of them, no change should be allowed.

Each individual at his first joining the annual camps of discipline will receive complete arms and accoutrements, all of which, previously to his being discharged from the said camps he must return to the regimental quarter master, on the penalty of _____ dollars, or ______ months imprisonment.

The said arms and accoutrements, shall be marked in some conspicuous place with the letters M. U. S. and all sales or purchases of any of said arms or accoutrements shall be severely punished according to law.

And each individual will also on his first entrance into the advanced corps receive the following articles of uniform clothing, one hat, one uniform short coat, one waistcoat, and one pair of overalls, which he shall retain in his own possession, and for which he shall be held accountable, and be compelled to replace all deficiencies during his service in the annual camps of discipline.

Those who shall serve in the cavalry shall be at the expence of their own horses, helmets, and horse-furniture; but they shall receive forage for their horses, swords, pistols and clothing equal in value to the infantry.

At the age of twenty-one years every individual having served in the manner and for the time prescribed, shall receive an honorary certificate thereof on parchment, and signed by legionary general and inspector.

The names of all persons to whom such certificates shall be given, shall be fairly registered in books to be provided for that purpose.

And the said certificate, or an attested copy of the register aforesaid, shall be required as an indispensible qualification for exercising any of the rights of a free citizen, until after the age of ____ years.

The advanced legions, in all cases of invasion, or rebellion, shall on requisition of lawful authority, be obliged to march to any place within the United States to remain embodied for such time as shall be directed, not to exceed one year, to be computed from the time of marching from the regimental parades; during the period of their being on such service, to be placed on the continental establishment, of pay, subsistence, clothing, forage, tents, camp equipage, and all such other allowances, as are made to the federal troops at the same time, and under the same circumstances.

If the military service so required, should be for such a short period, as to render an actual issue of clothing unnecessary, then an allowance should be made in proportion to the annual cost of clothing, for the federal soldier, according to estimates to be furnished for that purpose from the war-office of the United States.

In case the legions of the advanced corps should march to any place, in consequence of a requisition of the general government, all legal and proper expences of such march shall be paid by the United States. But should they be embodied, and march in consequence of an order, derived from the authority of the state to which they belong, and for state purposes, then the expences will be borne by the state.

The advanced corps shall be constituted on such principles, that when completed, it will receive one third part, and discharge one third part of its numbers annually— By this arrangement two thirds of the corps will at all times be considerably disciplined; but as it will only receive those of eighteen years of age, it will not be completed until the third year after its institution. Those who have already attained the ages of nineteen and twenty years, will in the first instance be enrolled in the main corps.

But one half of the legionary officers to be appointed the first, and the other the second year of the establishment.

The officers of each grade in the states respectively shall be divided into three classes, which shall, by lot be numbered one, two, and three, and one of the said classes, according to their numbers, shall be deranged every third year. In the first period of nine years, one third part will have to serve three, one third part six, and one third part, nine years— But, after the said first period, the several classes will serve nine years, which shall be the limitation of service by virtue of the same appointment, and in such cases, where there may not be three officers of the same grade, the limitation of nine years service shall be observed. All vacancies occasioned by the aforesaid derangements, or any casualties shall be immediately filled by new appointments.

The captains and subalterns of the advanced corps, shall not be less than twenty-one, nor more than thirty-five, and the field officers shall not exceed forty-five years of age.

Each company, battalion, and regiment, shall have a fixed parade, or place at which to assemble. The companies shall assemble at their own parade, and march to the parade of the battalion, and the battalions, to the regimental parade, and when thus embodied, the regiment will march to the rendevous of the legion. Every commanding officer of a company, battalion, and regiment, will be accountable to his superior officer, that his command is in the most perfect order.

The officers to receive subsistence money, in lieu of provisions, in proportion to their respective grades, and those whose duties require them to be on horseback, will receive forage in the same proportion.

Every legion must have a Chaplain, of respectable talents and character, who, besides his religious functions, should impress on the minds of the youth, at stated periods, in concise discourses, the eminent advantages of free governments to the happiness of society, and that such governments can only be supported by the knowledge, spirit, and virtuous conduct of the youth. To be illustrated by the most conspicuous examples of history.

No amusements should be admitted in camp, but those which correspond with war. The swimming of men and horses, running, wrestling, and such other exercises, as should render the body flexible and vigorous.

The camps should, if possible, be formed near a river, and remote from large cities— The first is necessary for the practice of the manoeuvres, the second to avoid the vices of populous places.

The time of the annual encampments shall be divided into six parts or periods of five days each. The first of which shall be occupied in acquiring the air, attitudes, and first principles of a soldier— the second in learning the manual exercise and to march individually and in small squads. The third and fourth, in exercising and manoeuvring in detail, and by battalions, and regiments. In the fifth, the youth of twenty, having been disciplined during the two preceeding annual encampments are to be included. This period is to be employed in the exercise and tactics of the legion; or if more than one, in executing the grand manouvres of the whole body— marching, attacking and defending in various forms, different grounds and positions; in fine, in representing all the real images of war, excepting the effusion of blood.

The guards, and every other circumstance of the camp, to be perfectly regulated.

Each state will determine on the season, in which its respective annual encampments shall be formed, so as best to suit the health of the men, and the general interests of the society.

The United States to make an adequate provision, to supply the arms, clothing, rations, artillery, ammunition, forage, straw, tents, camp-equipage, including every requisite for the annual camps of discipline: And also for the pay and subsistence of the legionary officers, and for the following general staff. One inspector-general, one adjutant-general, one quarter master-general, with a deputy for each state.

These officers will be essential to the uniformity, oeconomy and efficacy of the system, to be appointed in the manner prescribed by the constitution of the United States.

The quarter master general shall be responsible to the United States for the public property of every species requisite for the annual camps of discipline; and his deputy in each state shall be responsible to him.

At the commencement of the annual camps of discipline, the deputy quarter master will make regular issues to the legionary or regimental quarter masters, as the case may be, of all the articles of every species, provided by the United States.

The returns for the said articles, to be examined, and certified by the highest legionary or regimental officer, as the case may be, who shall be responsible for the accuracy thereof.

At the expiration of the annual camps of discipline, every species of public property, (clothing excepted) shall be returned to the deputy quarter master of the state, who shall hold the legionary quarter master accountable for all deficiencies. All the apparatus and property so returned, shall be carefully examined, repaired, and deposited in a magazine to be provided in each state for that purpose, under the charge of the said deputy quarter master, until the ensuing annual encampment, or any occasion which may render a new issue necessary.

Corporal punishments shall never be inflicted in the annual camps of discipline, but a system of fines and imprisonment, shall be formed for the regular government of said camps.

As the main and reserved corps are to be replenished by the principle of rotation, from the advanced corps, and ultimately to consist of men who have received their military education therein, it is proper that one uniform arrangement should pervade the several classes.

It is for this reason the legion is established, as the common form of all the corps of the militia.

The main legions, consisting of the great majority of the men of the military age, will form the principal defence of the country.

They are to be responsible for their proportion of men, to form an army whenever necessity shall dictate the measure; and on every sudden occasion to which the advanced corps shall be incompetent, an adequate number of noncommissioned officers and privates shall be added thereto, from the main corps, by means of the sections.

The main corps will be perfectly armed in the first instance, and will practice the exercise and manoeuvres, four days in each year, and will assemble in their respective districts, by companies, battalions, regiments, or legions, as shall be directed by each state; but it must be a fixed rule, that in the populous parts of the states, the regiments must assemble once annually, and the legions once in three years.

Although the main corps cannot acquire a great degree of military knowledge in the few days prescribed for its annual exercise, yet by the constant accession of the youth from the advanced corps, it will soon command respect for its discipline, as well as its numbers.

When the youth are transferred from the advanced corps, they shall invariably join the flank-companies, the cavalry, or artillery of the main corps, according to the nature of their former services.

The reserved corps will assemble only twice annually, for the inspection of arms, by companies, battalions, or regiments, as shall be directed by each state. It will assemble by legions, whenever the defence of the state may render the measure necessary.

Such are the propositions of the plan, to which, it may be necessary to add some explications.

Although the substantial political maxim, which requires personal service of all the members of the community for the defence of the state, is obligatory under all forms of society, and is the main pillar of a free government, yet the degrees thereof may vary at the different periods of life, consistently with the general welfare. The public convenience may also dictate a relaxation of the general obligation, as it respects the principal magistrates and the ministers of justice, and of religion, and perhaps some religious sects. But it ought to be remembered, that measures of national importance, never should be frustrated by the accommodation of individuals.

The military age has generally commenced at sixteen, and terminated at the age of sixty years; but the youth of sixteen do not commonly attain such a degree of robust strength, as to enable them to sustain, without injury, the hardships incident to the field; therefore the commencement of military service, is herein fixed at eighteen, and the termination, as usual, at sixty years of age.

As the plan proposes, that the militia shall be divided into three capital classes, and that each class shall be formed into legions, the reasons for which shall be given in succession.

The advanced corps, and annual camps of discipline, are instituted in order to introduce an operative military spirit in the community. To establish a course of honorable military service, which will at the same time, mould the minds of the young men, to a due obedience of the laws; instruct them in the art of war, and by the manly exercises of the field, form a race of hardy citizens, equal to the dignified task of defending their country.

An examination into the employments, and obligations of the individuals composing the society, will evince the impossibility of diffusing an adequate knowledge of the art of war, by any other means than a course of discipline, during the period of nonage. The time necessary to acquire this important knowledge, cannot be afforded at any other period of life, with so little injury to the public or private interests.

Without descending to minute distinctions, the body of the people of the United States, may be divided into two parts. The yeomanry of the country, and the men of various employments, resident in towns and cities. In both parts, it is usual for the male-children, from the age of fourteen to twenty one years, to learn some trade or employment, under the direction of a parent or master. In general, the labour or service of the youth during this period, besides amply repaying the trouble of tuition, leaves a large profit to the tutor. This circumstance is stated to show that no great hardships will arise in the first operations of the proposed plan; a little practice will render the measure perfectly equal, and remove every difficulty.

Youth is the time for the state to avail itself of those services which it has a right to demand, and by which it is to be invigorated and preserved; in this season the passions and affections are strongly influenced by the splendor of military parade. The impressions the mind receives will be retained through life. The young man will repair with pride and pleasure to the field of exercise while the head of a family, anxious for its general welfare, and perhaps its immediate subsistence, will reluctantly quit his domestic duties for any length of time.

The habits of industry will be rather strengthened than relaxed by the establishment of the annual camps of discipline, as all the time will be occupied by the various military duties. Idleness and dissipation will be regarded as disgraceful, and punished accordingly. As soon as the youth attain the age of manhood, a natural solicitude to establish themselves in the society, will occur in its full force. The public claims for military service, will be too inconsiderable to injure their industry. It will be sufficiently stimulated to proper exertions, by the prospects of opulence, attending on the cultivation of a fertile soil, or the pursuits of a productive commerce.

It is presumed that thirty days annually during the eighteenth and nineteenth, and ten days during the twentieth year, is the least time that ought to be appropriated by the youth to the acquisition of the military art. The same number of days might be added during the twentieth, as during the two preceeding years, were not the expence an objection.

Every means will be provided by the public to facilitate their military education, which it is proposed shall be an indispensable qualification of a free citizen, therefore they will not be entitled to any pay. But the officers being of the main corps, are in a different predicament. They are supposed to have passed through the course of discipline required by the laws, and to be competent to instruct others in the military art. As the public will have but small claims for personal services on them, and as they must incur considerable expences to prepare themselves to execute properly their respective offices they ought to be paid while on actual duty.

As soon as the service of the youth expires in the advanced corps, they are to be enrolled in the main corps. On this occasion, the republic receives disciplined and free citizens, who understand their public rights and are prepared to defend them.

The main corps is instituted, to preserve and circulate throughout the community, the military discipline, acquired in the advanced corps; to arm the people, and fix firmly by practice and habit, those forms and maxims, which are essential to the life, and energy of a free government.

The reserved corps is instituted to prevent men being sent to the field, whose strength is unequal to sustain the seventies of an active campaign. But by organizing and rendering them eligible for domestic service, a greater proportion of the younger and robust part of the community, may be enabled in cases of necessity, to encounter the more urgent duties of war.

It would be difficult previously to the actual formation of the annual camps of discipline, to ascertain the number in each State of which it would be composed. The frontier counties of several states are thinly inhabited and require all their internal force for their immediate defence— There are other infant settlements from which it might be injurious to draw away their youth annually for the purpose of discipline.

No evil would result, if the establishment of the advanced corps, should be omitted in such districts for a few years. Besides the forbearance in this respect would lessen the expence, and render the institution more compatible with the public finances.

The several state Legislatures therefore, as best understanding their local interests, might be invested with a discretionary power to omit the enrollments for the advanced corps in such of their frontier, and thinly inhabited counties, as they may Judge proper.

If the number of three millions may be assumed as the total number of the Inhabitants within the United States, half a million may be deducted therefrom for blacks, and pursuant to the foregoing ideas, another half million may be deducted on account of the thinly settled parts of the country.

The proportion of men of the military age from eighteen to sixty years inclusively, of two millions of people of all ages and sexes may be estimated at four hundred thousand. There may be deducted from this number as actual mariners, about fifty thousand, and a further number of twenty five thousand to include exempts of religious sects, and of every other sort which the respective states may think proper to make.

Three hundred and twenty five thousand, therefore may be assumed as the number of operative fencible men, to compose the militia. The proportion of the several classes of which, would be nearly as follows—

Firstly— The advanced corps one tenth,
composed of the youth of the ages
of 18, 19, and 20 years:

The main corps, six tenths and
one twentieth: Thirdly—
The reserved corps two tenths
and one twentieth:

The following estimate is formed for the purpose of exhibiting the annual expence of the institution of the advance corps, Stating the same at Thirty thousand men.

ESTIMATE of the expence of the Annual camps of discipline as proposed in the foregoing plan— arising on each of the first three years, and after that period— of the annual expence of the institution.


10,000 Suits of uniform clothing
Stated at 8 dollars— each suit
of which shall serve for the three
years discipline.

10,000 Rations per day for 30 days,
each ration Stated at 10 Cents.

The expence of four complete corps of
Legionary officers of all descriptions,
for 30 days, including pay, subsistence,
& forage.

Forage for the Cavalry.

Straw#151 Camp kettles— bowls—
axes— Canteens— and fuel.

Annual proportion of the expence for
tents, for Officers and Soldiers which may

Serve for Eight annual encampments.

4 Legionary Standards. Regimental Colours.

Consumption of powder and ball— Shot
and Shells— damage to arms and accoutrements,
and artillery, and transportation of the same,
stated at.

Hospital department.

Contingencies of the Quarter masters and
other departments.

General Staff, Adjutant General,
Quartermaster General, Inspector General
and their Deputies.

Entire expences of the 1st. year


10,000 Rations per day, for 30 days, is
300,000 Rations @ 10 Cents.

The expence of 4 Complete corps of
Legionary officers of all descriptions for 30
days including pay, Subsistence & forage.

4 Legionary Standards.

Regimental Colours.

Forage for the Cavalry.

Tents— Straw— Camp kettles—
bowls— axes— Canteens— and fuel.

Hospital Department.

Contingencies, and other disbursements in
Quartermasters departments.

Ammunition, damage to arms and accoutrements.

Combined expences of the 1st. And 2nd. year
carried forward.


The expences of 10,000 Rations for 10 days is
100,000 Rations @ 10 Cents.


For the camp equipage.


Hospital Stores

Ammunition, damage to arms, and accoutrements.

Contingencies in the Quartermasters

The total expence of the first three years.

It is to be observed, that the officers for four legions
will be adequate to command the youth of 18. who
Commence their discipline the 1st. year, and that the
same number of Officers will be required for the second
year— the youth of the third year, may be incorporated by
sections in the existing corps, so that no additional
officers will be required on their account.
Hence it appears that the expence
of 10,000 men for one year, amounts to 20,000 for the 2nd year 30,000 for the 3d year to

If the youth of the three ages of 18, 19,
and 20 be disciplined at once— the last
mentioned sum will be about the fixed
annual expence of the camps of discipline—
from which, however is to be deducted
6,ooo dollars being the expence of the
standards and colours, the former of which
will be of a durable nature, and the Latter
will not require to be replaced oftener than
once in 20 years.

The annual expence of the advanced corps.

Thus for a sum less than four hundred thousand Dollars annually, which apportioned on three millions of people would be little more than one eighth of a dollar for each, AN ENERGETIC republican militia may be durably established— The invaluable principles of liberty secured and perpetuated, and a dignified national fabric erected on the solid foundation of public Virtue.

The main and reserved corps, must be perfectly organized in the first instance; but the advanced corps will not be completed until the third year of its institutions.

The combination of troops of various descriptions into one body, so as to invest it with the highest and greatest number of powers, in every possible situation, has long been a subject of discussion, and difference of Opinion. But no other form appears so well to have sustained the criterion of time and severe examination, as the ROMAN LEGION. This formidable organization, accommodates to the purposes of modern war, still retains its original energy and superiority. Of the ancients Polybius and Vegetius have described and given the highest encomiums of the Legion. The former particularly, in his comparitive view of the advantages and disadvantages of the macedonian and roman arms, and their respective orders of battle, has left to mankind an instructive and important legacy. Of the moderns the illustrious Marechal Saxe, has modelled the legion for the use of fire arms, and Strenuously urges its adoption, in preferrence to any other form. And the respectable and intelligent veteran, late inspector general of the armies of the United States, recommends the adoption of the legion * "Upon a review" says he "of all the military of Europe, there does not appear to be a single form which could be safely adopted by the United States; they are unexceptionally different from each other, and like all other human institutions, seem to have started as much out of accident, as design. The Local situation of the country, the spirit of the government, the character of the nation, and in many instances the character of the Prince, have all had their influence in settling the foundation and discipline of their respective troops, and render it impossible that we should take either as a model. The Legion alone has not been adopted by any, and yet I am confident in asserting that whether it be examined as applicable to all Countries, or as it may immediately apply to the existing or probable necessity of this, it will be found Strikingly superior to any other.

"1st. Being a complete and little army of itself, it is ready to begin its operations, on the shortest notice or slightest alarm 2ndly. Having all the component parts of the largest army of any possible description, it is prepared to meet every species of war that may present itself. And 3dly. as in every case of detachment the first constitutional principle will be preserved, and the embarrassments of draughting, and detail, which in armies differently framed too often distract the commanding Officer, will be avoided.

It may easily suggest itself from this Sketch, that in forming a legion, the most difficult task is to determine the necessary proportion of each species of soldiers which is to compose it; this must obviously depend upon what will be the Theatre, and what is the stile of the war. On the plains of Poland, whole Brigades of Cavalry would be necessary against every enemy, but in the forest and among the hills of America, a single Regiment would be more than sufficient against any, and as there are but two kinds of war to which we are much exposed, viz, an attack from the seaside by an European power, aided by our sworn enemies, settled on our extreme left, and an invasion of our back settlements by an indian enemy, it follows of course, that musqueteers, and light-Infantry should make the greatest part of your army."

The institution of the section is intended to interest the patriotism and pride of every individual in the militia, to support the legal measures of a free Government. To render every man active in the public cause, by introducing the spirit of emulation and a degree of personal responsibility.

The common mode of recruiting is attended with too great destruction of morals to be tolerated, and is too uncertain to be the principal resource of a wise nation in time of danger. The public faith is frequently wounded by unworthy individuals, who hold out delusive promises which can never be realized— By such means, an unprincipled banditti are often collected for the purpose of defending every thing that should be dear to freemen. The consequences are natural, such men either desert in time of danger, or are ever ready on the slightest disgust to turn their arms against their country.

By the establishment of the sections an ample and permanent source is opened, whence the state in every exigence may be supplied with men whose all depends upon the prosperity of their country.

In cases of necessity, an army may be formed of Citizens, whose previous knowledge of discipline will enable it to proceed to an immediate accomplishment of the designs of the state, instead of exhausting the public resources, by wasting whole years in preparing to face the enemy.

The previous arrangements necessary to form and maintain the annual encampments, as well as the discipline acquired therein, will be an excellent preparation for war. The artillery and its numerous appendages, arms and accoutrements of every kind, and all species of ammunition, ought to be manufactured within the United States. It is of high importance that the present period Should be embraced to establish adequate institutions to produce the necessary apparatus of war.

It is unworthy the dignity of a rising and free empire, to depend on foreign and fortuitous supplies of the essential means of defence.

The clothing for the troops could with ease be manufactured within the United States, and the establishment in that respect would tend to the encouragement of important manufactures.

The disbursements made in each State for the rations, forage, and other necessary articles, for the annual camps of discipline, would most beneficially circulate the money arising from the public revenue.

The local circumstances of the United States, their numerous seaports, and the protection of their commerce, require a naval arrangement. Hence the necessity of the proposed plan, embracing the idea of the states, obtaining men on republican principles, for the marine as well as the land service. But one may be accomplished with much greater facility than the other, as the preparation of a Soldier for the field, requires a degree of discipline which cannot be learned without much time and labor; whereas the common course of Sea service off on board of merchant vessels, differs but little from the service required on board of armed Ships, therefore the education for war in this respect, will be obtained without any expence to the state. all that seem to be requisite on the head of marine service is, that an efficient regulation should be established in the respective states, to register all actual seamen, and to render those of a certain age amenable to the public for personal service, if demanded within a given period.

The constitution of the respective states and of the United States, having directed the modes in which the officers of the militia shall be appointed, no alteration can be made therein. Although it may be supposed that some modes of appointment, are better calculated than others to inspire the highest propriety of Conduct, yet there are none so defective, to serve as a sufficient reason for rejecting an efficient system for the militia. It is certain that the choice of Officers, is the point on which the reputation and importance of a corps, must depend. Therefore every person who may be concerned in the appointment, should consider himself as responsible to his country for a proper choice.

The wisdom of the states will be manifested by inducing those citizens of whom the late american army was composed, to accept of appointments in the militia. The high Degree of military knowledge which they possess, was acquired at too great a price and is too precious to be buried in oblivion, it ought to be cherished, and rendered permanently beneficial to the community.

The vigor and importance of the proposed plan, will entirely depend on the laws relative thereto. Unless the laws shall be equal to the object, and rigidly enforced, no energetic national militia can be established.

If wealth be admitted as a principle of exemption, the plan cannot be executed. It is the wisdom of political establishments to make the wealth of individuals subservient to the general good, and not suffer it to corrupt or attain undue indulgence.

It is conceded, that people, solicitous to be exonerated from their proportion of public duty, may exclaim against the proposed arrangement as an intolerable hardship— But it ought to be Strongly impressed, that while society has its charms, it also has its indispensible obligations— That to attempt such a degree of refinement, as to exonerate the members of the community from all personal service, is to render them incapable of the exercise and unworthy of the characters of freemen.

Every State possesses, not only the right of personal service from its members, but the right to regulate the service on principles of equality, for the general defence. All being bound, none can Complain of injustice, on being obliged to perform his equal proportion. Therefore it ought to be a permanent rule, that those who in youth, decline or refuse to subject themselves to the course of military education, established by the laws, should be considered as unworthy of public trust, or public honors, and be excluded therefrom accordingly.

If the majesty of the laws should be preserved inviolate in this respect, the operations of the proposed plan would foster a glorious public Spirit, infuse the principles of energy and Stability into the body politic, and give an high degree of political splendor to the national character.


Reports and Communications from Executive Departments, 1789-1814, Records of the Secretary, SR, DNA, letter signed by Knox.


* Vide. letter addressed to the inhabitants of the United States on the subject of an established militia.text@note

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