The Potowmack Institute
Other historical resources are provided at:
John Kenneth Rowland,
unpublished PhD dissertation, Ohio State, 1978.
John Kenneth Rowland,
Appendix A, US v. Emerson,
"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.
George Washington, 1783,
"Sentiments on a Peace Establishment".
Henry Knox, George Washington, 1790,
"Organization of the Militia,". Plan submitted to Congress, January 1790.
A PLAN for the GENERAL ARRANGEMENT
of the MILITIA of the UNITED STATES
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
The following plan is formed on these general
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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:
1St. THE LEGIONARY STAFF
One Legionary or major general
2nd. THE BRIGADE STAFF
Two aids-de-camp, of the rank of major one of whom to
be the legionary quarter master.
One inspector and deputy adjutant general, of the rank
of lieutenant colonel.
One brigadier general,
3rd THE REGIMENTAL STAFF
One brigade inspector, to serve as an aid-de-camp.
One lieutenant colonel commandant,
4th TWO BRIGADES OF INFANTRY
One paymaster, or agent
One quarter master,
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.
5th. TWO COMPANIES OF RIFLEMEN
Each company to have a captain, lieutenant,
ensign, six serjeants, a buglehorn, one drum, and
sixty four rank and file.
6th. A BATTALION OF ARTILLERY
Consisting of four companies, each to have a
captain, captain-lieutenants, one lieutenant, six
serjeants, twelve artificers, and fifty two rank and
7th. A SQUADRON OF CAVALRY
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
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 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
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
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
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.
OF THE ADVANCED CORPS
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 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
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
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
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 ____
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
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
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
But one half of the legionary officers to be
appointed the first, and the other the second year of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
OF THE MAIN CORPS
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
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
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.
OF THE RESERVED CORPS
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
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
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
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
The advanced corps one tenth,
composed of the youth of the ages
of 18, 19, and 20 years:
The main corps, six tenths and
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
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
THE FIRST YEAR
10,000 Suits of uniform clothing
Stated at 8 dollars each suit
of which shall serve for the three
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 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.
Consumption of powder and ball Shot
and Shells damage to arms and accoutrements,
and artillery, and transportation of the same,
Contingencies of the Quarter masters and
General Staff, Adjutant General,
Quartermaster General, Inspector General
and their Deputies.
Entire expences of the 1st. year
ADDITIONAL EXPENCES ON THE SECOND 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.
Forage for the Cavalry.
Tents Straw Camp kettles
bowls axes Canteens and fuel.
Contingencies, and other disbursements in
Ammunition, damage to arms and
Combined expences of the 1st. And 2nd. year
THE ADDITIONAL EXPENCES ON THE THIRD YEAR
The expences of 10,000 Rations for 10 days
100,000 Rations @ 10 Cents.
For the camp equipage.
Ammunition, damage to arms, and
Contingencies in the Quartermasters
The total expence of the first three years.
It is to be observed, that the officers for four
will be adequate to command the youth of 18. who
Commence their discipline the 1st. year, and that
same number of Officers will be required for the
year the youth of the third year, may be
sections in the existing corps, so that no
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
© Potowmack Institute