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The citizen soldier is a concept as old as, and certainly predating, recorded history. If we examine Plato's thought we find that the first city of the Republic was occupied before the emergence of the warrior class. The second of Plato's three hypothetical cities came emerged precisely because a warrior class had emerged from among the citizenry to dominate and control it. Good government was impossible as long as the warriors ruled.

Since Plato's time many political theorists have concluded that the best way to insure that there will be open and honest government is to guarantee the right of the people to keep and bear arms as an unorganized militia. The idea that the people be armed weighed heavily in the minds of the English Puritans and radical Whigs who were writing substantial political philosophy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They returned to the major premise of antiquity: that only freemen may be armed and that the mark of a freeman was his right to keep and bear arms. While there were some assumptions that only an armed citizen could resist the proverbial "intruder in the night" and that a citizen might use arms for recreation and hunting, there was, constantly, the clear commitment that the state had made that the best and ultimate defense and protection of the state rested in the hands of the citizen-soldiers trained at arms.

In medieval law there was a three fold obligation shared by all freemen. They must repair and maintain public roads and bridges and the like; they must serve as an ancillary police force; and they must be prepared to bear arms in defense of the state as a militia. Both the posse and the militia requirements were based on the need for privately owned arms. Medieval law in these areas developed slowly, but was always based in common law and practice. Each man was required to keep in his home the arms of his socio-economic class and have these in order ready to use in case of emergency. Regular practice with one's arms was a general requirement. At least one English king attempted to discourage participation in any form of recreation except practice with arms, primarily with the long bow.

There were three levels of military obligation generally accepted in medieval states. The standing army was populated with trained, professional soldiers. Some of the citizenry was trained to at least a minimal degree and comprised a select militia. The untrained masses of able-bodied freemen comprised a general militia. The principle of levee en masse, recognized under international law, grew out of the unenrolled, mass militia of the middle ages.

The first significant contribution to the literature of the militia was made by Niccolo Machiavelli who argued that freedom was incompatible with standing armies. Given to great mischief, the standing armies represented a great threat to the people and the state in Machiavelli's writings. Although we frequently associate Machiavelli with authoritarian government as a matter of fact he looked forward to the establishment of a democratic regime as soon as possible following the establishment of a nation-state.

In democracies militias were established early as a part of the general western commitment to integral liberal values. The English militia is intimately associated with the transition from divine right kingship to liberal democracy. One of the grave errors of the Stuart monarchy was to seek control over the total armed forces of the nation. The trained bands, as the popular militias were then called, sought autonomy and identified their independence with freedom for the people. In the British colonies in North America the provincials demanded complete control their own military affairs.

Two democracies, Israel and Switzerland, have placed great emphasis on the citizen-soldier and the popular militia. Both nations require essentially universal military service and training of their subjects. Universal military service and training has resulted in wholly armed states in these two nations in which firearms are immediately available to the citizens. There is no indication that this has had any negative bearing on crime rates. Israel patterned its militia system after the Swiss program. Jews who emigrated to Israel after the near extermination of European Jewry during World War II knew that authoritarian political systems permitted no private ownership of firearms, at least among minority populations. They have vowed that they will never again be caught in the position of being effectively disarmed in the face of their enemies. The Swiss have come to believe that their long history of autonomy is inter-related with the armed nation.

Few Western democracies have followed Machiavelli's advice or the Swiss or Israeli example. A few of the Nordic nations, such as Sweden and Finland, have militia systems and a very few other democratic nations have universal military training. Most democracies have accepted the perspective of those who believe that mature nations have advanced beyond the "Wild West" mentality. Anti-firearms rhetoric has created a climate of opinion that accepts conclusions such as that firearms breed violence and that civilized nations are disarmed nations. They see a military armed with advanced weapons systems that are electronic, computerized, specialized and complex. Such is the current state of military preparedness. The foot soldier with small arms training is obsolete. Without any need for the foot soldier there is no need for small arms and marksmanship training and thus there is no need for the militia or ancillary support for individual firearms training.

Totalitarian governments have heeded Machiavelli's advice more than have Western democracies. They have armed their citizens and made certain that their citizens from early childhood through adulthood have become familiar with the arms regularly used by their military. They train their people in the use and assembly and disassembly of arms of all military types. The Soviet Union uses its D.O.S.A.A.F. ["Voluntary Society for the Assistance of the Army, Navy and Air Force"] as a pre-induction military support organization. Likewise, Communist China has an advanced and well funded people's militia system. Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany all had para-military organizations which provided for training of military eligibles of all ages. Non-democratic governments have built regime support by showing their military hardware and building pride among the people in the sheer show of terror which only military hardware can bring. Knowing that either they were limited by international agreements not to exceed a certain size in the military, or knowing that their budgets cannot fully fund the military they would like, they arm and train the populus. Totalitarian governments are well aware that they may fight total and unrestrained warfare and hence become totally armed camps. Pre-militia and militia training is a key ingredient in the concept of the armed nation.

Totalitarian governments realize that an armed and trained population is a threat to their authoritarian rule so they train the population under careful supervision and control the supply of arms. Some totalitarian nations like the Soviet Union and Communist China train their people in basements of factories and other public facilities. The government provides arms, training, instruction and ammunition. Most compel their citizens to participate.

Contemporary totalitarian governments have drawn their inferences and conclusions about weapons and citizen arms training from a very realistic view of the realities of war. The war in Korea, the Vietnam War, the war in Afghanistan and the recent joint western military action in the Middle East have all utilized advanced weapons systems, but have depended no less on the foot soldier armed with a rifle. The holy wars of communism, "wars of national liberation," have not disappeared, and will not disappear, with the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union. Communism is still much alive in China and in the nations of southeast Asia under its influence. And wars of national liberation have always depended upon the success of the individual citizen-soldier and his small arm. Many successful wars of national liberation have been fought with obsolete and obsolescent weapons. American soldiers found Russian World War I bolt action rifles on bodies of many Viet Cong soldiers. Wars of national liberation are necessarily fought by citizen-soldiers, that is, unorganized militia, consisting of men who are first and foremost agricultural peasants and secondarily soldiers in the revolution. Soldiers in wars of national liberation are engaged in guerilla warfare and so must disguise their role in the armed camp. It was these citizen-soldiers who defeated the French in Indo-China and eventually brought great pressure on the American military in Viet Nam, and scored successes elsewhere.

The Citizen Soldier

The citizen-soldier may have been either conscript or volunteer. He stands in marked contrast to the professional soldier whose vocation is war. The citizen-soldier does not enter war for pay or booty. He goes to war only reluctantly, spurred on by notions of patriotism and nationalism and of duty. The citizen-soldier was the backbone of every American army. He deplores war. It was he who called attention to the excesses of professional soldiers in such disgraceful events as My Lai, Vietnam. He fights only as last recourse, when his nation is threatened, and not in imperialistic adventures. A recent article concluded that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted "as a declaration that Federal Government can never fully nationalize all the military forces of this nation" because the masses of men with their own guns constitute "an essentially civilian-manned and oriented set of military forces" who can "inveigh against federal professionalization of the state militia."(1) The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence listed as two grievances against King George III that "[h]e has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures [and] [h]e has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the Civil power."

The citizen soldier is seen, again, in medieval times, as the peasant conscripted to fight as a foot soldier. After the wars were over the peasant, too, returned to the fields. He is seen in the Minuteman of Lexington and Concord who left his business to attend to the matter of the nation's liberty. Of the wrongs done to the colonists, the Minute Men of Massachusetts, and the role of the citizen-soldiers, Chief Justice Earl Warren once wrote,

Among the grievous wrongs of which [the Americans] complained in the Declaration of Independence were that the King had subordinated the civil power to the military, that he had quartered troops among them in times of peace, and that through his mercenaries, he had committed other cruelties. Our War of the Revolution was, in good measure, fought as a protest against standing armies. Moreover, it was fought largely with a civilian army, the militia, and its great Commander-in-Chief was a civilian at heart. . . . [Fears of despotism] were uppermost in the minds of the Founding Fathers when they drafted the Constitution. Distrust of a standing army was expressed by many. Recognition of the danger from Indians and foreign nations caused them to authorize a national armed force begrudgingly.(2)

The citizen-soldier is a militiaman, a member of the unenrolled or the enrolled militia. Those enrolled formally today belong to the National Guard units of their state. A simple dictionary definition of militia is, "a body of soldiers for home use." The term meant "miles" or "troops" and was derived from the latin word for soldiers.(3) In medieval Europe it was "the whole body of freemen" between the ages of 15 and 40 years, who were required by law to keep weapons in defense of their nation.(4) In the later Middle Ages the militia was the whole body of "citizens, burgesses, free tenants, villeins [serfs] and others from 15 to 60 years of age" who were obliged by the law to be armed.(5) Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines the militia as "a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency" and as "the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service." One who participates in the militia, Webster notes, is a militia man. Webster's New World Dictionary provides an even more comprehensive definition of militia:

Militia. 1. originally, any military force. b. later, any army composed of citizens rather than professional soldiers, called out in time of emergency. 2. In the United States, all able-bodied male citizens between 18 and 45 years old who are not already members of the regular armed forces: members of the National Guard, Organized Reserve Corps (Army and Air), and the Naval and Marine Reserves constitute the organized militia; all others, the unorganized militia.

A mid-Nineteenth Century dictionary merely defines militia as a trained band, a standing and total military force of the nation.(6) Another dictionary defines the militia as follows:

1. an authorized military force other than that of the full time, professional military establishment, especially an army of citizens trained for war or any other emergency . . . . 2. an authorized but unorganized military force consisting of the entire body of able-bodied men in the United States or its territories who have reached the age of 18 and are not more than 45 . . . . 3. any citizens' army; any nonprofessional armed force organized or summoned to duty in an emergency.(7)

A recent author(8) distinguished among army, trained bands and the various types of militia. An army is any armed land force that is organized and controlled by a clear chain of command. A militia derived from the Latin miles and the old English and French milice and indicated "the obligation of every able bodied Englishman to defend his country." It implies the obligation all citizens and perhaps resident aliens have to serve in the armed forces of their nation. In the American colonies the transition was made from English common law to the colonies. The federal Constitution made certain that any national obligation did not preclude service to the state which was primary and original. Initially the enrolled militia (or organized militia) included those select or specially trained militia enlisted by the colonies or states. Early select and enrolled militia were occasionally called Trained Bands. The Minute Men of New England were select or enrolled militia. After the federal Militia Act of 8 May 1792 was enacted the enrolled militia was simply those who had registered for militia service, providing their full names and addresses. Eventually, the select and organized militias of the states were called the National Guard. National Guard units called into federal service, from the Whiskey Rebellion through the World Wars were occasionally called Volunteers. The Army of the United States consists of all armed men and women in the national service, including all enrolled militia men.

During the War of 1812 a conflict over the enrollment of militia by the national and state governments developed. Massachusetts and Connecticut objected to the attempt of the national government to call their state militias into the service of the nation. The state position was sustained by the highest state courts, but remained unresolved in the federal courts. By the end of the Civil War the issue had been decided in favor of the federal government, and the federal militia was firmly established. Theoretically, a citizen after the Civil War was, because of the dual citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, liable for service in both the federal militia and the militia of the state in which he resided.

Theoretically at least, a naval militia may exist under letters of marque and reprisal. During the Revolution a few states, notably Pennsylvania, had state navies manned by militia. President Thomas Jefferson toyed with the idea of protecting our shires with large row boats armed with smaller cannon and manned by militia. In 1889 Massachusetts created a naval militia as a counterpart to the regular, land-based state militia, and a very few other states followed.

Trained Bands (or Trainbands) are found primarily in Elizabethan and Stuart England. The concept and term may be found as early as the reign of Alfred the Great (849-899). "For greater security, certain men in or near each settlement or City, who volunteered or were selected otherwise, were given, or agreed to procure, arms in advance of any emergency." These men became the mainstay of Cromwell's army during the Puritan Revolution. These units developed from the broader militia. The term is occasionally encountered referring to select militia in the American colonies.

Another authority defined militia as follows,

The word militia has in the past been given three widely different meanings. In its broadest sense it covers all citizens who could be called out in an emergency to defend the country, our able bodied manpower. In a narrower sense . . . it refers to those citizens, roughly between the ages of 18 and 45 years, who were enrolled by law in regularly organized units . . . The National Guard . . . is the third class of militia. . . . [T]he guardsman is essentially an amateur soldier; the [other two classes of] militiaman was ever a civilian.(9)

Another term that applies to "the military organization of the entire nation" is levees en masse. This force "must be recruited from men . . . women, children and the aged." It stands quite a part from the regular army, and even the militia. Its forces commonly have no uniforms or military discipline or training. They fight only in their home areas, along ill-defined battle lines. It is an uprising of all the people, or of a significant portion thereof. Usually, it is called forth by a general call to resist the enemy, rather than a muster call; or it may simply issue forth spontaneously. It never fights abroad. Its weapons are whatever are available from among the people. While it most frequently occurs immediately after the local area is attacked, the term might apply to a popular uprising that occurs after an area is occupied.(10)

The U.S. Supreme Court discussed the meaning on militia in a 1939 decision which was based on traditional views expressed in state court decisions.

The significance attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Constitutional Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. "A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline." And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time. . . . In all the colonies, as in England, the militia system was based on the principle of the assize of arms. This implied the general obligation of all adult males inhabitants to possess arms, and, with certain exceptions, to cooperate in the work of defense. The possession of arms also implied the possession of ammunition, and the authorities paid quite as much attention to the latter as to the former.(11)

The sentimental role of the citizen-soldier is found in the parallel to the Roman Cincinnatus who left his plough in the field to answer his country's call.(12)

In one of the very few rulings given by the Supreme Court on the right to keep and bear arms, the high court looked at the historical context in which militias had developed.

It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States as well as of the States; and, in view of this prerogative of the general government, as well as of its general powers, the States cannot, even laying the constitutional provision in question out of view, prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms, so as to deprive the United States of their rightful resource from maintaining the public security, and disable the people from performing their duty to the general government.(13)

James Harrington, the philosopher of property rights and economic determinism, called the militia, "the vast body of citizens in arms, both elders and youth."(14) Harrington also noted that the militia was "Men accustomed to their arms and their liberties."(15) Commenting on Harrington's thought, Sir Henry Vance the Younger wrote that the militia was comprised of those who "have deserved to be trusted with the keeping or bearing Their own Armes in publick defense."(16)

Adam Smith, author of the influential treatise on economic liberalism, The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, defined the term militia as,

either all the citizens of military age, or a certain number of them, to join in some measure the trade of a soldier to whatever other trade or profession they may happen to carry on. If this is found to be the policy of a nation, its military force is then said to consist of a militia.(17)

A French writer observed that "a well regulated militia [is] drawn from the body of the people." It is "accustomed to arms" and "is the proper, natural and sure defense of a free state." He cautioned his readers that a standing army was destructive of liberty.(18)

French military theorist Comte de Guibert expressed little admiration for militiamen who were not well disciplined. He described the citizen-soldier as a real barbarian who is

terrible when angered, he will carry flame and fire to the enemy. He will terrify, with his vengeance, any people who may be tempted to trouble his repose. And let no one call barbarious these reprisals based on laws of nature [although] they may be violations of so-called laws of war. . . . He arises, leaves his fireside, he will perish, in the end, if necessary; but he will obtain satisfaction, he will avenge himself, he will assure himself, by the magnificence of this vengeance, of his future tranquility.(19)

Sir James A.H. Murray in his New English Dictionary of Historical Principles, defined the militia as,

a military force, especially the body of soldiers in the service of the sovereign of the state, [who are] the whole body of men amenable to military service, without enlistment, whether drilled or not . . . . A citizen army as distinguished from a body of mercenaries or professional soldiers.(20)

Simeon Howard (1733-1804), writing in Boston in 1773, said that a militia was "the power of defense in the body of the people . . . [that is], a well-regulated and well-disciplined militia. This is placing the sword in hands that will not be likely to betray their trust, and who will have the strongest motives to act their part well, in defence of their country."(21)

Justice Story in his Commentaries defended the militia system. He wrote,

The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic usurpation of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expense with which they afford ambitious and unprincipled rulers to subvert the government, or trammel upon the rights of the people. The rights of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary powers of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.(22)

Benjamin Franklin defined the militia as a voluntary association of extra-governmental armed troops acting under their own authority. Franklin wrote that a militia is a

voluntary Assembling of great Bodies of armed Men, from different Parts of the Province, on occasional Alarm, whether true or false, . . . without Call or Authority from the Government, and without due Order and Direction among themselves . . . which cannot be done where compulsive Means are used to force Men into Military Service. . . . (23)

In Presser v. Illinois(24) the United States Supreme Court noted that,

It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserve military force or reserve militia of the United States as well as of the states . . . . [T]he States cannot, even laying the constitutional provision in question out of view, prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms, so as to deprive the United States of their rightful source for maintaining the public security, and disable the people from performing their duty to the general government."

In 1939 the Supreme Court reaffirmed this point of law. The militia is "comprised [of] all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense . . . . [W]hen called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time . . . ."(25)

The Idea of the Militia

The generation which produced the American Constitution approached military matters in terms of the tripartite system that has prevailed in England through the early 18th Century. The first level consisted of a small cadre of trained professional soldiers. They were similar to the houscarls in medieval times and the landsknecht in early modern times. They were few in number, representing less than one percent of the population. This group provided the experience, training, personnel and supply agents necessary for a major military mobilization.

On the second level, representing perhaps two to five percent of the population, would be the trained militia, corresponding to the Trained Bands of Stuart England. These men would be drilled in military fashion and trained under supervised conditions in riflemanship. They were true trained militia. They were first civilian farmers, craftsmen, tradesmen and professionals, and only secondarily soldiers.

The third group, by far the largest in numbers, encompassed virtually the entire, able-bodied adult male population.(26) In medieval days this group was known as the Great Fyrd. They were not ordinarily combat troops. They were mustered only in the case of actual invasion of their immediate home area.

In that unlikely event they would function as levees en masse, local citizens rising up in their own immediate area to resist invaders. The principle of levess en masse has long been recognized under international law. Normally, they would be the reservoir upon which the armed forces could draw in case large numbers were needed in wartime.(27)

In medieval times it was a matter of law that common folk have weapons, as used by ordinary citizens in their homes. Before induction the rulers expected the peasants to have acquired certain skills with their weapons in the course of daily life. The English Assize of Arms (1181), enacted by Henry II, required that each man keep at his own expense in his home a weapon appropriate to his rank and position.(28) The American use of militia was, in reality, a throwback to the practices of an earlier age.

Most European nations had abandoned the militia system by the Sixteenth Century. (29) Americans chided the English for abandoning the militia system which had worked so well here. The militia, alone, had served as a check on the native aborigine in the colonial period of American history. When General Braddock was defeated near Pittsburgh, then Ft. DuQuesne, the Virginia militia under Colonel George Washington's command stood against the French and Indians. The British army fled to the eastern seaboard. During the colonial period Americans came to trust the militia to a far greater extent than they trusted the regular royal army. The fancy uniforms and European battle formations may have served the British well in wars in the old world, but they were ill suited for backwoods America.

Award winning historian and former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin noted,

Everywhere, Americans relied on an armed citizenry rather than a professional army. The failure to distinguish between the "military man" and every other man was simply another example of the dissolving of the monopolies and distinctions of European life . . . . In a country inhabited by "Minute Men" why keep a standing army? . . . The fear of a standing army which by European hypotheses was the instrument of tyrants and the enslaver of peoples, reenforced opposition to a professional body of men in arms."(30)

While the English Parliament and His Majesty's government argued that the colonials ought to bear some part of the cost of the wars with the French and Indians, the colonists disagreed. The colonial legislatures had appropriated money to pay their militias. The British troops were useless in the woods. The British troops had been effective against the French armies in Canada, but that was of little concern to the colonials. Let the English bear the cost of their wars with France. After all, the wars here were only an extension of the greater wars in Europe.

Since the colonists' wars were generally brought on by England's massive conflicts on the Continent the home country could rarely spare many of its professional soldiers to defend the colonies against the French. In peacetime Royal troops were more numerous, but they were unpopular. Royal troops enforced the hated smuggling laws and, later, Britain's policy against westward expansion for the colonies. Such "tyranny", and the memory of the uses to which Cromwell and the Stuarts had put standing armies, seemed to validate the truisms of classical political philosophy: that an armed populace provides all the security necessary against either foreign invasion or domestic tyranny, while a professional army allows rulers to oppress their unarmed subjects.(31)

After the Revolution began the British decided to avoid any future armed conflict with the colonists over the payment of taxes or for any other cause. The British government had planned to disarm the Americans completely had they won the war of the American Revolution. In 1777 the British cabinet, confident of impending victory, planned to abolish the militia. The cabinet had planned that,

The Militia Laws should be repealed and none suffered to be re-enacted and the Arms of All the People should be taken away . . . . nor should any Foundry or Manufactory of Arms, Gunpowder or Warlike Stores, be ever suffered in America, nor should any Gunpowder, Lead, Arms or Ordnance be imported into it without Licence.(32)

In the late Seventeenth century the militiamen, coming from the towns and cities of New England, proved sadly deficient in the firearms skills and discipline necessary to contain even the ragged, ill-clothes and underfed braves of King Philip's army. The southern militia was all but non-existent. Only in the middle colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and to a slightly lesser degree, New York, were really a formidable force.

During the Revolution George Washington recognized that, however useful the militia might be in harassing or semi-guerrilla warfare, lasting victory could be forged only with a regular army. The militia concept had appealed to the Founding Fathers because it accorded with their philosophical predispositions and their own experience in warfare. From their inception the American colonies had to rely upon an armed populace for defense. Many times the colonies simply could not afford to maintain a sufficient standing military establishment. It also became a matter of duty. One had to work and to be prepared to defend the colony if he wished to live within its borders. Necessity, popular opinion and abstract philosophy had combined to commit the Founding Fathers to a military system based ultimately on what was then described as the "unorganized militia."

The unorganized militia ideal remained the basis of American military defense to the beginning of the Civil War. The ideal of Cincinnatus was epitomized in Lincoln's call for 60,000 three month volunteers who were supposedly to win the war in 90 days and return home. But the urban citizenry was no longer skilled in marksmanship. Few city dwelling unorganized militiamen had even the most rudimentary training with firearms. Archeological evidence suggests that many of the soldiers, particularly Northern troops, engaged in action throughout the Civil War were notably lacking in the firearms skills which were supposed to characterize the militia. Many rifles recovered either at the time or in subsequent excavation of Civil War battlefields had multiple charges poured into their barrels. Soldiers had continued to load their weapons without firing them.

It would be quite unfair to dismiss the militia by cataloguing only its failures. From their earliest days, the American colonies and subsequently the American Republic owed their existence to the valor of hastily organized militia forces in holding their own, and eventually overcoming, equally disorganized opposing forces.

Militia as a Reservoir

Though the nation could not realistically depend for its defense upon an unorganized and undisciplined citizen-soldier, no matter how well armed, those citizens who owned and regularly used firearms in their private lives were found to excel when mobilized into a disciplined and well ordered military force. Toward the end of civilian, and subsequently governmental programs to maintain and expand civilian marksmanship.

As early as the 1870s the National Rifle Association was founded for the purpose of promoting the shooting sports and, thereby, civilian and military marksmanship. These remained its sole objectives for its first half-century of existence. During this time it engaged in no controversy or political activities and remained a tiny organization largely dominated by retired military officers of whom the most prestigious were its early presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, and Rutherford B. Hayes. During the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt, and his Secretary of War, Elihu Root, the civilian marksmanship program was created by Congress. This program financed the construction of shooting ranges around the country and, in conjunction with the NRA, helped popularize the publicize shooting contests and exhibitions and other activities designed to focus young men's attention on the development of marksmanship skills. Particularly dramatic in this respect was the NRA's organization in 1908 of the first American Olympic Rifle Team to win a gold medal. In the same year President Roosevelt recommended to Congress that it appropriate further monies to establish target ranges in public schools.(33)

Although it has continued for over 75 years, the Civilian Marksmanship Program has never been generously funded. Limited amounts have been expended in the construction of shooting ranges in a few areas. The program's activities have consisted primarily in encouragement of and assistance to civilian shooting clubs and civilian shooters & competitors. Probably the most significant activity by the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) has consisted in selling, lending or leasing firearms and ammunition to both citizens and shooting clubs. Under the DCM vast numbers of obsolete and obsolescent firearms were sold to these clubs and private parties.

The national government had made two assumptions. First it had concluded that civilian marksmanship programs were a small, but highly important, part of total military preparedness. Second, it was important that civilians become familiar with military type weapons. In the case of a grave national emergency the reserve militia would have weapons of military type and of a standard military calibre.

The militia system failed when and where it was misused. When it was used as a primary unit of defense, and occasionally as an offense it rarely behaved well. It was never supposed to be the first line of anything. It was supposed to be a reservoir of manpower which could be trained, disciplined and drilled as organized militia. It also was to be a general reservoir of untrained manpower skilled only in the use of firearms, who might be conscripted, drilled, disciplined and formed into cohesive fighting units within the setting of a military system.

A number of factors have combined so substantially diminish government support for civilian marksmanship in the United States in the post World War II era. To the uninitiated, marksmanship skills have come to seem militarily irrelevant because infantrymen are now equipped with fully automatic rifles with which (it is assumed) "hits" can be assured by simply pointing in the general direction of the target and depressing the trigger until the weapon is empty.(34) Moreover, during the Cold War period, first priority for disposal of surplus American military weapons was for distribution to American allies around the world, rather than to the American civilization population.

Initially this diminution of government surplus sales of little importance because millions of foreign military surplus weapons were being imported and sold at very low cost throughout the post war period. In 1958 then Senator John F. Kennedy, himself a NRA life member, proposed legislation to end this traffic for the explicit purpose of protecting domestic American firearms manufacturers.(35) The legislation particularly mentioned five Massachusetts manufacturers. Domestic manufacturers had sought such legislation for years, but unsuccessfully because their comparative unimportance, and their concentration only in the New England region, had precluded their building the necessary political base of support. This situation was dramatically altered by President Kennedy's assassination with a foreign military weapon of type which, ironically enough, would have been prohibited under the firearms manufacturers' bill which he had introduced. As a result, such imports were subsequently prohibited by federal law.

Philosophical Background

The right to keep and bear arms and the militia and citizen-soldier concepts figure frequently in political philosophy. We find both democratic and authoritarian political theorists arguing the issue of the people keeping and bearing arms. There is an interesting philosophical question for authoritarians. Most authoritarian theorists agree that a citizen-soldier army affords the best possible defense for the state. Those bearing arms must be familiar with arms in order to use them effectively. How can a king provide for the arming and discipline of a militia unless he grants to the people rather free access to weapons? If the people have weapons will they not use the arms to secure their freedom?

We are hard pressed to find any democratic political theorist who would absolutely deny to the people the right to keep and bear arms. The problem for a democratic theorist is thus far different than it is for an authoritarian theorist. The democrat must consider how a government may grant free access to arms among the citizens and yet preserve the peace.

The Greeks

Plato (c.427-347, B.C.) in the Republic created a class of warriors which would be alone and in sole possession of arms. It is not coincidental that the elite also controlled all political activity. The rulers whom Plato called guardians could tell the "noble lies" to the masses and otherwise control them as they saw fit. The arms-bearing class emerged politically and economically supreme naturally as the pure, ideal, first state underwent corruption and disappeared. As men obtained more than they actually needed, the first state lost its base. When men lived in the primitive society they had only what they actually needed and therefore did not attempt to obtain more. After men fell metaphorically from grace and became greedy, disparities of wealth and poverty became the bitter condition of society. To maintain their position the hunters and warriors appropriated to themselves alone the right to have, keep and bear arms. They created the second state.

In the third, proposed state of the Republic, the remnants of the hunter-warrior class maintained a monopoly on arms bearing. They were especially recruited because they had superior physical and mental abilities. The arms bearers were now called the Guardians. They were interbred and educated apart from the rest of humans in the state. Plato likened the Guardians to faithful dogs. In normal times they were placid and docile. In times of war or internal strife they became defensive and loyal to their masters and ready to defend him and what was his to the death. His great distrust of the common man may be observed in the following,

If a war with outside forces arises, the oligarchy are faced with the following dilemma: either they must call out the common people or not. If they do, they will have more to fear from the armed multitude than from the enemy; and if they do not, in the day of battle, these oligarchy will find themselves only too literally a government of the few. (36)

While Plato condemned the oligarchy of wealth and privilege that he saw in many lands, and he knew that the tyranny was backed by the great force of arms for which the oligarchies had a monopoly, he did not see that his Republic created much the same sort of system. He was the first political philosopher to discuss the distinctive and obvious link between tyranny and arms monopoly. Plato was no friend to democratic theory in his Republic, but he did teach his fellow Greeks that the art of war was a distributive activity. His entire guardian class was bred to serve as the protection of his ideal state in war. They were trained as faithful dogs who loved and obeyed their masters and were at peace at home, but necessarily protective of their masters and brutal to his enemies. In Book XVII of the Republic Plato took up the question of the conduct of war. He set rules which the citizen-soldiers of the Republic must not violate. His rules did not civilize war, but they did set reasonable limits on the conduct of war and on the treatment of prisoners of war. In war,

Men and women will take the field together and moreover bring with them the children who are sturdy enough to learn this trade, like any other, by watching what they will have to do themselves when they are grown up; and besides looking on, they will fetch and carry for their fathers and mothers and see to all their needs in the time of war.(37)

In the Laws, written after the failure of his experiment with a practical model of the Republic, Plato again suggested the disarmament of the general populace. Plato knew that a democracy required that the common people enjoy the right of keeping and bearing arms, and that with arms they were a constant threat to rebel against tyranny or excessive authority.

Xenophon, like Plato, was a student of Socrates in Athens. He became a mercenary soldier on an ill-fated expedition in Persia that was designed to change rulers in that nation. After the pretender Xenophon supported died he and his men were trapped in hostile country. His Anabasis recounted the retreat of the 10,000 soldiers. During that retreat he discovered that an army like a city is a community of friends. It was governed by as pure a form of democracy as was known in antiquity. He came to regard to his leadership as a form of paternal care of his friends. In a retreat like that undertaken by Xenophon and his comrades one had the opportunity to observe how training and discipline worked on the citizen-soldiers. He concluded that military service simply magnifies civic virtues and vices. The strengths and weaknesses of the parent civil society from which the men had come are written small in the military child. The system which draws upon men who are first citizens and only secondarily soldiers works best and has the greatest stability in times of crisis. Xenophon was the first to concentrate on studying and developing techniques of effective military and civic leadership, and of the relationship between the military and civil authorities.

Xenophon was also the first to observe and write on the intimate relationship between hunting and the art of war. Nothing prepares a citizen to go to war as thoroughly as the chase. It was Xenophon who related the legend that Churon the centaur had learned the hunt from the gods and had passed its arts and mysteries along to humankind. Hunting, the gods knew, was the way to prepare for war. One learned to know nature and how to blend in with it; and one learned sciences such as typography and geology. So convinced was Xenophon of the value of hunting that he prepared to first treatise on the subject, Cynegeticus. He also wrote of the values as well as pleasures of hunting in Cryopaedia.(38)

Aristotle (384-322, B.C.) is generally viewed as the father of republican thought. We are accustomed to reading his classic definition of the polis (city-state) as the locus of moral activity and the politics carried on in the state as a form of applied ethics, of "ethics in action." The good state was obliged to distribute justice as its primary function, rendering to each his due by a constant and perpetual will.

Plato was Aristotle's mentor and his political opponent in that Aristotle favored a more democratic form of government. Aristotle rejected Plato's transcendental approach, substituting for it an empirical methodology based on observation. Plato had made astute observations on political realities, as we have seen, above, but he constantly returned to the guidance of innate knowledge gained in pre-existence in a "World of Ideas." Typical of Aristotle's observations of practical political events in his description of the disarming of the Athenians by Peisistratus:

Winning the battle of Pellenis, he seized the government and disarmed the people; and now he held the tyranny firmly and he took Naxos and appointed Lygdamis ruler. The way in which he disarmed the people was this: he held an armed muster at the Temple of Theses and began to hold an assembly, but he lowered his voice a little, and when they said they could not hear him, he told them to come up to the forecourt of the Acropolis, in order that his voice might better carry, and while he used up time making a speech, the men told off this purpose gathered up the arms . . . . (39)

Male citizens are to govern in the best of all forms of government, the Republic, "the members of which are those who bear arms." (40) Those who are not privileged to bear arms will be the servants of those who possess arms. Aristotle described the oligarchy of a warrior class: "The farmers have no arms. The workers have neither arms not land. This makes them servants of those who do possess arms." (41) Aristotle rejected Hippodamus' argument for a city-state based on classes with definite functions, including an arms bearing warrior class. His distinct preference was for a republic in which arms bearing is an attribute of true citizenship. War would be made in the ideal republic by citizen-soldiers.

Aristotle based his principles on observations of political practices in 300 states known in his time. He drew conclusions from realities and became the first political scientist in that he described rather than prescribed based on personal insight and philosophical presuppositions. Much of what he observed was held by men over two millennia to be absolutely true and final. Power was held by those who controlled arms. States seemed to move from distributive arms possession to highly restrictive arms possession as they became more despotic. There was no real challenge to the conclusion being based on cause and effect.

Aristotle had made the classic division of governmental types: monarchy, aristocracy and republic. Each pure form of government had its corresponding corrupt form: tyranny, oligarchy and mob rule. One way one might tell a monarchy from tyranny and aristocracy from oligarchy would be that in the good forms, people might keep and bear arms, whereas in the corrupted forms, the state would have a monopoly on arms. Aristotle described the rule of the "30 tyrants" of Athens as being characterized by the disarmament of the general population. Only the 3000 persons who accepted the tyrants could own property of any kind, arms included. (42)

The Romans

The early Romans based their Republic on the citizen-soldier army. One was not a professional soldier; one was a citizen engaged in normal civilian occupations who served on demand, as a soldier. Arms bearing the citizenship were co-extensive and co-terminus. The decline of the Republic paralleled the emergence of the professional soldier, and, worse, the employment of mercenary soldiers. They left behind very little literature concerning the militia and the citizen-soldier.

In the Roman Republic all citizens, patricians and plebeians alike, had the right and the obligation to keep and bear arms. The compiler of much Roman law and philosophy of history, Cicero (106-43, B.C.), argued that states, unlike people, do not naturally die. When a state dies, its entire world and world-view perishes with it. It must survive in order to preserve a way of life in which it has placed its supreme values. In order to continue to live the state must occasionally engage in war. War may licitly be entered only to save honor or for the safety of the state and its citizens. The citizen-army represents the very spirit of the state and it must be the cornerstone of its defense.(43)

The republic had been founded on the principle of the citizen-warrior. Arms bearing served two purposes. Citizens bearing arms protected and defended the state against foreign enemies. The militia was also a guarantee against tyranny. As late as c. 50 B.C. Cicero defended assassins whose acts of murder had been done for the good of the state. In 63 B.C. Cicero defended Gauis Rabirius who had killed Lucius Appuleius Santurnius because the latter had conspired with Gaius Marius to replace the arms bearing populace with a standing army. Once a standing army, mercenaries generally, was created the people could be deprived of their arms and denied the arms necessary to preserve a republic. (44)

Again, in 53 B.C., Cicero defended a republican colleague accused of the murder of Publius Clodius Pulcher, a disciple of Caesar. Cicero argued that the alleged murderer, Titus Annius Milo, had used justifiable force and had acted in the best interests of the state. His actions were justified under natural law. Cicero's speech in the politically charged atmosphere of this trial is a classic defense of the right to keep and bear arms.

And indeed, gentlemen, there exists a law, not written down anywhere but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading but by derivation and absorption and adoption from nature itself; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law that lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right. When weapons reduce them to silence, the laws no longer expect one to await their pronouncements. For people who decide to wait for these will have to wait for justice, too -- and meanwhile they must suffer injustice first. Indeed, even the wisdom of self-defense, because it does not actually forbid men to kill; what it does, instead, is to forbid the bearing of an inquiry passes beyond the mere question of the weapon and starts to consider the motive, a man who had used arms in self-defense is not regarded as having carried them with a homicidal aim. (45)

The court did find Milo guilty, perhaps in part because of the politics of the times, and perhaps in part because of the popular pressures brought to bear (there were riots in the streets of Rome), and perhaps in part because the murder had occurred as a result of a clash between the two rival camps, and there was some real guilt. But Milo was exiled, not executed, perhaps in part because the jury thought that Milo had removed a tyrant.

Shortly after Milo's trial, Caesar made his historic crossing of the Rubicon (49 B.C.). This act confirmed Gaius Marius' abolition of the citizen-soldier and the replacement of it with professional mercenaries. Rome became more imperialistic, embarking on wars of conquest which allowed the soldiers to collect booty from the conquered peoples. The wars in Gaul marked the end of the republic for Romans and the end of liberty for many non-Romans who were conquered. Caesar bragged that he had "cut off the hands of all who had borne arms" against him and had slain "a great number of them and stripped all of their arms." (46)

The result of the replacement of the citizen-army with a mercenary one was that when the Roman Empire fell, the mercenaries fled or turned against Rome and there was no one left to mount the ramparts. The sturdy Roman citizens who had defeated Carthage and all opponents over seven hundred years fell quickly to the barbarians.

Early Christian Thought

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was the first great synthesizer of Christian thought. In his discussion of the just war, Augustine defined the state as "a multitude of men bound together by some bond of concord."(47) A citizen of the state "may do the duty belonging to his position in the State by fighting by the order of his sovereign" even if the leader is "an ungodly king" and the militiaman is "a righteous man."(48) Augustine followed Cicero in agreeing that "a state should engage in war for the safety which preserves the state."(49) The evil of war is not in killing and dying; rather it is in the change wrought in the hearts of those who come to love war and violence, and who hate their enemies.(50) If Christ had intended to condemn war outright He would have done so. He would have told the soldiers who came to him(51) that he could not earn or merit salvation as long as he bore arms.(52)

God Himself may order some men into battle. He may unite his faithful to serve Him in a great war against the Evil One. God had called the Chosen People to war in the Old Testament. He might have cause to do the same again. In that case all of God's people would be called. It would be a heavenly militia that might fight at the Battle of Armageddon(53) on God's side.(54) Regardless of the nature of war, God's saints can never be harmed. The saints are immune to all things of the world. Whether they are the soldiers in a battle or the victims of a war, they cannot be led astray, for they are impelled to God by irresistible grace.(55)

After the fall of the Roman Empire, defense against external and internal enemies was provided in the many small kingdoms by a complex arrangement of obligations based on class distinctions. The lower classes provided common arms of the day and were known as the fyrd. Those subject to discipline were the select fyrd, and the untrained masses were known as the great fyrd. Nobles maintained a standing arm of professionals or mercenaries known as houscarls. By 690 A.D. the ceorl, the lowest freemen in England, had been ordered to keep and bear arms as an obligation to the lords to whom they were bound. (56)

Arms were to be borne in defense of the state, but there is little evidence that they afforded protection to the commoners. The nobles had, on occasion, used arms to force a king to reduce his powers over the nobility, as in the case of the English Magna Charta. One reason that commoners did not use arms to check tyrannical power may have been the strong influence of church theology and philosophy which widely condemned the assassination of kings. Generally, such medieval thinkers as Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and John of Salisbury (1115-1180) condemned regicide and rebellion.

Early European Thought

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) returned to Aristotle's principles in constructing much of his public political philosophy. We have discussed Machiavelli more fully elsewhere. His principle that arms bearing was the major proof of the existence of a republic, and that only in the republics were the people at large permitted to arm themselves in peacetime, became the cornerstone of much of republican thought that continued through the American Revolution. We will discuss Machiavelli in more depth shortly.

In 1516 Thomas More (1478-1535) published the first great novel depicting a hypothetical land that is unknown, but which, once described, can serve as a model for other lands. He chose as its title Utopia, the Greek word for "nowhere," and such novels ever after were called "utopian." In Book II he devoted a brief section to the war among the Utopians. He wrote,

They hate and detest war as a thing manifestly brutal, and yet practiced by man more constantly than by any kind of beast. Contrary to almost all other peoples they consider nothing so inglorious as the glory won in war. Nevertheless, both the men and the women of Utopia regularly practice military exercises on certain days, so that they will be prepared when the need arises. . . . When they promise their resources to help in a war, they furnish money abundatly, but citizens very sparingly. . . . If possible they use only their mercenaries and so avoid sending their own citizens to battle. When this is impossible and they must take part in the fighting themselves, they join battle with a boldness as great as their prudence in avoiding it.(57)

Even after the Reformation, revolution was unacceptable in western theology. Martin Luther (1483-1546), for example, condemned the German peasant uprising and apologized for the brutal suppression of that rebellion. Luther told the rebels that not only were they to be tortured to death in this world, they would also be condemned to everlasting hell fire and damnation in the next world.

At the beginning of modern thought, many writers were strongly in favor of absolute monarchy. Jean Bodin (1530-1596), who wrote the Six Books of a Commonwealth in 1606, saw sovereign power as unlimited, and advised his followers never to permit the people to keep and bear arms. "Another and most visual way to prevent sedition, is to take away the subjects' arms . . . " (58)

A staunch advocate of unlimited power of sovereigns, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) wrestled with the problem of the people bearing arms before arriving at a solution which is not either logical or internally consistent. One must always attempt to provide for his own self-preservation, and thus Hobbes was reluctant to disarm the people. Nonetheless, sovereign power, if it is truly sovereign (i.e., unlimited) must allow the king a monopoly on force, meaning, practically, a monopoly on arms. For individuals Hobbes wrote, "A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always voyd." (59) Yet when he discussed the power of the monarchy he wrote, "Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and have no strength to secure men at all." (60) "There are two things necessary," Hobbes reasoned, "for the people's defense: to be forewarned and to be forearmed."(61) The enrollment of a militia is a part of being forearmed, "for the listing of soldiers and taking up of arms after the blow is given is too late . . . ."(62)

When the people hire the king, having formed a covenant among them, the king is in no way bound by the contract for he is not a partner to the contract. Hobbes always cautioned that the cause of that greatest political evil, civil war, was the king having insufficient sovereign power. Hobbes had no intention of giving the people the right to use their arms to overthrow a king, whether just or unjust. That would be sedition, the great disease in the body politic; and Hobbes acknowledge no right of tyrannicide.

The king alone in Hobbes has the right to order the use of, and training in, arms. "[O]ne council or one man, who hath the right to arm, [is] to gather together, to unite so many citizens, in all dangers and on all occasions, as shall be needed for common defence against the certain number and strength of the enemy." The people have bargained away "their whole right of war and peace unto some one man or council." The king can call out his whole body of subjects but "no man can by right compel citizens to take up arms." A king may "punish him that doth not obey" a call to arms.(63)

John Milton (1608-1674), whose Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649) defended the execution of Charles I (1649), was one of the leading intellectuals of the Puritan community. In his Eikon Milton wrote, "Our trained bands are the trustiest and most proper strength of a free nation."

The democratic political philosophers who followed Hobbes and Bodin granted the people the right to arm themselves. John Locke (1632-1794) and James Harrington (1611-1677) saw that democratic governments can exist only when the tyrant is threatened by a people which had the arms to effect revolution in defense of freedom. Locke noted that when people "have given themselves to the absolute power and will of a legislator, they have disarmed themselves, and armed him, to make prey of them when he pleases."(64)

James Harrington emphasized general property ownership as a pre-condition for establishing and maintaining republics. He conceived one form of property, arms, to be the primary means by which individuals affirmed their political participation. How they exercised the right to possess arms told us much about their ability to act as responsible moral agents. Bearing arms, simply, symbolized political independence. Because the landed gentle class had leisure time on its hands it could exercise many attributes of citizenship, including voting and bearing arms. As Harrington wrote, "Men accustomed unto their arms and liberties will never endure the yoke" of tyranny. (65) As one recent article concluded, James Harrington " . . . associated political stability with the armed, enfranchised and propertied citizenry."(66) Property as land was an insufficient proof of citizenship. Arms guaranteed both political and participation and maintenance of other property rights. Like most other English political theorists of his time, Harrington thought that only the citizens' militia could preserve the democratic constitution which they advocated.(67)

Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) opposed the policies of Charles II in England, and in 1670 was beheaded for his "treasonable" opposition to the arms policies of the monarch. Catholics, favored by the Stuart King, had been armed, and Irish mercenaries were imported to bolster kingly power at the expense of the majoritarian Protestant populace. These Anglicans and other Protestants in communion with the established church had been disarmed. Sidney's protest cost him his life, but that sacrifice added fuel to the fire which eventually led to the Glorious Revolution, and the promulgation of the English Bill of Rights. He was among the several prominent radical Whigs who taught that arms were "the only true badges of liberty." (68) Sidney warned against disarming the people while allowing the legislator to have his powers to "make prey of them when he pleases."(69) In "a popular or mixed Government, Sidney wrote, "the body of the People is the publick defense, and every man is arm'd and disciplin'd." The militia, however, consisted only "of the same Persons as have Property."(70)

John Toland (1670-1722) expanded the importance of the militia as it had been described in the writings of Sidney and Harrington. His The Militia Reform'd (1698) planned to arm the vast body of English freemen who were also property owners. Only such a group as the property owners would be able to discern and serve the public good. This body was Toland's Roman citizenry under arms and the backbone of the Roman Republic. Those who had to work for a living lacked the time to reflect upon the meaning of the public good. The young nobles and gentry of England might make her army the best in the world. In the ancient world, "a general Exercise of the best of their People in the use of Arms was the only Bulwark of their Liberties." (71)

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) also viewed arms bearing as a fundamental right of a free people over and against attempt of government to suppress arms. His "Sophisms of a Tyrant" was written to parody those English monarchs who would violate the natural rights of Englishmen (and all peoples). One principle that a tyrant must always follow is to "unarm his people and store up their weapons." Freemen possess arms, and when we wish to know if a nation is free, we need only examine the distribution of arms. If the people may possess arms we have a republic and if the king has all the arms we have tyranny. (72)

Marchamont Nedham (1620-1678), writing in the second half of the Seventeenth Century, held that "responsible citizens, freemen" alone had the right to keep and bear arms. Those "such as had an Interest in the Publick" might be enfranchised with this right. His universe of armed citizenry was smaller than the pool established by democratic writers, but the principle was here reaffirmed. Only freemen bear arms and only those are free who possess the right. (73)

The far left of the English Puritan Revolution was well represented by the True Levellers (or "Diggers"), led by Sir Gerard Winstanley (c.1609-c.1660). In their view the citizen-soldiers had rescued England from foreign influences. They drew an analogy between Charles I and William the Conqueror. "And now the Commoners of England in this Age of the World are risen up in an army, and have cast out the Invasion of the Duke of Normandy, and have won their Land and Liberties again by the Sword."(74) One model Puritan government given by John Rushworth (1612-1690) for the Levellers was entitled, "The Agreement of the People." It was presented to Parliament in October 1647 and again, in a slightly revised version, in January 1649. Regarding the popular militia and the restricted use of armed force generally, it proposed, as its eighth point, the following.

We do not empower them [Parliament] to impress or constrain any person to serve in a foreign war, either by sea or land, nor for any military service within the kingdom; save that they may take order for the forming, training and exercise of the people in a military way, to be in readiness for resisting foreign invasions, suppressing of sudden insurrections, or for assisting in execution of the laws; and may take order for the employing and conducting of them for those ends . . . .(75)

The effectiveness of the English Puritan political philosophers who advocated a militia in place of a standing army can be seen in the writings of contemporary royalists. In 1647 a group of professional soldiers wrote, "The Case of the army Truly Stated." They argued that the army "took up Arms in judgment and conscience for the people's just rights and liberties." But reading the Puritan pamphlets "the people begin to cry louder for disbanding the Army because they see no benefit accruing. . . . The Army is exposed to contempt and scandal, and the most black reproaches, and infamies are cast upon them . . . ."(76)

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) remained unimpressed and implacable. He preferred a standing regular army to the militia. Article XXVII of his constitution provided for 10,000 horse soldiers and 20,000 infantry to be stationed in the realm.(77) Many of the Puritans were greatly disappointed at this development. The anonymous author of "A True State of the Case of the Commonwealth," put forth the most thoughtful and comprehensive defense of Cromwell's constitution. Included was the statement that the army was "the only visible support of the Nation's security" and "the great Impediment in the way of their Monarchy."(78) Andrew Prynne (1600-1669), among others, argued that the Protectorate had erred on occasion. He blamed those errors on the lawyers and the professional military men. Among the mistakes was Cromwell's placing reliance on the army and not a popular militia.(79)

Andrew Fletcher (1655-1716), writing in the early years of the next century, observed that, "he that is armed is always the master of the purse of him that is unarmed." (80)

Few Europeans had more influence on the development of political theory in American than did Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu (1689-1755). Montesquieu was one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite authors. In his best known work, The Spirit of the Laws (1748), Montesquieu observed,

[I]t follows that the laws of an Italian republic, where bearing fire-arms is punished as a capital crime and where it is not more fatal to make an ill use of them than to carry them, is not agreeable to the nature of things.(81)

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) did not accept the traditional view of war, that war is a natural human activity, because war is a social activity and man for him was not a social animal. As humans came together, unnaturally for Rousseau, they made war. The root cause of early wars, before firm states were formed, was the inequality of human possessions. The rich wanted more and the poor wanted something. These wars were, for Rousseau, informal and unorganized mob activities, not infrequently carried on by gangs of bandits. Later unequal states forced the masses of men to war on one another. All citizens in Rousseau's state are torn between law and order in the state and the violence that international disorder brings. Rousseau gave humans no way out of the dilemma. Peace would come only occasionally as a unilateral and temporary measure. The citizen would eternally be required to serve the state at the will and pleasure of his sovereign.(82)

During 1745 an anonymously written work, A Plan for Establishing a National Militia in Great Britain, Ireland, and in all the British Dominions of America,(83) appeared on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The author strongly advocated the re-enactment of the long dormant militia law and the reinvigoration of the militia. The militia was to be comprised of "all men capable of bearing arms, from the age of eighteen to that of fifty years; except such as may be exempted by law." He urged that all citizen-soldiers be treated with compassion and dignity. "In a right institution of this kind no military tyranny ought to be practised." Noting the traditionally brutal discipline of the armed forces, he urged that "No corporal punishment should be inflicted, but all military discipline encouraged by example and rewards, or enforced by pecuniary fines." He extolled the virtues of a militia, claiming that "nine of the greatest military exploits recorded in history were performed by well trained militia." The militia performed best when "divided into two branches, viz., the superior military composed altogether of men of property, and the subordinate militia of the common people." The propertied classes could form mounted troops while the common folk would serve in the infantry. He urged popular election of officers, and, with Jeffersonian confidence in the people, believed that they would select the best of the numbers to fill these positions.

By 1740 the English standing army had been increased in size. The author expressed concern over two practices: maintenance of the standing New Model Army; and the growing use of hired mercenary troops. The author believed that the revival of a national militia would have a positive effect on national morale and unity.

The profession of a soldier, like all other arts, has its craft, pretending that military discipline is to be acquired only by long practice; but general experience vouches the contrary. Innumerable instances from ancient history, and many late examples, prove beyond all contradiction, that the essential parts of discipline may be learned very soon under a right direction. But supposing it is true . . . is there any time more urgent that the present, when we think it necessary to call in foreign assistance [mercenaries] against invasion? Is the safety, the very being, of this great and mighty nation, to depend upon an handful of auxiliaries, and perhaps an untrained rabble when it might become invincible by arming all the people of property? Who are so capable of defending the national wealth as those who have the largest share? . . . Neither riches or populousness are able to give security to a nation untrained to arms. . . . [W]henever they become a distinct body of mercenaries, making the profession of arms the only means of subsistence, their interest is opposite to that of the people in general . . . . [T]heir pay is at best a grievous burthen [burden] upon public industry. (84)

The militia in this plan was to train fourteen days a year, a substantial reduction from the thirty days required under feudal law. A militia was especially desirable as the basis of military organization in North America. The author expressed hope that a militia law

may extend to every part of the British dominion, where it is practicable; more especially to our Provinces and great cities of North America, situated near a restless, enterprising neighbor [New France], now at enmity, whose interest it is to subdue, by fraud or force, all those countries lying between his dominion and the sea. . . . For preventing therefore such fatal incroachments on the British dominions no means can be so effectual as the establishment of a general militia, well trained to arms in those Provinces, where the governor of each may be invested with the same powers which are exercised by the lords-lieutenants of counties of this Kingdom.(85)

On the very eve of the American Revolution, James Burgh (1714-1775) returned to the classic Machiavellian theory. His writings were owned by many prominent American political philosophers, including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Burgh contrasted citizen-soldiers and a mercenary army in his Political Disquisitions:

There is no end to observations on the difference between the measures likely to be pursued by a minister backed by a standing army and those of a court awed by the fear of an armed people . . . No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by the arming of the people. The possession of arms in the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He who has nothing and who belongs to another must be defended by him whose property he is and needs no arms. . . . A militia consisting of any others than the men of property in a country is no militia, but a mongrel army. . . . If a militia be not upon a right foot . . . the liberty of the people must perish. (86)

Matthew Rokeby (1713-1800) had likewise observed the tie colonists had established "all democratical governments where the power is in the hands of the people and where there is not the least difficulty or jealousy about putting arms into the hands of every man in the country." (87)

Writing after the war was over, English political commentator Richard Price observed that,

"Free States ought to be bodies of armed citizens, well regulated and well disciplined and always ready to turn out . . . Such, if I am rightly informed are the citizens of America . . . hardy yeomen, all nearly on a level, trained to arms and instructed in their rights." In contrast, British citizens who are far less free, have a political system "consisting as it does . . . of unarmed inhabitants and threatened" by tyrannical governors and by foreign enemies.(88)

William Blackstone (1723-1780), in his Commentaries on England's laws, written on the very eve of the American Revolution, listed the right to bear arms for self defense as an auxiliary right of the individual. Blackstone wrote,

The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject that I shall at present mention is that of having arms for their defense, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. [It] is indeed a public allowance, with due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. In these several articles consist the rights, or, as they are frequently terms, liberties of Englishmen.(89)

Algernon Sidney, in writing of the militia, noted that "every man is armed."(90) It would be difficult to read Richard Price(91) without appreciating his perspective on both rights, i.e., of the people to have a militia, and the individual to bear arms. The culmination of the English republican thought was the Bill of Rights. At least one authority believed that the English Bill of Rights conferred the right to bear arms on the individual.(92)

American political theory had many European roots. No viable political thought is merely the sum of its sources. Neither is political thought bounded or circumscribed by its antecedents. Few philosophers in any field accept an entire system from past. Philosophers take ideas that they like and use them as they see fit.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political philosopher, travelled extensively through America and was an honored foreign visitor. He observed, and developed a strong preference for, the militia system of military organization. He liked the democratic organization of the militia which avoided "blind, minute, submissive and invariable obedience" that marred standing armies. He hoped that democracy would always mark our militia system because to allow greater authoritarianism would be to deprive the militia of "its natural advantages."(93)

Few Americans owed more to a European precursor than Thomas Jefferson owed to John Locke. Jefferson was very close to Locke in many of his views. Jefferson rejected the residual absolutism in John Lock's thought. Locke was silent on the major points of revolution while Jefferson had no trouble accepting revolution. When Jefferson paraphrased Locke on rights in the Declaration of Independence he chose to alter the examples Locke had given. Locke mentioned, "life, liberty and property" whereas Jefferson noted, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Jefferson took what he liked from Locke and ignored Locke on points where he disagreed with him.

Many, but not all, European radical republicans accepted the notion of a citizen-army instead of a standing army as the first line of defense of the state. Some, but not all, radical republicans supported an individual right to keep and bear arms. Apparently, all those who defended the idea of an individual right to keep and bear arms also placed their trust in the militia system, although the reverse is not always true.

That some of the Founding Fathers believed in the right of the individual to keep and bear arms has been shown, above. It is certainly not true, and no one has claimed, that all the Founding Fathers supported either the total militia system or the individual right to keep and bear arms. Some American republicans supported the militia system without supporting an individual right to keep and bear arms. Few, especially in the South, would have cared to arm slaves or indentured servants. In time the right to bear arms would become more distributed.


Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was the father of the idea of the citizen-soldier as the best and principal defense of the democratic state against all enemies, foreign or domestic. All western liberal thought respecting the militia as the main defense of the state may be traced back to him. Machiavelli was also the father of political realism. He set down the observations he had made on politics during his years of active participation in the government of Florence. He drew heavily on history to provide examples of points he wished to make. History was a source of valuable lessons if only we chose to find, understand and profit from them.

Niccolo Machiavelli was the son of a Florentine lawyer, an educated man of modest means who held a minor post in the government. Niccolo had a common education and proved to be a superior student with a highly perceptive mind. Livy, the Roman historian, was his favorite subject of study. The young Machiavelli embarked on a program of legal studies, but apparently did not complete his law degree. He took little notice of many of the great events of his time, such as the discovery of the New World, or Renaissance arts. Politics and history were his consuming passion, his entire life's study.

It is hard to fit Machiavelli into one or two categories. He published and had performed several dramas, one of which had some literary merit. Mandragola (94) is still performed occasionally and remains in print. He was a philosopher with a bent (uncommon to philosophers) for the practical side of things. He was an historian of merit.

His History of Florence(95) remains a model of objective history for historians of all ages. It was the first history of merit and notice to have been written in Italian. It banished fables and other embellishments. It provided a smooth flowing narrative instead of just a chronology. Although he borrowed

heavily from other authors and made mistakes of fact, the book was the best history written in Italy since Roman times. It argued that mercenary armies had been the shame and ruin of Italy. Paid troops were the result of a slothful people.

Machiavelli also produced a treatise on war, L'arte della guerra, in 1520.(96) There he expanded on themes drawn from both The Discourses and The Prince. From his place of retirement he sought to tell the active military commanders, present and future, how to win in battle. In The Art of War he argued that rich states come to enjoy the good life far too much. Their urban populations become soft. The city dwellers lose their martial virtues and the state declines. Too much wealth, as Plato had observed, makes for the easy life and the decay of the military. The farmers are less given over to the life of luxury. As long as they own their land, they will work it hard. Hard work produces sturdy citizens who make sturdy soldiers. Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy's History of Rome were meant to establish principles that are valid for all peoples and all times. He completed his commentaries on only the first three of Livy's history. He wrote as much for as yet inconceived republics as for his own times. He did not derive his political philosophy from history. Rather, he used historical incidents to support conclusions at which he had already arrived, largely in his life as a politician. Most of the examples he used in the Discourses were drawn straight from Livy, although we occasionally encounter bits of legend and myth, and an occasional example drawn from Polybius.

In the Discourses he argued, as he had in The Prince, that a citizen army was the best check on unrestrained military, and was to him the only effect the citizenry on evil impulses that drove tyrants, and with them nations, toward unjust wars. The real wealth of the state is not found in its supply of precious metals; rather, it is found in a strong citizen-army. "Gold alone will not procure good soldiers, but good soldiers will always procure gold."(97)

Machiavelli was also heavily involved in practical politics. In 1498 the Florentine Dieci della Guerra, the Council of Ten for War, appointed Machiavelli to the post of secretary to the Council, a post he held until 1512. In 1507 he persuaded the republican government to adopt a militia system instead of relying on a standing army as its primary military protection. He argued that a mercenary army was the worst of all kinds of standing armies. It could be bribed to change sides. No state dared to rely on mercenaries in times of crisis. The soldiers fought only for booty. In times of peace mercenaries became restless and were apt to commit outrages on the local populace. Citizen soldiers should be drawn from among the hardy peasants. These men already endured great hardship and were accustomed to long, hard work days. They fought for principle. Kept in good order and subjected to reasonable discipline, they were the best soldiers. These themes, developed early in his life, he repeated in his Discourses and The Prince after he was retired from politics.

In 1508 Machiavelli marched his newly formed militia to victory at Pisa. Sent on a diplomatic mission to France in 1510, Machiavelli visited Switzerland. The Swiss militia appealed to him. He urged that the Florentine militia be ordered along the lines of the Swiss militia. He dreamed of the day when Florence and all the other Italian cities would contribute to a greater Italian militia, just as the Swiss cantons contributed to the national Swiss militia.

In 1512, Pope Julius II, angry because Florence had not joined in his crusade against France, ordered the mercenaries of the Holy League to overthrow the Florentine republic and restore rule to the Medici family. This was to be the acid test of the citizen-army. But Fate had not dealt Machiavelli or Florence a winning hand this time. The militia was overwhelmed by the hordes of mercenaries and broke rank and fled before the Pope's superior forces at the Battle of Prato. Florence was defeated and occupied, the republic was crushed and the authoritarian rule of the Medici family was restored. Machiavelli lost his post in the government and his ideas were discredited.

Machiavelli was captured, and, with his usual diplomacy, attempted to reconcile with the Medicis. His personal magnetism almost carried the day. Several youthful conspirators were captured and charged with plotting to overthrow the Medicis and reestablish the republic. The Medicis' secret police uncovered a list of supposed supporters and among the names was Niccolo Machiavelli. He was arrested and accused of plotting to restore the Republic, was tortured and fled into exile to the family's villa at San Casciano. Because he was not executed, he was suspect among the underground republicans. During his last fifteen years of his life he was an outcast, rejected by both republicans and the dictator. It was during that bitter time that he did most of his writing. The militia had been discredited in practice, but Machiavelli continued to defend it in the theory that poured from his pen.(98)

Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513, during the period in which he had fallen into disfavor in his native Florence. He owned a small property in the hills just outside the city. There he could look over his beloved city to which he dared not return, and whose politics he could never again influence by acts. It was during this period of involuntary retirement that he did most of his writing. Perhaps he could influence the course of Florentine politics through his writing, if only from the grave. Machiavelli thought to purchase his return to Florence. Having little money, he decided to dedicate a book to the Medicis. He began The Discourses, but progress was slow. So he composed a separate book The Prince which actually contains most of the major ideas of the uncompleted Discourses. It took only a few months to turn out The Prince, but the usually decisive Machiavelli vacillated. By the time he decided to send it to the man to whom it was dedicated, Giuliano de' Medici, in 1516, Giuliano had died. Having decided to release the book, Machiavelli then decided not to waste the dedication on a dead man, so he rededicated it, this time to Lorenzo the Magnificent, Duke of Urbino. Whether Giuliano, had he lived, would have been moved by this peace offering is problematic; it did not move Lorenzo, who simply ignored its author. The book continued to circulate in manuscript form until it was finally published five years after its author's death.

In 1525 Charles V (1519-1556), the Holy Roman Emperor, defeated Francis I (1515-1547) of France. This defeat left Italy open for an attack by Spain and Germany. Florence, as a vassal of Rome, had been an ally of the French, and thus was open to rapine and plunder. Pope Clement VII greatly feared for himself and the Church, and so turned to Machiavelli. In 1526 the Medicis appointed Machiavelli as an inspector of the city's walls. As it was, the German Emperor passed by Florence and sacked the richer prize, Rome. Clement VIII was made prisoner. With his fall, support for the Medici disappeared. The republicans again reigned in Florence. Machiavelli applied for his old post as secretary to the Council of Ten for War, but he was suspect. The denial came on 10 June 1527 and doubtless hastened his death just twelve days later.

His modest intention of conveying an understanding of politics as it was, rather how we might wish it to be, was executed so well that he has become the prophet of a new age. He accomplished his mission so thoroughly that he brought the curse of politicians to his doorstep and the enmity of the Roman Catholic Church to his soul. The Holy Father placed all his works on the Roman Index of Forbidden Books, which meant that the faithful could not read them except under penalty of mortal sin. It may be that both church and state did not want commoners reading about what they practiced.

In the divided Italy in which Machiavelli lived the greatest need was for political union. Only a strong prince may accomplish that goal. Democracies do not unite a divided nation. That is the function of an heroic figure, a strong prince. He wrote The Prince in order to attract a type-forming hero who would unite the nation. Such men are born, not made. But great men can make great mistakes and The Prince would provide practical experience and guidance to help the king to avoid the main pitfalls of statesmanship. The past is the most reliable guide to the future and this a good king must understand. His lessons are the stories of history.

Wise man say, not without reason, that whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who have been, and ever will be, animated by the same passions; and thus they must necessarily have the same results.(99)

Nothing was more important, or central to, his political theory than the concept of the citizen-soldier. Successful states of the past had always relied heavily on a citizen-army, rather than on paid soldiers. He wrote extensively on the uses and value of a citizen-army and the militia. It would be difficult to say whether Machiavelli's emphasis on arms bearing by the general populace was given greater position because of the primacy of militia over a standing army or because it was such an important attribute of citizenship. As a recent scholar observed,

For Machiavelli, the most dependable protection against corruption was the economic independence of the citizen and his ability and willingness to become a warrior. From this developed a sociology of liberty that rested upon the role of arms in society; political conditions must allow the arming of all citizens; moral conditions must be such that all citizens would willingly fight for the republic; and economic conditions must provide the citizen-soldier a home and occupation outside the army. This theme relating arms and civic virtue, runs throughout Machiavelli, and from it emerged the belief that arms and a fully array of civic rights were inseparable. To deny arms to some men while allowing them to others was an intolerable denial of freedom. Machiavelli's belief [was] that arms were essential of liberty.(100)

It was best to have all able-bodied men serve in the militia. There was no advantage to having a smaller number of men in the militia. It was not a true militia unless it drew on all physically and mentally able male citizens. "The smallness of the number does not ever make them better soldiers in a country in which there are plenty of men," Machiavelli wrote, "without a doubt, it is much better to have a large number of them than a small number; indeed, where there is not a great number, it is impossible ever to have a good militia."(101) He rejected the idea of a select militia which was based on religious tests, property or personal valuation, or political orientation.

The life and continued existence of the state was of the greatest concern to Machiavelli. If the state was to be defended by a citizen-militia, he had to consider the possibility that the citizens might use these arms against the state. Would its citizens have the potential for using weapons against, as well as for, the state? Would citizen-soldiers provide the best possible defense against both foreign and domestic enemies? He found that, by a considerable margin, the greater danger to the state lay in disarming the citizenry. It was the armed citizenry which kept republic "free and incorrupt." (102) Machiavelli observed that the maintenance of arms by the general populace had kept Sparta free some 800 year and Rome free for 400 years. His study of history showed that disarmed peoples had lost their liberties in a matter of only a few decades. Civil disturbances among armed populace were few, "for men who are well disciplined will always be as cautious of violating the laws when they have arms in their hands as when they have not." (103)

Machiavelli wished to arm the general populace in order to insure that any authoritarian government would not be permanent. After the nation-state is formed there would be precious little use for the prince. The people will then demand their rights as the architects of freedom. If the king continues to deny them their rights they would have the arms they need to successfully revolt.

Some rulers had built great fortresses to guard their persons and to protect them more from their people than from foreign enemies. They found that such castles were unable to afford protection from either. Static fortifications are nothing more than monuments to the stupidity of bad rulers. When rulers do not understand the hearts of their people they shut themselves up in fortresses. Rulers must understand that they must be active among their subjects, an impossibility if they seek refuge in their castles. Fortresses may be useful in defense, but only if they are manned by citizen-soldiers.

If subjects were tortured and ruined economically, they would nonetheless still obtain arms wherewith to resist the tyrant. If the tyrant should attempt to disarm them, they would obtain arms abroad or manufacture arms clandestinely. The condition of a subjected and despoiled people would give them the will to find weapons and to use them; or to fight bare-handed is necessary. (104)

An independent state would necessarily always have an armed force of some sort. An army guarantees a state's independence. States as independent sovereign powers exist in a Hobbesian state of nature. Warfare of all states against all other states is the inevitable result. No international law or treaty can possibly maintain the peace. Only a free people, willing to fight for home and king, can protect national sovereignty. A state without an army is a dependency whose politics is controlled by an outside power.

Machiavelli assumed that all treaty arrangements were subject to the principle of autolimitation, that is, that treaties are scraps of paper that one can terminate at will. Sincere foreign diplomacy is a contradiction. Sincere and diplomacy are mutually exclusive terms. There is no international power of policeman to enforce treaties so states will use treaties only as long as they serve the national interest. It would not be reasonable for a state to obey an international treaty or law if the principles contained therein conflicted with the best interests of the nation.

The question that any state must answer, then, is not whether it would have an armed force, but what kind of force it would be: citizen-warrior or mercenary. Both would have to be deployed at some training during the interludes between foreign wars. After the training was completed, what would be the position of each? The good prince or other governor must always control his military.

[The] armed forces must be under the control either of a prince or a republic. A prince must take personal command of his forces; a republic must appoint commanders from among its own citizens. . . . Experience shows that only armed princes and armed republics make notable advances and mercenary troops bring nothing but woes. A republic guarded by its own citizen army is far less apt to be subjugated by one of its own citizens than a republic armed with forces not its own.(105)

Citizens who are otherwise traditionally employed need only to be disciplined occasionally. Machiavelli observed that during Rome's glory years, "there was never any soldier who made war his only occupation." He argued that "a good man [would] not make war his only profession" and a wise prince would not permit it in his kingdom. (106) He thought it was appropriate to muster them on various public holidays when they would not ordinarily be preoccupied in their normal employment. When called upon to fight they would do so willingly and with great fervor for they had their own liberties and property to defend. They fought for principle and national honor and are motivated by only the most noble of desires. They would not run when confronted by a seemingly superior force. They would stand against any and all odds because of the nobility of their cause and the sentiments they held.

Mercenaries are employed by real or potential tyrants. They know no occupation other than making war. "Evils are caused by men who make mercenary war fare their sole occupation," Machiavelli wrote, "You must know the proverb: 'War makes thieves and peace hangs them.'"(107) It peacetime they serve absolutely no useful function in a democratic state. Their very presence foreshadows nothing good. They look for war and love the long war more than the short and the peace as a means to the next war. They hone their skills by exploiting and oppressing the people. They become parasites on the people, sucking out their life blood. They take food and molest the women and seek housing in the homes of the people. A loss by a mercenary or standing army meant only a temporary inconvenience. Indeed, professionals, and especially that portion of them who were pure mercenaries, might be reemployed by an invader as occupation troops or as agents of the invader. They had no principles and were restrained by no moral sentiments. They looked for loot. They were best known for rapine and terrorism. They would look at the native peoples as a source of food, women and booty. As Machiavelli wrote,

I say therefore that the armed forces with which a prince defends his position of power are either his own or mercenary troops, auxiliary or composite. Mercenary soldiers and auxiliaries are dangerous and useless; and if the prince bases his state on mercenary troops, he will never be firm nor secure in his position. For these troops are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, and unfaithful. Strong among their friends, among enemies treacherous, they know neither fear of God nor fidelity toward men. The ruin they inevitably bring is deferred only so long as battle is put off. In peace one is despoiled by them as in war he is despoiled by an enemy. The reason for this is clear. They have no other attachment nor any other reason to keep them in the field than a meager pay . . . . When war comes they either flee or desert . . . . [T]he havoc which prevails in Italy today is due to no other cause than the fact that for many years it has relied on mercenary troops.(108)

Troops borrowed or rented from another prince or republic are even worse than mercenaries. Machiavelli called these armed men on loan, "auxiliary troops." Of them he wrote,

Auxiliary troops, the second of the kinds which we have called useless, are those obtained by appealing to some strong prince for aid . . . . Anyone, consequently, who does not want military victory, should turn to troops of this kind, for they are much more dangerous than even mercenaries. The source of the ruin they bring is this: they constitute a united force, but wholly obedient to others than yourself. . . . [I]t is cowardice which makes mercenary troops dangerous, but their very strength constitutes a peril in auxiliaries. A wise prince, consequently, has always avoided recourse to this kind of troops, relying rather on his own men.(109)

If a citizen army were to be defeated the citizens would be disarmed and they would lose their rank and privileges. Their freedom would disappear. They and their families might be enslaved. They would be brutally treated in a way unique to a defeated, occupied nation. If they won their freedom and rights would be secured. A well-governed commonwealth "should take care that this art of war should be practiced in time of peace only as an exercise, and in time of war only out of necessity."(110)

Selection of commanders is important. No commander should have too much authority over his men. Commanders should be chosen for their natural leadership qualities. It is preferable that the commanders not come from the same area as their men. It is imperative that commanders have natural leadership characteristics. They must be brave themselves and share the hardships and lifestyle of their soldiers. There must be a clear chain of command. Each soldier and officer must know his charges, rights, duties, responsibilities and obligations. He must know over whom he has command and from whom he receives his own orders.(111)

While discipline was important, Machiavelli did not wish to compel any one to serve in the militia or in wars. His commentary on republican Rome contained the notation that it did not compel its citizens to serve. Julius Caesar destroyed liberty in the republic by creating a professional army which was no longer under the control of the citizenry. Wars of aggression had been checked by the refusal of the citizens to serve in unjust wars. This popular control was lost when the professional army became the mainstay of the nation. Wars of conquest brought masses of slaves from abroad and undermined the economic liberty of the Romans. Loss of political liberty followed the loss of economic liberty. Loss of economic and political liberty was followed by a breakdown of civic virtue and morality. All of this translated to a loss on citizen control over their future. As Machiavelli wrote,

If a city be armed and disciplined as Rome was, and all of its citizens alike in their private and official capacity, have a chance to put alike their virtue and the power of fortune to the test of experience, it will be found that always and in all circumstances they will be of the same mind and will maintain their dignity in the same way. But, then they are not familiar with arms and merely trust to the whim of fortune, not to their own virtue, they will change with the changes of fortune.(112)

Military activity produces good citizenship. It buttresses religion and family values. Citizen-soldiers acquired a spirit of cooperation and of sense of community. They learn to be loyal, to fear God, and to demand peace and order in the state. They despise civil disorder and social conflict. The decline of civic virtue can be traced to a decline in the militia. Whether true or untrue, Machiavelli claimed that crime was all but unknown when Rome depended upon its militia.(113) No mercenary army can ever capture the virtue of a citizen army.(114)

The ancient lawgivers and governors of kingdoms and republics took great care to inspire all their subjects -- but particularly with their soldiers -- with fidelity, love of peace, and fear of God. For who ought to be more faithful than a man entrusted with the safety of his country and sworn to defend it with the last drop of his blood? Who ought to be the founder of peace than those suffering from nothing but war? Who are under greater obligations to worship God than soldiers, daily exposed to innumerable dangers . . . ?(115)

A good war, now and then, keeps an army in shape. Even citizen-soldiers who are accustomed to hard work need the diversion war brings on occasion. All armies must flex their martial muscles just to keep fit. Rome was trim and fit so long as there were wars to occupy the peasants. When the gates of the Temple of Mars were closed for prolonged period the martial spirit was lost.

Machiavelli believed in strong martial discipline. It should be backed by rigid military law. He drew heavily on the Roman experience. Severe discipline produce hardy soldiers who had a sense of responsibility and of duty. Harsh discipline created respect for the state and its institutions. He preferred to have the militiamen themselves administer discipline. All men in a militia company were to witness punishment. A well drilled and disciplined army was unlikely to retreat, break ranks or disobey orders.(116)

There was much to commend in cavalry and in the various specialties, such as artillery, but the real strength of a state was in its infantry. It was the very nerve and foundation of the military establishment. Citizen-soldiers with pikes and bows could negate any advantage that even the best cavalry could offer. Create a strong infantry of citizen-soldiers and the future of the state was secure.(117)

Hunting is a useful recreational activity according to Machiavelli. No peacetime activity is as beneficial to the citizen-soldier. Machiavelli tells of the centaur Chiron was the legendary tutor of ancient kings. He learned the art of the hunt from the gods themselves. Hunting is an imitation of war. It demands that the hunter know various strategies to trap and kill wily animals. The hunter must be in excellent physical shape because he practices his art in all kinds of weather and in inhospitable terrain. He learns how to conceal himself and become one with nature. He must master his weapons.(118)

History runs in cycles. There is an inevitability factor in history caused not by God or Fate, but by the nature of humankind. As Machiavelli wrote,

Valor produces peace; peace, repose; repose, disorder; disorder ruin. From disorder, order springs; from order, valor; and from this, glory and good fortune. Hence, wise men have observed that the age of literary excellence is subsequent to that of distinction in arms; and that . . . great warriors are produced before philosophers.(119)

Machiavelli did not advocate an utopian society devoid of socio-political distinctions. Class distinctions existed and class membership would be determined according to the classes of weapons which the individuals possessed. This had been the case in republican Rome. Those denied arms possession would, in effect, be classless persons, without evidence of class standing or citizenship. Those who were denied ownership of, and access to, arms would be dependent on those who were armed. (120) It seems that Machiavelli did not anticipate that anyone would literally have to use his arms to force his way into ranked citizenship; rather, Machiavelli assumed that the fact that one was able to possess arms was proof positive that one had arrived at full citizenship status in one or another class in the republic. This was to become a recurrent theme in libertarian and classical liberal political theory, especially during the English Puritan Protectorate. The theme became a part of the Anti-federalist thought in the United States.

Militias in History

Militias are found in history beginning before the first great collectivist states were created by military conquest in the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, and Indus river valleys. Most early wars, as in Sumeria, were fought to gain control over trade routes, obtain precious metals or stones, or to steal the wealth from neighboring cities. Kings led a motley host into battle. The losers were killed, sacrificed to the gods or sold into slavery, whichever seemed to be most profitable.(121) The decline of freedom and the rise of the collectivist state may be traced to the decline of militias and the rise of professional, especially mercenary, armies.

Assyria especially was one vast and substantial army. Its leaders saw government as the nationalization of force. Its contributions to civilization were almost exclusively military. Its tactics centered on the rapid movement of well equipped, highly disciplined and thoroughly trained troops. All adult men were trained in the use of one or more of the standard weapons: bows and arrows; lances; swords of all descriptions; slings and projectiles; maces and battle axes; and enormous shields and armor. The nation in arms was augmented by sappers and engineers, charioteers and cavalry. No people had developed the art of siege, with all its attendant equipment, to a higher state before Rome than had Assyria. Despite having developed the policy of deporting captive nations and levelling their cities, the army was constantly challenged by revolts and uprisings. The citizens were amply rewarded for their services by sharing in the spoils of defeated enemy and through a system of payment for each severed enemy head. The king maintained loyalty by warring frequently so that there was little time between each distribution of the spoils of war.(122)

In Persia there standing army was composed exclusively of Medes and Persians, nobility all, numbering 2000 cavalry and 2000 heavy infantry. Behind this vanguard was the hodge-podge of peoples from every nation in the Persian empire, numbering 1,800,000 or more. Each nation was armed with its traditional weapons. In war time every able-bodied man between the ages of 15 and 50 years was required to report for duty. This vast number resembled a mob more closely than an army. There was little training. The Persians relied on numbers. Each time this great militia encountered a disciplined army which spoke one language and which obeyed one commander it was routed, as at Marathon and Platea.(123)

The Greeks perfected the citizen-army. They based their army on the whole free population. The pride of the polis of Sparta was its army. All males were trained for war. All males between 20 and 60 served in the citizen army. The hoplites were heavy infantry who had been trained to service to the state since infancy. Spartan youths learned all the military skills long before they were inducted into the army. Most of all they learned courage. No Spartan could survive the humiliation of defeat. The best a young man might ask for was to die in battle. Service was a citizenship requirement. No soldier was paid. Sparta was an armed camp before it was anything else.(124)

In Athens, pre-induction para-military training was an important feature of the pedagogy of youth. Athenian life was less militaristic than life in Sparta. Athenians were little given to military displays or constant drilling of troops, although the state certainly honored its military heroes. The army was a microcosm of society. The poor used bows, spears and slings. Those who could afford armor became heavy infantry. The wealthy who could afford horses filled the ranks of the cavalry. Even the navy was manned by citizen-soldiers, with the wealthiest citizens paying for the ships. In democratic times the army and the electorate were identical. Even the greatest Greek philosophers were proud of their militia service.(125)

Roman Citizen-Soldiers

The early success of the Roman republic may be directly traced to the development of one of history's truly outstanding military organizations. Its collapse may be traced to the decline of the citizen-army in the late Roman empire. As historian Will Durant wrote, "the citizens and the army were one."(126) The army was not only the first line of protection of the state; it was the basic unit of republican government. Polybius argued that the Roman military system had produced a political system of mixed institutions which was "the best of all existing governments."(127) The system lasted from 508 until 49, B.C.

Called centuries, these five divisions of armed forces, based on weaponry, assembled as the principal law making body of the state. Each legion consisted of more than 5000 men: first class heavy infantry; second class infantry; third and fourth class infantry with no armor; and fifth class infantry armed only with slings. Each legion had multiple centuries, first of 100, later of 200, men. A legion may have also several hundred cavalry.

Roman military training began among the youth in camps dedicated to pre-induction instruction in skills useful to a soldier. The young were brought up acclimated to hardship and an austere life style. Their diet of grains and vegetables with little meat or fish prepared them to live off the land and with simple rations. They learned the importance of cooperation and lived under conditions of severe discipline. This stoic and spartan education prepared the youth to expand and to defend that which Rome claimed as its own.

Before 405, B.C., the Roman soldier served because it was his duty to do so, and received no pay. The army performed both military duties and civic action functions. It built bridges and the famous highway system, easing travel to distant parts of the empire. It helped to erect the famous aqueducts that brought more water to Rome per capita than most modern cities have. It mapped the known world. It established Pax Romana which allowed commerce to expand. Travel was easier and safer than at any point in history until the Twentieth Century.

Rome's greatest challenge came from Carthage and resulted in a war unto death, divided into three periods with a rest time in between, and known as the first, second and third "Punic Wars." As Durant observed Rome's victories in the First Punic War proved "the superiority of an army composed of free men over mercenaries seeking the greatest booty for the least blood."(128) After the first Punic War, the Carthaginians failed to pay their general Hamilcar's mercenaries. The mercenaries rioted, laid siege to the city and sacked the surrounding area. Hamilcar raised a citizen army, raised the siege, crushed the revolt, and executed the leaders.(129)

Hannibal formed the Carthaginian army in the Second Punic War in 218, B.C., with only citizen-soldiers. His united command of Carthaginians, Spaniards, Libyans, and later some Gauls and anti-Roman Italians, numbered 50,000 infantry and 9000 cavalry initially. Rome raised a new citizen army of 300,000 infantry, 14,000 cavalry, and a reserve force of unenrolled militia numbering 456,000. Hannibal's army proved to be superior to Hamilcar's mercenaries and he ravaged the Italian peninsula for more than a decade. After Hannibal inflicted on Rome a series of humiliating defeats it issued a call to every male who might bear arms, slave, servant, foreign or free citizen, to repel the invader. As a true citizen-army not a man accepted pay for service in the campaign. Denied supplies, reinforcements and support from Carthage, Hannibal had been unable to win a final and decisive victory. Rome pressured Carthage itself and Hannibal withdrew to defend the home land. He suffered his first military defeat at Zama, in 202, B.C., with an army consisting primarily of mercenaries.

After Rome defeated Carthage in the Second Punic war, Rome demanded that Carthage disarm its people and destroy its weapons as a sign that it was willing to live under Pax Romana. The end result was the destruction of Carthage. In 151, B.C., Rome again declared war on Carthage. The unprepared Carthaginians sued immediately for peace. Rome demanded that all remaining tools of war be destroyed and that 300 children of the ruling class be sent to Rome as hostages. But Rome was not prepared to honor its initial guarantee of Carthaginian territorial integrity. Its fleet had already sailed, under orders to destroy Carthage. Rome demanded that the Carthaginians surrender their city and withdraw from it so that Rome might put it to the torch.

When the Carthaginian diplomats returned from talks with the Romans and disclosed Roman demands, those leaders who had disarmed the populace were killed by mobs. New leaders put out a call for a new citizen army. In just two months the citizens made 18,000 swords, 30,000 spears, 60,000 catapults and missiles, and 120 ships. They stripped public buildings and temples and prepared for the Roman invasion. It was too little, too late. The city withstood a bitter siege, and when the walls were finally breached, fought a guerilla war street by street. Rome conquered the proud Carthaginians. Out of a pre-war population of more than 500,000 only 55,000 remained, to be sold as slaves after capitulation. The city was razed and the land sown with salt. No peace treaty was required because Carthage had disappeared from history.(130)

By the end of the second century, B.C., the citizen army was disappearing rapidly. In 111, B.C., Sallustus, reporting on the war with Jugurtha, described an army composed of the urban poor. They fought less for state and principle than for booty, land and salves.(131) In 102, B.C., Gaius Marius was forced to recruit mercenaries from among the city proletariat to repel an invasion of the Cimbri. These Teutonic peoples came in hordes and at Aix in Provence, the Roman army repelled them, reportedly killing 100,000.(132) But the new army had no love for patrician Rome and it was unreliable because it fought only for booty and plunder.

When Rome fell it had fell, in part, because it had no citizen army. Its army was not a Roman army; it was composed, rather, of provincials and barbarians. These troops fought not for principle and home, but for money and plunder. They were classical mercenaries. These mercenaries attacked the rich cities of the empire more frequently than they fought the enemies without. The slaves and poor landless peasants who joined the army out of economic necessity had no love for the rich oligarchs of Rome. Frequently, when the barbarians entered provincial towns, they found the Roman army had left them precious little to steal.

The new military situation changed the political scene. Frontier town became sovereign regional capitals that paid little or no attention to Rome. During the reign of Gallienus, there were no less than thirty generals of the Roman army who had established and claimed hegemony over regions of the empire.(133)

Other Militias

In the Fifteenth Century Akbar the Great of India established a simple military system. He maintained a standing army of 25,000 men. Each province under his control maintained a small standing army and a militia consisting of all able-bodied men. In the time of war the state might swell the ranks of its army with provincial professionals, and, if necessary, the great militia.(134)

The European Militia

We will look at some of the major features of the militias of France and England in this section. We are not attempting to offer a history of militias in these two nations. We are looking for features of these militias that will help us in understanding the development and importance of the concept of militia. The militia of England had greater importance than that of France. As a land, rather than sea power, France depended heavily on a standing army. Since the situation was reversed in England, it used a militia to reduce the size of its standing army. The militia also became a pawn in the struggles between King and parliament in Seventeenth Century England. The citizens' militia was an important factor in the French Revolution.

Feudal Militia Law

Most experts agree that feudalism had come into existence as a response to Norse raids and invasions in both England and France. It was essentially a military arrangement brought on by necessity. Thus, military obligations were of greatest concern and paramount importance under feudal law. Those charged with military responsibilities were second in power and influence only to the clergy. Common people had little choice but to accept canon law to save their souls and military rule to save their lives. Without both of these powers neither the cultural heritage nor the people would have survived the challenge that the barbarians posed to their civilization.

Under medieval feudal law there was a complex arrangement established between lord and vassal. The vassal had a personal obligation to the lord and he was tenant of the land that ultimately came under the lord's control. The vassal who occupied land that belonged to his liege lord was bound in obligation to perform a certain measure of military service to the lord. In order to best and effectively fulfill this obligation the lord divided the land into districts ["knight's fees], each of which was to provide a set number of mounted knights and lesser military personnel. The maintenance of a standing army sufficient in size and armament to meet the obligation would have bankrupted the vassal. The formal or enrolled militia system was the arrangement that was most logical and economical. The obligation to provide arms and armed force was merely passed down from vassal lords to subjects.

In England the obligation of knight fees remained until 1660 when it was finally formally abolished by law. Because the mounted knight had actually been surpassed as an instrument of war once the iron suit for man and horse had become too cumbersome for comfort and operation, and because the long bow had rendered the knight obsolete, the medieval obligation had been an anachronism for over four hundred years by the time the law was actually repealed.

The English Militia

Early English law said little about the right of freemen to keep and bear arms. Most laws we can discover are based on the assumption that freemen have arms and carry them as a right and as an obligation. Ethelbert, King of Kent, in 602, issued a proclamation that provided a penalty for disarming a man, and also levied a fine if any man armed another during a quarrel.(135) Eadric, also a King of Kent, c.650, ordered that weapons were not to be misused while under the influence of alcohol.(136) King Ine (reigned 688-94) ordered that no man was to draw his weapon in a public place with the intention of frightening his subjects.(137) King Cnut (reigned 1020-23) promulgated a law that provided a penalty for illegally disarming a freeman.(138)

Under the laws of Alfred the Great (c.872) all English citizens, from lowest freeman to the highest aristocracy, were obliged to serve in the militia. Peasants served in the fyrd, or great militia. All had to provide their own weapons. There were certain limitations on the use of the unenrolled fyrd, such as on the length or service, or on availability to plant and harvest crops. Some of the masses were singled out for special and additional training. This select militia was known as the enrolled or select fyrd.(139) Alfred provided a penalty for misusing a militia weapon while drinking, even if no harm was done.(140) In 1154 Henry II allowed men to pay scutage to avoid militia service.(141)

The Norman Conquest brought hard times for the Anglo-Saxon population. Their rights were denied and they were excluded from government and governmental offices. Still, the right and duty to keep and bear arms in defense of state remained basically intact and unchanged. The Assize of Arms of 1181 was the basic militia law of England. The whole community of freemen was recruited into the militia. They were still required to provide and maintain arms as suited their socio-economic class and status. All freemen between the ages of 18 and 40 were members of the great fyrd, or unenrolled militia. The government determined what weapons were appropriate and the freeman had no choice in the selection of his weapon. Twice a year the government inspected the freemen's arms to make certain the weapons were present and in good working order.(142)

In 1181 King Henry II promulgated the Assize of Arms, which provided that "the whole body of freemen [are to] have quilted doublets and a headpiece of iron and a lance." These were the minimum arms of the great militia. Freemen with a rent income of 16 marks or more were to have "a hauberk, a helmet, a shield and a lance." Those who "will possess these arms . . . will bear allegiance to the lord king, Henry . . . [and] will bear these arms in his service according to his order and in allegiance to the lord king and his realm." Knights were to own "a helmet, a shield and a lance." When a freeman died "his arms remain for his heir." If the freeman has no male heir, the administrator of the estate was to "find a man who can use them in the service of our lord king . . . and let him have them." Any burgess or other public official "who has more arms that he ought to have" was ordered to "sell them or give them away or otherwise bestow them on such a man as will retain them for the service of the lord king of England." The king emphasized, "let none of them keep more arms than he ought to have." Jews were forbidden to keep arms, but were to dispose of them to one who would serve the king. The law provided a penalty for selling or "carry[ing] arms out of England except by the order of the lord king." (143)

Henry II of the House of Plantagenet (reigned 1154-1189) issued The Assize of the Forest in 1184. He forbade the possession of bows and other tools of the hunt, and the gathering of wood, and the pasturing of peasant's cattle, in the king's forest. The Assize did nothing to restrict the bearing of arms for militia practice, defense, or hunting in other forests.(144) The Statuta Armorum of uncertain date and origin regulated jousting tournaments, and ordered that spectators were not to be armed to prevent violence among the partisans in the crowd. Again, it did nothing to interfere with militia obligations or the legitimate use of arms.(145)

The Magna Charta (1215) contained a clause that provided that if the king did not keep the promises made in that document he might be corrected by force of arms. This was the first statement to claim for the people the right of revolution to enforce their rights in the laws of England.(146)

King Henry III (1216-1272) decreed that the militiamen of the unenrolled fyrd should possess "arms according to their possessions in land and chattels."(147) The fyrd was defined as that "principle that able-bodied freemen were liable to military service, whether or not vassals of the king."(148) The obligation that English militia law established had three parts. First, the fyrd had a specific obligation to the king consequent to their oath of loyalty to him. In the Tenth Century the fyrd "was not satisfied unless the king was there." Second, the fyrd was obliged to resist invasions of their home area, whether or not the king was present, and whether or not led by professional soldiers. Third, the fyrd was required to assist the sheriff and other law enforcement officers in maintaining the peace.(149)

In 1253, King Henry III promulgated a second Assize of Arms was enacted. The serfs, referred to as villeins in the law, were required to keep and bear arms, joining the ranks of freemen in the unenrolled or great fyrd. The age bracket for service was also substantially expanded, covering men between ages 15 and 60 years. "Able bodied freemen were liable for military service, whether or not vassals of the king."(150)

King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307) promulgated the Statute of Winchester (1285) which required military and civic action of the great militia. Edward required semi-annual review of the great militia. The officers of the law were to check each man's weapons to ascertain that each man had the minimum equipment required by the law and that the arms were in good order. Edward also reissued orders to the great militia to assist the sheriff in suppressing criminal activity in the land and in apprehending robbers, murderers, rapists and others. The great militia was to help clear the highway of obstacles and brush behind which robbers might hide. The statute reads in part,

It is commanded that every Man have in his house Harness for to keep the Peace after the ancient Assize [Assize of Arms] that is to say, Every Man between 15 years of age, and 60 years, shall be assessed and sword to Armour, according to the quantity of their lands and Goods . . . . And that View of the Armour be made every year two times. And in every Hundred and Franchise two Constables shall be chosen to make View of Armour. . . . (151)

The long bow represented the first major improvement in weaponry available to the common soldier in the late Middle Age. According to tradition, it had been developed in Wales in the Thirteenth Century, as a superior weapon for hunting wild animals. The length of the bow corresponded to the height of the archer. In 1285 Edward I, recognizing the advance of technology, ordered that anyone who could afford long bows ought to keep one in his home.(152)

There were several medieval statutes issued, designed to place certain, reasonable limitations on bearing arms. Ethelbert ordered that no man was to arm another during a quarrel, so as to increase injury of violence. (153) The laws of Ine (688-694) provided a penalty for anyone who drew his weapon in a public place with the intention of causing a public disturbance. (154) And the laws of Edward III issued in 1328, commonly known as the Statute of Northampton, forbade individuals to ride armed in the darkness or to carry weapons in public places, with an intent to do harm or threaten others.(155) What these laws suggest are that men were commonly armed and in general possession of weapons; and that kings had seen that there were reasonable limitations on bearing, but not keeping, arms that were to keep their subjects from being harmed or doing hard to others. When a people is armed, such minor limitations are superfluous.(156)

At the decisive and important Battle of Crécy in 1346 Edward III and his citizen-soldiers with their long bows defeated Philip IV of France and his professional army. This more than any other battle ended the reign of the mounted, armored knight. The English yeomen with their long bows routed not only the mounted troops, but also the Genoese mercenaries who were armed with the crossbow. The crossbow was the arm of the rural English citizenry. The windlass equipped crossbow was the arm of a standing army and of professionals. The militiamen with their common weapon had defeated the professional soldiers armed with complex and expensive tools of the mercenary and of the rich.

There was a lesson to be learned at Crécy. Recruit the army from among the hardy farmers, serfs, and simple citizens of the kingdom. Train them with a simple weapon that nearly anyone can master. Encourage them to use the weapon for the hunt and for sport. Expect the best. In 1356 the English archers, armed with the longbow, defeated the French at Poitiers.

In 1313 Edward II (reigned 1307-1327) issued an edict that forbade men to enter Parliament armed. The law was designed only to maintain peace in the realm and had no bearing on the militia laws or the defensive use of arms.(157) Edward III (reigned 1327-1377) issued several edicts that restricted the use and carriage of arms in public. More importantly, the edicts limited to deployment of militia outside of a man's own shire. Unless there was an emergency the militia was to be used only in local situations.

The will that no Man from henceforth shall be charged to arm himself, otherwise that he was ant in the time of his Progenitors, Kings of England; and that no Man be compelled to go out of his Shire, but where necessity requireth, and sudden coming of strange Enemies into the Realm; and then it shall be done as hath been used in times past for the defence of the Realm.(158)

In 1369 the King ordered that the sheriffs of English towns and cities, including London, require that all citizen-soldiers on "leisure time on holidays" were to "use in their recreation bowes and arrows." They were not to use weapons that had no use in the militia, and were to avoid engaging in any other sports that might interfere with their practice with the longbow.(159) In 1415 at Agincourt the English militia, armed with the longbow, again defeated a supposedly superior French force.(160)

In 1383 Richard II (reigned 1377-1399) restricted men from riding about the kingdom with certain weapons without just cause for being armed. In 1388 Richard ordered that farmers, yeomen and other commoners not go about the realm armed on Sundays.(161) These laws show clearly that even commoners were armed in the Fourteenth Century.

In 1511 Henry VIII, not forgetting the lesson of the wars in France, limited carrying concealed, but not the possession of, or practice with, crossbows to those with property valued at 200 or more marks. He also admitted an exception for self defense. A person who "shote owt of a howse for the lawefull defens of the same" might use his longbow irrespective of his wealth. No one might carry any weapon with intent to disrupt the peace.(162) In 1511 Henry VIII raised the property ownership qualification to 300 marks. He confused the issue by requiring all citizens to "use and exercyse shootyng in longbowes, and also to have a bowe and arrowes contynually. . . ." Fathers were mandated to train their sons in the use of the crossbow, beginning at age 7 and continuing through age 14.(163) In 1514 Henry VIII extended the restriction on carrying crossbows to include firearms.(164) In 1533 Henry VIII reduced the property qualification to 100 marks. In 1541 he limited private ownership of firearms by decreeing that some guns might not exceed a yard in length; and others not to exceed three-quarters of a yard in length. To confuse the issue even more, he repealed the whole set of laws.(165) The intent of Henry's laws can be seen in this extract.

[I]t shall be lawful from henceforth to all gentlemen, yeomen . . . all Knights and Esquires, and Gentlemen and to all the inhabitants of cities, towns and market towns of this Realme of England to shoot with any handgun . . . at any butt or branche of earth only in a place convenient for the same . . . [I]t shall be lawful . . . to have and keep in every one of their houses any such handgun . . . of the length of three-quarters of a yard . . . to use and shoot the same . . . by exercise thereof in form may the better aid and assist to the defence of this realm. . . . And be it further enacted . . . that it shall be lawful to every person and persons which dwell and inhabit in any house . . . to keep and have in any said house for the only defense of the same handguns . . . . (166)

British historian Charles Oman argued that the distribution of arms to all able bodied men except slaves and criminals prevented England from undergoing the worst excesses of political oppression. The militia as a reserve military force exercised a moderating force in English politics. Writing of Henry VIII, Oman observed, "More than once he had to restrain himself, when he discovered that the general feelings of his subjects was against him . . . . His 'gentlemen pensioners' and his yeomen of the guard were but a handful, and bills or bows were in every farm and cottage . . ."(167)

In 1572 Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603) issued the Instructions for General Muster to strengthen the militia in England's time of troubles with Spain. Every able-bodied man over the age of 16 was to serve in the militia. Those who could supply a horse and appropriate equipment was to serve in the cavalry; the rest were to serve in companies of foot. The Elizabethan militia enrolled 130,000 men; and by 1623 the number had swelled to 160,000.(168) As a result of the Tudor legislation by the end of the Sixteenth Century a formally structured militia had emerged. The crown appointed lieutenants to discipline, order and train the militia. The weaponry remained uneven and was more frequently mediocre than good, reflecting the economic realities of times more than the nation's needs. The militia was rarely used, perhaps fortunately for England. The militiamen were little interested in being marched about, let alone disciplined. The officers had little good to say about the militia and worried that it might have to be used against the French and Spanish regular armies. (169)

In 1637 the English trained bands had enrolled 88,000 footmen who mustered four times a year. There were about 5,000 cavalry.(170) Although the members of the bands were to supply their own arms, executive orders issued in the name of the king suggest that this was not always the case. In 1628 the King ordered that militiamen not trade in the king's arms, nor barter, trade or borrow arms and ammunition.(171) The government considered re-introducing bows and arrows to the militia to stem the loss of firearms; and because bows were much less expensive than firearms. The plan failed because there were too few bow and arrow makers in the kingdom. There were still pikemen among regiments of foot militia and occasional lancers among the cavalry.(172)

In the 1640s the King, Charles I (reigned 1625-49), clashed with Parliament over the control of the military organization of England. The first test occurred in 1639 when the king ordered his own troops, nobles and some of the trained bands to meet a threat from some Scottish Covenanters. The band refused to march. The military value of the trained bands at that time was debatable. Supposedly well trained militiamen hired substitutes who had little, if any, training. When called into service they paid upward of £12 for a replacement. The armament of the bands was suspect. The militiamen had little pride or interest in their arms.(173) An examination of the arms of one company from Kent showed the arms to be

very unserviceable, many of their muskets having no touch holes, and some others having them so large as one might turn one's thumb in them, and the pikes were so rotten as they were shaken, many of them [broke] all to pieces; some few of the muskets were reasonably good; the captain commending one of those muskets wished they had all been so good. Nay, sayeth the musketeer, my master sought to have found a worse musket, but he could find none in town, if he could, I should have it.(174)

Charles favored a standing army and Parliament stood with the militia, called Trained Bands. In the debates of Parliament on 28 December 1642 Parliament resolved that,"no charter can be granted by the King to create a power or any corporation over the militia."(175) On May 17, 1642, the legislators resolved that, "for preventing and avoiding great mischief as may ensue, it is ordered and ordained by both Houses of Parliament" the Trained Bands were to placed under legislative control.(176)

On 27 May 1642 Charles issued a "Proclamation forbidding all His Majesty's Subjects, belonging to the Trained bands, or Militia, of this Kingdom to rise, march, muster or exercise" on his word. Parliament immediately countered this order, resolving that no militia was to act without the consent of Parliament.(177) Parliament defined the duty of the Trained Bands. They were to "provide for necessity, to prevent imminent dangers and preserve the public peace and safety of the Kingdom."(178)

In England Charles II (reigned 1660-1686) and his son James II (reigned 1686-1688) applied the Militia Act of 1662 to the private militias, known as trained bands. The Act centralized royal control over all militia units. He augmented the 1662 Act by utilizing some provisions of the Game Act of 1671. The Stuarts declared that private militias were "dangerous to the peace of the Kingdom" and that the state was to "seize all arms in the custody or possession" of militiamen.(179) Charles II also promulgated an Act for the Better Preservation of the Game which for the first time in English history denied free born citizens their common law right to keep and bear arms other than archaic swords and daggers.(180) William Blackstone commented that the Game Law was really designed to "prevent popular insurrections and resistance to the government, by disarming the bulk of the people."(181)

Much of the Glorious Revolution centered on control over the national militia. James had armed his favorites and disarmed his enemies, whether real or imagined. The House of Commons reacted by expelling James II. James had armed Catholics so Parliament reacted by disarming Catholics and rearming Protestants.(182) It also adopted several resolutions concerning the royal ban on non-governmental, or private, militias.(183)

5. The Acts concerning the Militia are grievous . . . .

6. The raising or keeping a Standing Army . . . in time of Peace, unless it be with Consent of Parliament, is against the Law . . . .

7. It is necessary for the public Safety, that the Subjects which are Protestants, should provide and keep Arms for their common Defence: And that the Arms which have been seized, and taken from them, be restored . . . .

The English Bill of Rights followed from the Declaration of Rights of 22 January 1689. One major consideration was the right of the people to keep and bear arms beyond the armament provided by the state in actual service to the state. The confiscation of, and control over, small arms of the Trained Bands was the major concern of the Parliament. Commons negotiated with the House of Lords on the phraseology of the guarantee to bear arms. Motivated, in part, by religious prejudices and considerations of historic class distinctions, Parliament, in the final draft of the Bill of Rights, provided, "The Subjects which are Protestants may have arms from their Defence, suitable to their Condition, and as allowed by Law."(184) One arms historian of this period, Dr. Joyce Lee Malcolm, (185) summed up the right to bear arms in England before 1689 in these words,

[T]he right to bear arms had not been included in Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights, or any compilation of the rights of English subjects before 1689 because until the Civil War it had been taken for granted, and until the Restoration it had never been challenged. It had required the actual loss of that privilege to convince Englishmen, in particular the governing class, how essential it was to the preservation of . . . the English system of government.

In 1780 the Recorder of London, a justice of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, and chief interpreter of the law for the city, was asked to determine the scope and nature of the right to keep and bear arms under the English Bill of Rights.(186) The Recorder issued a long and complex opinion, part of which reads,

It is a matter of some difficulty to define the precise limits and extent of the rights of the people of this realm to bear arms and to instruct themselves in the use of them, collectively; and much more so to point out all the acts of that kind, which would be illegal or doubtful in their nature.

The right of His Majesty's Protestant subjects, to have arms for their own defence, and to use them for lawful purposes, is most clear and undeniable. It seems, indeed, to be considered, by the ancient laws of this kingdom, not only as a right, but as a duty; for all the subjects of the realm, who are able to bear arms, are bound to be ready, at all times, to assist the sheriff, and other civil magistrates, in the execution of the laws and the preservation of the public peace. And that this right, which every Protestant most unquestionably possesses individually, may, and in many cases, must, be exercised collectively is likewise a point which I conceive to be most clearly established by the authority of judicial decisions and ancient acts of Parliament, as well as by reason and common sense.

From this proposition, that the possession and the use of arms, to certain purposes, is lawful, it seems to follow, of necessary consequence, that it cannot be unlawful to learn to use them (for such lawful purposes) with safety and effect . . . and, by the same mode of reasoning, from the right of using arms, in some cases, collectively and in bodies, follows the right of being used collectively, as well as individually, instructed in the use of them, if it be true, which I apprehend it most clearly is, that the safe and effectual use of arms in collective bodies cannot be taught to separate individuals.(187)

William Blackstone noted in his Commentaries that tyrants attempt to prevent popular insurrections and resistance to tyranny by disarming the people.(188) He also referred to the right to have and use arms in defense of home, family and self as "an absolute right of the individual."(189) Coke argued that one is permitted under English common law to repel force with force and that one is permitted to take up arms to resist an armed adversary. Coke also noted that the common law seems to permit a person to arm himself for many legitimate purposes.

The English militia was never intended for deployment outside the realm. It was a home guard and last ditch defensive force. It remained active into the Eighteenth Century for two reasons. First, it cut the cost of an army in a nation already burdened by the costs of a navy. England was not easily invaded so it could make do on the homefront with less of a force than was required on the Continent. Second, the militia was a sacred symbol to the Whigs. They had defended it strongly in their literature and so was most reluctant to see it abolished.

French Militias

Kings in the post-Roman world by the Seventh Century had come to depend on the citizen-militias, known as f