First time requirement of purchase
I've received several emails pointing out that, with regard to statements that the current health care bill is the first to require citizens to purchase something, the 1792 Militia Act required every male of military age to have a musket and ammunition, which was roughly equivalent. So indeed it is not unprecedented, altho most of its backers would not want to invoke requirement that every male of military age prove they had at least one gun!
UPDATE: one of the comments states that Prof. Saul Cornell wrote that the Militia Act was abandoned, on a date two years before it was passed. I didn't recall reading this anywhere, contacted him, and he doesn't recall having written it, either, and thinks it likely that someone else is being confused with him. Could the commenter take a second look and see what it was?
Wouldn't the Militia Act of 1792 be more limited, though? It only applied to white males between the ages of 18 and 45 years of age.
It seems to give a list, of those occupations which are exempt, and then lets each state add its own exemptions.
How big is a horse 14 1/2 hands high? What's a firelock?
Wasn't the Militia Act of 1792 in effect for no longer than than 5 years?
Sec. 10. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force, for and during the term of two years, and from thence to the end of the next session of Congress thereafter, and no longer.
Posted by: Anonymous at March 24, 2010 11:53 PM
On the age issue, keep in mind the maximum age men would reach in that time and then compare it to the requirements for Medicare and Social Security. Also keep in mind, the men didn't loose their gun when they exceeded 45 years of age. They simply were no longer required to spend any money of their own maintaining the militia arm and equipment after that age.
As for the occupations exemption, look at the occupations exemption in the healthcare bill. Those in Congress will have a different system then the rest of the country and prepaid by our taxes just as members of Congress were exempted from Militia duty. Other bureaucrats and other government positions will have a different medical and cost to them then we will have just as it was under the 1792 act.
14&1/2 hands was a unit of measure used in those days, just as it was common to describe caliber as weight of shot. The 1/18th of a pound works out to a bullet 0.64 inches in diameter which matches bullets used by the Army until 1840.
As for the five year, thats the gun control movement and Walter Nelles story. In recent years Saul Cornell suggested the act was abandoned two years before it was actually passed. Others just mix up the requirement that the caliber clause would not be enforced until five years after the law went on the books.
By the way, the section ten you copied comes from a militia detachment statute passed in 1806 (actually Sec 8). Section ten of the 1792 militia act actually states
Section. 10. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the brigade-inspector to attend the regimental and battalion meetings of the militia composing their several brigades, during the time of their being under arms, to inspect their arms, ammunition, accoutrements; superintend their exercise and maneuvers, and introduce the system of military discipline before described throughout the brigade, agreeable to law, and such orders as they shall from time to time receive from the commander-in-chief of the state; to make returns to the adjutant-general of the state, at least once in every year, of the militia of the brigade to which he belongs, reporting therein the actual situation of the arms, accoutrements, and ammunition of the several corps, and every other thing which, in his judgement, may relate to their government and the general advancement of good order and military discipline; and the adjutant-general shall make a return of all the militia of the state to the commander-in-chief of the said state, and a duplicate of the same to the president of the United States.
And whereas sundry corps of artillery, cavalry, and infantry now exist in several of the said states, which by the laws, customs, or usages thereof have not been incorporated with, or subject to the general regulatons of the militia:
Posted by: James N. Gibson at March 25, 2010 12:15 AM
I'd just like to point out that the Constitution contains an explicit authorization for Congress to provide for the organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia.
Posted by: Jeff Dege at March 25, 2010 06:56 AM
As Jeff Dege points out, Congress was specifically authorized in Article 1, Section 8, to provide for arming the militia.
Virtually every prior American militia law, both colonial and state, required all able-bodied free men to obtain their own arms as described in the respective law.
Congressional authority thus included the power to require by law that all able-bodied free men (the militia) obtain their own arms, the type and caliber or bore of which was described in the law.
Posted by: David Young at March 25, 2010 08:31 AM
And of course the 1792 Militia Act was unconstitutional. Congress was given the task of organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia. Thus Congress was to take the militia as it existed (not decide/define/determine membership) and organize that, then Congress was to provide for arming the militia, and last Congress was to prescribe training (discipline).
But Congress was never and is not now empowered to define anything in the Constitution. Congress is subordinate to the Constitution. Again, next time you go to work tell YOUR boss his/her job. The Constitution is the Boss of the government and We the People are the ONLY boss of the Constitution.
Posted by: fwb at March 25, 2010 02:34 PM
Actually, no one was required to "purchase" anything. The enrolled militiaman simply had to show up for drill with one of the various items. One could make it, inherit it, or borrow it.
Posted by: 30yearProf at March 25, 2010 08:35 PM
Thanks for your comments on what I posted.
The maximum age that a person could live in the 18th century is the same as it is now. The median age was much lower, though. I blame improved sanitation. That discussion is not for this blog, however.
The rest of my post seems to be rendered pointless, since it appears to come from the militia detachment act that James N. Gibson mentioned.
I apologize for wasting your time on something that is so easily proven wrong.
Posted by: Anonymous at March 26, 2010 12:43 AM
I've seen a couple of Massachusetts cases relating to enforcement of these provisions. As I recall, one involved a 16 year old who whose father was responsible for equipping him. I think the other involved a defendant who borrowed a piece of equipment from another man who'd already passed through the inspection line with that equipment.
Posted by: jnheath at March 26, 2010 10:13 AM
14 1/2 hands is 58". A hand is about 4".
Posted by: Bob at March 26, 2010 12:25 PM
Well, a couple of inches shy of 5 feet, measured at the withers. That's the traditional dividing line in size between horses and ponies or miniature horses.
Posted by: Ken at March 26, 2010 06:09 PM
Perhaps the commenter was thinking about M. Bellesiles's claim that the self-arming requirement was replaced in 1803 by a provision requiring Congress to provide the militia with firearms. This claim re the 1803 act was not explicitly in MB's book but part of his subsequent attempt to explain a mis-quote and mis-cite and mis-interpretation of the 1792 act. His original claim (from one page in the book) was that the 1792 act never required self-arming.
FWIW the 1803 act did include language saying the militia "shall be constantly provided with" firearms etc. but Massachusetts courts at least interpreted that to mean the militia were required to arms themselves and *stay* armed, i.e. you couldn't borrow a gun for militia muster, you had to be "constantly provided" with equipment. I have one or two judicial cites for that somewhere if it's important to anybody.
Posted by: jnheath at March 30, 2010 07:24 AM