Reports to Congress on militia, 1789-1819

We have just uploaded a searchable PDF file of Military Affairs, Vol. 1, a collection of reports to the U.S. Congress from March 3, 1789, through March 3, 1819, on military and militia matters. It is interesting for the insight it provides on early thinking on militia and the right to keep and bear arms. Of special interest are the following reports:
  1. Organization of the Militia, 1789 — Page 7ff
  2. Militia Return, 1803 — Page 163ff
  3. Militia Report, 1815 — Page 604ff

There are also militia returns for the years 1794, 1805, 1809, 1810, 1812, 1813, 1814, 1816, 1818, and 1819, which can be found using the Table of Contents or the Index.

It is planned to expand this discussion to comment on particular points in these reports and what they reveal.

What does clearly emerge is the total absence of any consideration of restricting firearms possession or use, other than for training purposes. The focus was on arming, organizing, and training citizens. If some could not afford to purchase weapons, there was discussion of paying for weapons from tax funds to be given to them. It is also clear that the weapons were to be the state of the art in military equipment.

We can also get a picture from these reports of what the Founders envisioned for how militia was supposed to be used for many of the functions of governance that has been taken over by paid professionals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


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