Obviously Militia Men were some of the most prolific heroes of the Revolutionary War, but where do we go from there? The group comprised of able-bodied males had helped fight tyranny and oppression, but what do you do, when at the moment, there is neither? Quickly the fledgling country found itself at war with the Native American population, and quite frankly I don’t want to discuss the atrocities and tragedies that were committed during that time. However the government’s intentions regarding the militia were made obvious in 1792, when in response to the Battle of the Wabash, President Washington signed the First Militia act, giving the President the authority to call out the state militia, and six days later signed a second, compelling every white male between 18-45 to be a part of the militia and to arm themselves with a weapon (this was expanded to all males regardless of race between age of 18-54 in 1862). You read that right, every one was part of the militia, the militia was the people, the militia was the country.
The militia would quickly be called into use in 1794 when George Washington had to put down the whiskey rebellion. Quite ironic that a country who had gone to war over tax increases was now fighting it’s own citizens over the same sort of issues (but that’s another story for another time). Honestly no government is ever going to make the right choice every time and Washington’s choice to tax whiskey as way to pay off the war debt was unfair and uncalled for. But the feeling of unfair taxation is probably what each of us are more familiar with than any part of American history. Still the fact is the president called for help, and thirteen thousand men responded. A feat that is even more amazing when you consider the highest estimated counts of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War was around sixteen thousand.
Still one could make the argument that it was a different time back then, that things are more established and we have “official” government roles created which have made the need for a militia obsolete. But I really wonder, what actually happened to the idea of the militia? If in the late 1700s, every man was the militia, every man held the honor and responsibility that came from being the nation’s defenders. why didn’t that concept stand the test of time? What happened as our country moved from a frontier country to the forefront of civilization? If every man was the militia, why isn’t that still true for you or I?