The Army and the Militia

Washington-on-horse
George Washington
Unknown artist

Independence National Historical Park

The Army and the Militia

"We are well informed, that many letters have been written to the members of the federal convention from different quarters, respecting the reports idly circulating, that it is intended to establish a monarchical government,…to which it has been uniformly answered, "tho' we cannot, affirmatively, tell you what we are doing; we can, negatively, tell you what we are not doing - we never once thought of a king."

The Pennsylvania Herald reporting the Convention's reaction to a widely circulated and potentially harmful rumor

As usual, the Convention met at 11:00 AM. Madison (VA) proposed nine additional powers to be given Congress, Charles Pinckney (SC) suggested eleven more. Mason (VA) noted that Federal regulation of the militia should be considered. Matters concerning provision for public securities and letters of marque were referred to the Committee of Detail elected in July to consider and report.

Rutledge (SC), seconded by King (MA) and Charles Pinckney, proposed a committee to consider assuming state debts. A Committee was elected.

Rutledge moved to meet precisely at 10:00 AM and adjourn precisely at 4:00 PM. He noted the people were likely becoming impatient.

Then the delegates took up the power "to raise armies." Gorham moved to insert "and support" and the motion and the amended clause were approved.

The remainder of the day was spent on the militia clause. Whether or not a standing army should be permitted during times of peace, and to what extent the Federal Government should control the state militias were among the most hotly debated issues in the Convention.

The eventual decision - no curbs on a standing army in times of peace; the Feds to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia but the states to appoint officers and train the militia, the governors to command them in peace time- was one reason Elbridge Gerry would oppose ratification.

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Sunday, August 19, 1787
Recess

HOME The 225th Anniversary of the Constitution Convention

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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