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Why were the Militia Acts of 1792 created?

May 8th

MilitiaMay 8, 1792 — The second part of the Militia Act was passed today, enabling the president to take command of the state militias in times of imminent invasion or insurrection.

The two Acts were passed in response to the overwhelming US losses at St. Clair’s Defeat. It provided for the organization of the state militias, and conscripted every “free able-bodied white male citizen” between the ages of 18 and 45 into a local militia company.

This was later expanded to all males, regardless of race, between the ages 18-54. The first Act, which passed six days earlier — on May 2, 1792 — provided for the authority of the president to call out the militias of the several states, “whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe.”

That law also authorized the president to call the militias into federal service “whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act.”

Words of Wisdom

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this act.

— The Militia Acts of 1792

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