"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
— George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on
Ratification of the Constitution
, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788


"The militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves, ... all men capable of bearing arms;..."
— "Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic", 1788 (either Richard Henry Lee or Melancton Smith).
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress shall have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American ... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the People."
— Tench Coxe, 1788.
"How we burned in the prison camps later thinking: What would things have been like if every police operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive? If during periods of mass arrests people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever was at hand? The organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt."
— Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize winner and author of The Gulag Archipelago, who spent 11 years in Soviet concentration camps.
If we are ready to violate the Constitution, will the people submit to our unauthorized acts? Sir, they ought not to submit; they would deserve the chains that our measures are forging for them, if they did not resist.
— Edward Livingston
Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
— Mao Zedong, Nov. 6, 1938, Selected Works, Vol. 2

The meaning of "militia"

The word "militia" is a Latin abstract noun, meaning "military service", not an "armed group" (with the connotation of plurality), and that is the way the Latin-literate Founders used it. The collective term, meaning "army" or "soldiery" was "volgus militum". Since for the Romans "military service" included law enforcement and disaster response, it might be more meaningfully translated today as "defense service", associated with a "defense duty", which attaches to individuals as much as to groups of them, organized or otherwise.

When we are alone, we are all militia units of one. When together with others in a situation requiring a defensive response, we have the duty to act together in concert to meet the challenge. Those two component duties, of individuals to defend the community, and to act together in concert with others present, when combined with a third component duty to prepare to do one's duty and not just wait until the danger is clear and present, comprises the militia duty.

Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. — Jon Roland, 1976

Militia Duty: Defend. Co-operate. Prepare.

To understand the above motto is to understand the foundation of society and legitimate government and law.

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  1. Militia Links — Our collection of sites.
  2. HTML Version Text Version U.S. National Militia Directory
  3. HTML Version Texas Militia Papers — These are the documents that helped launch the modern militia movement.
  4. HTML Version Militia Treatises, James B. Whisker — Standard references on the subject. Includes The Militia (1992) and The American Colonial Militia (1997).
  5. HTML Version Militia Reading List — Books and articles on the theory and history of militias.
  6. HTML Version Constitutional Militia Movement (CMM) — The movement associated with militia.
  7. HTML Version Setting up a Committee of Safety — The governing system for militia units.
  8. HTML Version Committees of Protection, Correspondence and Safety — Collection of historical documents.
  9. HTML Version Manual of Courts-Martial, 2008 edition. Includes the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
  10. HTML Version Text Version Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) — Edition as of 1997 June 15, for comparison.
  11. HTML Version How to Start & Train a Militia Unit: PM 8--94, by Maj. George Westmoreland, USMC, Ret. — Essential training materials.
  12. HTML Version U.S. Army Field Manuals — Essential training materials.
  13. HTML Version U.S. Citizen Crime Prevention & Law Enforcement Directory— The first comprehensive guide to neighborhood watch, cellular on patrol, citizen police academy, and related programs.
  14. HTML Version Text Version Zipped WP Version Justification for sharing email lists and directories
  15. HTML Version Text Version First Congress Debate On Arms And Militia 1789 — Including debate on wording of Second Amendment.
  16. HTML Version Text Version Militia Act of 1792 — Indicates intent of the Founders for the Militia.
  17. HTML Version Text Version Militia Deficiencies — Indicates importance of keeping the Militia well-trained.
  18. HTML Version Text Version The Role of the Militia in the Development of the Englishman's Right to be Armed — Clarifying the Legacy, by Joyce Lee Malcolm.
  19. HTML Version Text Version The Right of the People or the Power of the State, by Stephen Halbrook.
  20. HTML Version Text Version The Right to Keep and Bear Arms under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, by Stephen Halbrook.
  21. HTML Version Remote Link - HTML The Citizen-Soldier under Federal and State Law , by James Biser Whisker, West Virginia Law Review 94 (1992): 947.— Discusses "dual-enlistment" system by which someone enlisting in the National Guard joins both the state body and the U.S. Army.
  22. HTML Version Remote Link - HTML Call to Arms: Historical Background — Virginia Militia in the War for Independence, from PBS.
  23. HTML Version Militia Women — Women have also served in militia.
  24. HTML Version Alert Network — How to set up an alert system for emergency communications.
  25. Text Version Militias Criticized for Upholding Honor — Revealing email exchange.
  26. Adobe PDF 2006 Table of Selected Militia Laws, Don Hamrick — Guide to state statutes available online.
  27. Adobe PDF The Militia Reporter; Containing the Trials of Capt. Jos. Loring, Jun. on the Charges of Gen. Winslow... (Boston: T. Kennard, 1810) — Report on trials of several militia personnel, provides useful insights into social deference issues of the time.
  28. Remote Link - HTML Ancient Hebrew Militia Law, David B. Kopel, Denver University Law Review — Judaic foundations of the militia tradition.
  29. Remote Link - HTML U.S. Army Manuals and Regs — Good resource on a variety of tools and methods.
  30. Remote Link - HTML Federal Preemption: The Militia Clauses in American Jurisprudence. — Collection of cases and commentaries on the boundaries between federal and state militia powers.
  31. Remote Link - HTML Committees of Protection, Correspondence and Safety — The political arms of the militia.
  32. Remote Link - HTML What is the Militia? — Gentle introduction.
  33. HTML Version Remote Link - HTML Restore the Militia for Homeland Security, by John R. Brinkerhoff, Journal of Homeland Defense, November 2001 — Other than the mischaracterization in an endnote of "unauthorized" militia as "illegal", has some good points reflecting some of the thought in government circles.
  34. Remote Link - HTML "Can we tape?" — A Practical Guide to Taping Phone Calls and In-Person Conversations in the 50 States and D.C. From The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The federal statutes are, of course, unconstitutional for acts committed on state territory, but we need to be cognizant of the potential legal problems as we conduct private criminal investigations.
  35. Remote Link - HTML The Rise of Militias Worldwide — Examines worldwide spread of the movement.
  36. Remote Link - HTML Viking Phoenix — Special Forces Underground & The Resister.
  37. Remote Link - HTML The Militia Watchdog — Mark Pitcavage's anti-militia site, no longer actively maintained, and transferred to the ADL.
  38. Remote Link - HTML The Dogpound — Anti-Militia Watchdog site. Has some good links and graphics.
  39. Newsgroups: misc.activism.militia, talk.politics.guns, alt.politics.usa.constitution, alt.politics.reform, misc.legal.
  40. HTML Version Text Version Word Version MS Word Version Project Megiddo — Report of FBI analysis and recommendations for response to possible disorders reveals anti-constitutional official attitudes.
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. — John F. Kennedy
It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government. — Thomas Paine

What distinguishes those engaged in militia from an army

  1. The authority for militia is any threat to public safety.
  2. Those active in militia are usually not bound for a fixed term of service, or paid for it.
  3. Those active in militia cannot expect arms, supplies, or officers to be provided to them.
  4. No one has the authority to order militia to surrender, disarm, or disband.
Μολὼν λαβέ (Molon labe), “Come and get them!” — Reply of the Spartan General-King Leonidas to Xerxes, the Persian Emperor, who came with hundreds of thousands of troops to conquer Greece, and demanded that Leonidas and his 300 men lay down their arms. Thermopylae, 480 BC.
Today, there lies a plaque dedicated to these heroes, composed by the poet Simonides of Ceos (c. 556-468 BC), at the site that reads:

Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

(Original is in all caps, no diacritical marks.)

Ō ksein', angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tēide
keimetha tois keinōn rhēmasi peithomenoi.

"Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded sense of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.” — John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), “The Contest In America,” Fraser's Magazine, February 1862
Home » Defense
Original URL: http://constitution.org/mil/cs_milit.htm
Maintained: Constitution Society
Original date: 1996/01/06 —