Federalist Papers Summary 29
The Federalist Essays Summary No 29: Alexander Hamilton January 9, 1788
It should be obvious from reading the last few summaries that having a standing army in peace time was a major concern for the population. The Revolutionary War which had just ended was a result of the British army controlling the people and forcing ever intrusive laws and regulations upon the public. Recall that the proposed constitution allowed for standing armies but only with approval and funding every two years from the representatives of the people. This paper attempts to further alleviate these fears by supporting State militias where the officers were chosen by the States but the organization and arming would be done at the national level for units placed into service of the country. Militias under national control in support of local magistrates to enforce the laws would replace the need for national armies.
The remainder of the paper justifies this idea. First, there has to be some means to enforce laws if necessary and what would be better than that of the local citizens in a disciplined militia? The militia would not train all citizens for the process is considerable and “would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss”. The plan calls for a select corps of moderate size of “well trained militia ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it”. This group under the control of officers chosen by the States would substitute for a standing army and if for some reason a national army was to threaten the liberty of the people, they would have the means to protect themselves. What danger to the liberty of the people would arise from citizens chosen and living among them with the same habits and interests?
There is a belief among some on the left that the second amendment to the constitution giving the right to keep and bear arms only applies when a person is on duty as part of a well regulated militia and that the arms are actually owned by the State. This thought could be added to by reading Article 1 Section 8 of the constitution which states in part for congress “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia…”. But Hamilton makes clear in this paper that the citizens of a militia are expected to keep their arms when not on duty and be prepared to use them when called on. The sentence is” Little more can reasonably be aimed at with respect to the people at large than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year”. If the arms were in a warehouse owned by the State why would the people have to be assembled to see if they were armed and equipped? Since the fear of the people was that the federal army would usurp the people’s liberty, it makes sense that the intent is for the people to be allowed to keep and bear arms at all times.
Federalist Papers Summary 29 Written by Donald Mellon