Whose Revolution Was It Anyway?
whoooo26505 at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 6 09:12:32 PDT 2006
There are two issues as I see them: (1) how much did militias contribute to the military victory; and (2) what did it cost states to have them. For what it is worth -- and it may not be worth much -- I am in the camp that says the organization of militias had very little to do with the eventual military victory. They were, of course, quite helpful in isolated battles -- Saratoga being the big one -- but on the whole they were as Washington stated, "whooping hallowing" fighters, often drunk, not properly disciplined or battle trained. But it still must be the case that they cost States something in terms of money. You had to have armories, supplies, and, I believe, 1-year enlistments. When states had to contribute to the continental army, they frequently just gave a portion of their state militias. In fact, that's all the continental army was at first: states turning over militia enlistments to the control of Washington. (One wonders whether Washington's force isn't best
characterized as a charity militia itself. The enlistments were temporary; membership was a revolving door. I bet that when fighters went back home, they took their guns with them).
So my guess is that whatever money went into self defense had the priority of "militia first" and hand-me-down "seconds" for Washington. (P.S. I also liked Stacy Schiff's book. Your comment about Franklin and the French was quite correct).
Sanford Levinson <SLevinson at law.utexas.edu> wrote:
Though how significant, when alll is said and done, were the state militias. One of Michael Belleisles's arguments in his now discredited book (because of the data on gun ownership)--the rest of the book received far less criticism, so far as I am aware)--is that the relatively amateur militias contributed quite little, as against Washington's more professional soldiers and, once more, the French.
Jack rakove has taken me to task for overemphasizing local militias in my reading of the 2nd Amendment. I don't recant so far as the ideological history of the amendment is concerned, but I agree with Jack that ideology is not always a good guide to what actually happened.
- Sanford Levinson
(Sent from a Blackberry)
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Penn State University
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