Did you know that a 1792 law required militiamen to supply their own arms?
Yesterday, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced that he would join a growing list of right-wing attorneys general who are suing to have health reform declared unconstitutional. According to Cuccinelli, the new law’s provisions that require individuals to carry health insurance violate the Constitution because “at no time in our history has the government mandated its citizens buy a good or service.” The truth, however, is that the Second Militia Act of 1792, required a significant percentage of the U.S. civilian population to purchase a long list of military equipment:
[E]very citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.
This Act became law only a few years after the Constitution was ratified, in President George Washington’s first term. Many of the Members of Congress who voted for the Act also were members of the Philadelphia Convention that wrote the Constitution. In other words, they probably knew a little bit more about the Constitution than Ken Cuccinelli.
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