The citizen militias of the United States : their antecedents, development, and present condition

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The community militia once was ubiquitous throughout the United States. American citizens considered it the protective cloak of the community, state, and nation. It responded to threats to the community and was often called forth statutorily by either state or federal authorities for larger issues of protection. It was the most basic defense mechanism of the early colonies and subsequently the nation. Today, however, the term "militia" evokes imagery of gun-wielding crackpots and criminals who pose a distinct danger to society. This misperception is the product of various factors. During the past few decades, some individuals claiming to be militiamen have engaged in extralegal violence, yet, as this dissertation argues, they do not fulfill the historical requirements that define that organization. Instead, they are criminals that attempt to dignify their actions by denominating themselves as militias. The violence they perpetrate bears a major responsibility for the low regard in which most of the society regards the militia. Most militiamen today focus on other factors, believing both the national government and the media have purposefully demonized the movement. One goal of this thesis is to present many of the issues about the militia, both historical and in the current day, from the perspective of militiamen themselves. Simultaneously, the dissertation analyzes the issues from a traditional academic viewpoint. A major conclusion is that the constitutional community militias are the lawful and cultural heirs of the colonial, revolutionary, and republican militias.




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