From Strategypage - America's Secret Army
Most American men are unaware that they are in the army, or, as described by the Militia Act of 1903 (popularly known as the Dick Act), the unorganized militia. The main purpose of the Dick Act was to sort out over a century of confusion over the relationship between the state militias (now known as the National Guard) and the federal forces. The 1903 law was the first of many laws hammered out to create the system now in use. But in the last century, not much attention has been paid to the little known "unorganized militia" angle. This force contained every able-bodied adult male who was not a part of the organized militia. The 1903 law legalized the right not to be part of the organized militia, because a 1792 law had mandated that every adult male be part of the militia. The problem was, most men didn't want to be bothered. To deal with this, state governors created two classes of militia; paid (who trained and were armed and organized into units) and unorganized (everyone else.)
The militia is a state institution, and predates the founding of the United States. It harkens back to the ancient tribal practice, where every able bodied male turned out to defend the tribe. During the colonial period, this really only meant anything in frontier areas, where hostile Indians sometimes required the use an armed militia force. In the late 18th century, only about ten percent of American families possessed a firearm, usually a musket or shotgun. Weapon ownership was much more common on the frontier, and in more settled areas, men with muskets often joined the organized militia more to be with their hunting buddies, than to prepare for war. The urban militia was sometimes used as a paramilitary force, when there was civil disorder or some kind of natural disaster. During the American Revolution, the militia served mainly as a police force, especially since about a third of the population were loyalists.
Currently, the "unorganized militia" is expected to come up when the Supreme Court again considers the laws pertaining to the right to possess firearms. Many localities have outlawed or regulated that right, which is guaranteed (but not precisely spelled out) in the Constitution. Nevertheless, if you are an adult American male between the ages of 17 and 45, you are part of the militia, whether you knew it or not, whether or not you want to be, and whether or not you are armed. Just so you know.
This is fully in line with my view of the rights of the citizens and the States as seen in multiple previous posts. In the first of those I looked directly at the issue of these two pieces of the Constitution. While everyone with weapons looks at Amendment II, it is the Article I, Section 10 escape clause that allows the mustering of the militia by the States when invaded or in imminent Danger that will not admit delay. Perhaps of all the 'civil rights' we have and the least *used* or supported by the population, the right to defense of the State is one that gets forgotten.
Almost completely these days.
In that forgetting, however, we forget one of the deepest roots of our democracy, which goes back, not to the Greek but to the Nordic lands, and their views of exactly who would rule and how accountability was meted out. That was via the traditional form of democracy known as the Thing (or ting) done at the local level and then the Althing done at a proto-National level. A Thing was a social gathering (usually to renew ties during spring) and it was also a 'settling of accounts' under the law. In Sweden, and elsewhere in the Nordic climes, the King soon came to realize that the crown may rest upon his head, but only by the assent of the Althing. While still aristocratic in nature, the Things allowed, at the lowest level, for local Chieftans and lawgivers to reconcile the community with the rest of its neighbors and the King and State as a whole. The power of the Thing was the community that backed it: every able bodied man.
This, in its rawest of forms, is the ability to put government in check by the People. The fealty of a given ruler or King would be *to* that assembly and the King would need to act in accord with it to continue ruling. That basic of all pacts between rulers and the ruled would migrate through the British Isles and mix with other forms of local governing via the Scots and Irish and infuse itself more southwards into England. The Nordic rulers of England would change that common view into the Common Law, and the fealty of a King to the Assembly or Parliament is the exact, same as the King to the Althing. In the US the local Chieftans would be represented by the individual State and the ruling group would be the federal government. That same tie via the Common Law which itself comes from the Norse exists, to this day, in the unorganized militia language, which the States may call upon to defend the State when the federal government is not able or not *willing* to respond to invasion or Danger.
While ancient it is a sacred bond and perhaps the most sacred to any people who consider themselves to be free: they can hold government absolutely accountable to themselves and dissolve that government whenever they want and that is backed by force of arms at the very last and yet most important times when governments seek to remove freedom from their People.
If you try to wish this away or regulate all arms out of the hand of individuals, you no longer have a free society: you have a tyranny.
Even worse, if you try to suppress the teaching of arms along with removing them, you then encounter the ancient martial arts that unarmed individuals may perform. Any move to stop all teaching of arms is something that can and will be resisted as it is uncivilized to wish for government that is unhindered by any limit or any accountability. Remove the last limit and then government may do as it pleases as the People have become slaves.
In an era where individuals practice Private War and keep such war-making in the shadows until they strike, unlike civilized armies and Nations, the only defense the population can ever be assured of is: themselves. That, too, is backed by the Law and the Constitution, not only given in the language, above, but in the English Common Law before the United States was even formed, and also within the Law of Nations... not that you will ever be taught these things in school.
There appears to be some work going on the last couple of generations to help Americans forget what it means to have and hold Freedom by using their Liberty to safeguard it. Let us hope that we do not have to put that faulty memory to the test any time soon, as we just might fail the test of 1776 these days... because grasping and holding freedom is ancient.