Shay's Rebellion and the Modern Militia

Essay by tumblwedCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 1996

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'Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress shall have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American...the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hand of either the federal or the state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the People.'

-Tench Coxe, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788

Throughout history the citizen making up militias and anti-government rebellions have all possessed similar characteristics. Though separated by many decades and wars Shay's Rebellion and the Whisky Rebellion of the late 18th century hold similar ties with the unarmed militias of the 1990's. The background, fears, and influence of the rebellious anti-government citizens of the Whiskey and Shay's Rebellion parallel with the recent politically far-right extremist militias.

All three assembled the poor yet supporting back-bone of the United States; fearful of the government's potential; and dramatically influenced the general public.

The individuals making up these militias have mostly been poor males who believe they are regarded by the majority of persons as being economically unimportant. In both the Shay's Rebellion and Whisky Rebellion the men compromising the opposing force were unwealthy adult male farmers from small villages. In the Shay's Rebellion, fifty-four percent of the combatants made their living as Yeomen and less then five percent considered themselves 'gentlemen farmers' (Saztmary 127). Comparably, the modern militia movement, though providing for a pool of potential recruits for the militias draws most of its members from a large and growing number of US citizens alienated by a government that seems hostile to their interests. This group of affected individuals are predominately...