Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16

Document 4

Charles Pinckney, Observations on the Plan of Government

1787Farrand 3:118--19

The exclusive right of establishing regulations for the Government of the Militia of the United States, ought certainly to be ves[t]ed in the Federal Councils. As standing Armies are contrary to the Constitutions of most of the States, and the nature of our Government, the only immediate aid and support that we can look up to, in case of necessity, is the Militia. As the several States form one Government, united for their common benefit and security, they are to be considered as a Nation--their Militia therefore, should be as far as possible national--an uniformity in Discipline and Regulations should pervade the whole, otherwise, when the Militia of several States are required to act together, it will be difficult to combine their operations from the confusion a difference of Discipline and Military Habits will produce. Independent of our being obliged to rely on the Militia as a security against foreign Invasions or Domestic Convulsions, they are in fact the only adequate force the Union possess, if any should be requisite to coerce a refractory or negligent Member, and to carry the Ordinances and Decrees of Congress into execution. This, as well as the cases I have alluded to, will sometimes make it proper to order the Militia of one State into another. At present the United States possess no power of directing the Militia, and must depend upon the States to carry their Recommendations upon this subject into execution--while this dependence exists, like all their other reliances upon the States for measures they are not obliged to adopt, the Federal views and designs must ever be delayed and disappointed. To place therefore a necessary and Constitutional power of defence and coercion in the hands of the Federal authority, and to render our Militia uniform and national, I am decidedly in opinion they should have the exclusive right of establishing regulations for their Government and Discipline, which the States should be bound to comply with, as well as with their Requisitions for any number of Militia, whose march into another State, the Public safety or benefit should require.

In every Confederacy of States, formed for their general benefit and security, there ought to be a power to oblige the parties to furnish their respective quotas without the possibility of neglect or evasion;--there is no such clause in the present Confederation, and it is therefore without this indispensable security. Experience justifies me in asserting that we may detail as minutely as we can, the duties of the States, but unless they are assured that these duties will be required and enforced, the details will be regarded as nugatory. No Government has more severely felt the want of a coercive Power than the United States; for want of it the principles of the Confederation have been neglected with impunity in the hour of the most pressing necessity, and at the imminent hazard of its existence: Nor are we to expect they will be more attentive in future. Unless there is a compelling principle in the Confederacy, there must be an injustice in its tendency; It will expose an unequal proportion of the strength and resources of some of the States, to the hazard of war in defence of the rest--the first principles of Justice direct that this danger should be provided against--many of the States have certainly shewn a disposition to evade a performance of their Federal Duties, and throw the burden of Government upon their neighbors. It is against this shameful evasion in the delinquent, this forced assumption in the more attentive, I wish to provide, and they ought to be guarded against by every means in our power. Unless this power of coercion is infused, and exercised when necessary, the States will most assuredly neglect their duties. The consequence is either a dissolution of the Union, or an unreasonable sacrifice by those who are disposed to support and maintain it.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16, Document 4
The University of Chicago Press

Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937.

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