Speech delivered by Senator A.O. Bacon of Georgia, December, 1902.

Mr. President: Of course, I think the amendment offered by the Senator from Ohio [Mr. Foraker] , which has now been accepted, makes this section less objectionable. I might agree, however, with what the Senator from Wisconsin [Mr. Spooner] stated yesterday, that with this amendment the section is of not very much practical operation. The common suggestion that it can do little harm does not constitute a sufficient reason why a bill which has evil in it should be passed, or why an amendment or any portion of a bill that has evil in it should be agreed to. I wish very much that the committee would eliminate this feature of the bill. I think I will be able to show that it has no part properly in the bill. It is not properly a part of a militia bill. It is the introduction into our regular military establishment of an altogether new feature, and, I repeat, a feature which in no sense has any connection with the militia branch of the service.

This is a bill having for its professed purpose the reorganization of the general militia of the United States. As such it is a most, important bill. As such it is one which must interest every Senator, not only from a national standpoint, but from the standpoint of the State which lie represents. One of the fundamental ideas in the formation of this Government was the reliance of the Government upon the militia for its defense, and therefore we find that in the formation of the Constitution it is provided for, and among the first enactments of the Congress of the United States, after the formation of the Government, was the law organizing the militia.

Mr. President, I think that this portion of the pending bill, found in section 24, is violative of the spirit and intent of the Constitution, and I hope I may have the attention of Senators who favor this section, because I desire that they may consider the suggestion which I am now about to make. I repeat—and I believe it will be so recognized by Senators—that section 24 is violative of the spirit and intent of the Constitution, if not violative of its letter.

Now, of course, if the position taken by the learned Senator from Alabama [Mr. Pettus] yesterday is correct, that this is a part of the militia system, it would undoubtedly be in violation of its letter, because it prescribes duties which the Constitution prohibits among those which can be imposed upon the militia. There is no possible question about the fact that it is not a part of the militia, so far as its letter goes. But I think it is violative of the spirit and intent of the Constitution in that it makes a part of the regular establishment that which the Constitution intended should be the militia. You are calling it by a different name. In that way you are technically taking it without the prohibition of the Constitution, whereas it is in fact a part of that which the Constitution makers had in contemplation when they provided for the organization of the militia.

The Constitution of the United States recognizes two classes of soldiery and makes special provision for them, and one is the Regular Army and the other is the militia. It gives to the Congress, to use the language of the Constitution, power—

To raise and to support armies.

What armies does the Constitution contemplate when it gives that power to Congress? That is entirely apart from any military organization in the States. It is entirely apart from anything of which the States have any control. It is particularly and peculiarly to be the military branch of the National Government, under the distinct control of the National Government, to be organized by the National Government, to be equipped by the National Government, and paid by the National Government, and a restriction is put upon the power of the National Government in that particular to the estent of saying there shall be no appropriation for that purpose exceeding two years.

Of course that limitation has no special significance relative to this bill except for the purpose of illustrating the fact that the contemplation of the Constitution was that the Regular Army should be a regular establishment in the regular service of the Government, as contradistinguished from the citizen soldiery, which was all recognized as belonging to the class known and denominated as the militia.

The citizen soldiery, in the contemplation of the Constitution, was to constitute the militia, and the framers of the Constitution having in view distinctly these two classes of soldiery made two distinct provisions. One was that the Regular Army—I am not quoting the language but the effect of the language—should be raised and organized and supported by the National Government and should be under its exclusive control. The other was that the citizen soldiery of this country, which was to be called upon in cases of emergency, should be nnder the control of the States so far as concerned their organization and officering, with certain privileges allowed to Congress as to the provisions that should be made with reference to them. But the provision which is in the same article of the Constitution with reference to the militia is in these words:

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States, respectively, the appointment of the officers and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

It is entirely proper for Congress under that clause to enact the provisions contemplated in this bill for the proper discipline of the militia, but when, Mr. President, you take a part of the citizen soldiery who are not in the regular service, as it has been heretofore recognized, who are not to be taken from their duties as civilians, from their ordinary vocations of life, who are to remain citizen soldiery, but who are nevertheless to be organized as a reserve for the Regular Army, officered by the United States Government, and subject to be called out by the President without reference to the militia law, you invade the province which it was intended should be without the distinct province of the Government of the United States in the organization of an army; you violate and defeat that which was the plain intent and purpose of the Constitution. .

Mr. President, why was it that the Constitution makers said that in the militia there should be reserved to the States, respectively, the appointment of the officers? Did they desire to insure the separation of the citizen soldiery of the country from the Regular Army, or can it be imagined that they were splitting hairs and contemplated such a technicality as must be resorted to to sustain section 24 of this bill? Was it in contemplation that under a technicality the citizen soldiery could be divided into two classes—one class to be known as militia, composed of citizen soldiery, another class to be known as the volunteer reserve, and also composed of citizen soldiery—or was it the intent of the Constitution that all the citizen soldiery should be known as the militia? And whether the purpose is good or bad, wise or unwise, necessary or unnecessary, it is nevertheless the provision of the Constitution that they, the militia, shall stand distinct and apart and that the States shall have the right to officer them. When you divide them into two classes, all citizen soldiery, but one part to be known as the militia, to be officered by the States, and the other part, still citizen soldiery, to be known as volunteer reserve and officered by the United States, the purpose of the Constitution is defeated.

Aside from that I respectfully submit, sir, that it is an unnecessary provision. Outside of the purpose to enlarge practically the standing army I can conceive of no reason why there should be a volunteer reserve, as it is called, which shall be apart from the volunteer soldiery, a different part altogether, unless it be the apprehension that in time of war, in time of emergency, there will be an insufficiency of response on the part of the volunteer soldiery to meet the demands which would arise to meet such an emergency. Has there ever been anything in the past which would indicate any such danger? Is there anything which could possibly suggest such a danger in the future? Why is it that we are to have two classes of citizen soldiery, unless, forsooth, there . is danger that the one will be insufficient to answer the purpose. Everyone knows that in time of need there is practically no limit to the number of volunteer soldiers who would promptly be at the call of the Government.

For over a hundred years we have had this system. For over a hundred years we have had but one class of citizen soldiery, and that is known as the militia. Sir, who shall define militia to be other than citizen soldiery? Who shall define militia to be other than that which has been known and accepted to be militia since 1792—the citizen soldiery of the country? If that is the meaning of it, if that was the intent of the framers of the Constitution, by what right do we at this late date seek to evade the plain provisions of the Constitution for that purpose? How is it that we are at this day to say in the passage of a law that there shall he a part of the citizen soldiery subject to be called into the service of the United States which shall not be a part of the militia?

Mr. President, the provision of this section of the bill is that the volunteer reserve, as it is called, shall be made up of those who have served in the militia or who have served in the Regular Army of the United States. They are to be enrolled, and although under the amendment which was adopted there will be no drills or anything of the kind, they are to be enrolled, and, I suppose, necessarily organized. How they are to be organized if they are never to be gathered together for inspection or drill I do not know.

This twenty-fourth section erects within each State two different classes of citizen soldiery, one of which will necessarily be the particular object of care on the part of the United States Government. It is true that the bill provides that the militia shall have proper equipment, proper organization, proper drill, and proper discipline, and all of that I most heartily approve, but. nevertheless, if you have in each State one class of citizen soldiery which shall be distinct from the other, which shall be in no manner subject to State law, which shall be in no manner subject to the call of the executive of the State, which shall have its wants supplied by the National Government, which shall have its officers supplied by the National Government, you necessarily have a class of men who will in time come to be recognized as higher in rank than the other class organized under State law, because of the vast resources of the National Government and the extremely restricted resources of the State government.

Mr. President, I repeat, I trust that this part of the bill will not be insisted upon. I am ready to respond to anything which the Senators in charge of the measure may’ insist upon as important for the militia, but this is not a part of the organization of the militia. I venture to say that there was not one Senator in ten, nay, not one in fifty, outside of the Committee on Military Affairs who knew the fact that in that bill, which was denominated as a militia bill, there was included a provision for the organization of an army of 100,000 men, which should belong to the regular establishment and be a part of the Regular Army, although it is, if you please, a dormant part of that regular establishment. It is nevertheless a fact that under a bill to reorganize the militia we have here introduced a provision with reference to the Regular Army of the United States, and a most important and far-reaching part.

I appeal to Senators to let us proceed with the bill for the reorganization of the militia. Strike out this twenty-fourth section, so that we may all give our support to the militia bill, because we are all interested in it. I desire to say. for myself, that with possibly one or two minor provisions, which l do not entirely approve, I most heartily approve of the bill, so far as it relates to the militia.

I think it is of extreme importance that we should have a new law with reference to the militia, because condition shave changed and it is highly important that the militia should be organized in accordance with the changed conditions. When the act of 1792, which organized the militia of the United States, was passed, it contained some provisions that this bill contains in that it makes every man in the United States between 18 and 45 one of the militia, except only certain exempted parties; but when that act was passed conditions were very different. Then any man who knew how to use his sporting gun would know how to use the gun that he would have to use in time of war, and any man who had ordinary capacity could within a very few days be instructed in the simple evolutions which were necessary to make him an organized soldier.

But conditions have entirely changed. A man may now be an expert in the use of a sporting gun and be utterly ignorant of the use of the military arm. He may not only be so, but he is so in nine hundred and nine-nine cases out of one thousand, because in the development of military arms they are entirely different, and it takes specific instructions in order to fit a man to use a military arm.

Therefore, in the organization of the militia at the present day, in order that they may be made promptly effective in time of need, it is important that they should be organized and disciplined and drilled as the Army is drilled; that they should be instructed in the use of these arms, which are entirely different in construction, and the range of which is entirely different. It is important, in view of the changed methods growing out of the changed conditions in arms, that they should be organized into bodies of corresponding character and size, divisions, etc., so that the militia may, when ordered into active service, be ready for immediate and effective service.

Therefore, Mr. President, it is, as I said, without going into details, that I regard this bill as extremely important. I am extremely anxious that it shall be passed, so far as it relates to the militia, but I can see no reason why this measure should be encumbered with another measure which has no relation whatever to the militia, which does not belong to the militia, and which would be utterly unconstitutional if it did pertain to the militia, and which can only be defended on the ground that it is intended as an appendix to the Regular Army.

Mr. President, if we are to have any legislation with reference to the Regular Army let us have it separate and apart. Why should it be brought in here under the guise or under the wing, if you please, of a bill for the reorganization of the militia? Certainly the organization of the Regular Army is a matter of’ sufficient importance to be dealt with separately and apart. It is a matter of sufficient importance to stand on its own ground and by its own strength, and not be brought here and put through as a part of a militia bill, because, forsooth, there is a necessity for the reorganization of the militia, and because by reason of that fact there is great influence in favor of the passage of a militia bill, and properly so. I want the Regular Army brought up to the highest state of efficiency, and I am ready to contribute all in my power to that end. But to accomplish this it is not necessary to mix legislation of the Army with that of the militia.

The Committee on Military Affairs of the Senate are certainly capable of presenting to the Senate and the House committee to the House an independent .measure with reference to the Army without having to have it supported and buttressed by the strength of a bill for the reorganization of the militia.

Mr. President, everything which relates to the standing Army is a most important matter. It is a matter that requires the greatest care on the part of Congress when we come to talk of legislating about a standing army. We have had a great change in the last two or three years in the standing Army.

While it may be, as the Senator from Wisconsin [Mr. Spooner] said on yesterday, that section 24 of this bill is to a great extent futile, with the amendment offered by the Senator from Ohio [Mr. Foraker], still, Mr. President, it is the foundation, it is the beginning, and what may now be lacking of the bill, or this part of it, as it has been amended, will be more easily supplied hereafter. It will be said, “Here we have an organization and it is ineffective, a part of the Regular Army; ” and then it will be amended and added to, and this volunteer reserve will become the important part of the volunteer soldiery, and the militia and the volunteer soldiery of the States will gradually be depreciated and become insignificant.

I desire, Mr. President, that the learned Senators who support this bill will answer the suggestion which I have made as to whether or not it is violative of the spirit of the Constitution when they make a part of the citizen soldiery of the country a part of the standing Army of the country, and that is exactly what this section does.

It takes the citizen soldiery and simply by changing the name from what the Constitution intended it should all be known by, to wit, the militia, makes a part of the citizen soldiery a part of the standing Army of the country, and what is now a hundred thousand men may be in the near future, without any greater change than that we have already seen, a million men, and it may be that within a very short time this feature of the bill, now so comparatively insignificant, may become the great dominating military feature in the legislation of this country.

Mr. President, it is too serious a matter for us to pass upon it as a part of the militia bill when it is not a part of it at all. I may be mistaken about it, I may be over apprehensive about such things, but I think it is an extremely grave proposition, an absolute departure from anything that has ever been seen in the Government of the United States heretofore, when you say that a part of the citizen soldiery of the country shall become a part of the Regular Army of the United States, subject to the call of the President of the United States, not subject in any manner to State law, not officered by the States, and in no particular subject to the control or call of the governor of the State.

It will not do to say there is no danger in this because it can only be done when Congress authorizes it. Congress will have already authorized it when you pass it. Whenever you pass this bill there is a law upon the statute books by which it is available at the call of the President of the United States.

A.O. Bacon

Augusts Octavius Bacon (1839-1914) served in the United States Senate from 1895-1914. He was admitted to the bar in 1860 and then joined the Confederate army at the outbreak of the War. He was a prominent citizen of Macon, GA and served as President Pro Temp of the U.S. Senate during the 62 Congress.

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