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Militia Act of 1903

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Title: Militia Act of 1903  
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Subject: Militia (United States), National Guard of the United States, Ohio Military Reserve, Arkansas State Guard, Spanish–American War
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Militia Act of 1903

Charles Dick, for whom Militia Act of 1903 was named.

The Militia Act of 1903 (32 regular Army, and took steps to meet the same training, education and readiness requirements as active duty units.[2]


Governor Martin Chitenden unsuccessfully attempted to recall Vermont Militia from New York during War of 1812.

During the nineteenth century, the militia in each U.S. state and territory operated under the Militia Acts of 1792. Under these laws, the question of state versus federal control of the militia was unresolved. As a result, the federal government could not rely on the militia for national defense. As an example, during the War of 1812, members of the New York Militia refused to take part in operations against the British in Canada, arguing that their only responsibility was to defend their home state.[3] In another instance, Martin Chittenden, the Governor of Vermont, unsuccessfully attempted to recall his state's militia from the defense of Plattsburgh, claiming that it was illegal for them to operate outside Vermont's borders.[4]

Because the issue of state versus federal control was not resolved, the federal government resorted to the creation of "volunteer" units when it needed to expand the size of the Army. These volunteer units were not militia, nor were they part of the regular Army. This solution was employed during the Mexican-American War,[5] and in the Union Army during the American Civil War.[6]

During the Rough Riders."[7][8] The federal government also mobilized several National Guard units which volunteered en masse and were accepted as volunteer units.[9][10]

Several issues with the National Guard became apparent as a result of the Spanish-American War experience, including low levels of individual and unit training and readiness; differences in organizational structure, uniforms and equipment; and lack of standardization in leader qualifications and professional development.[11][12][13]

Root reforms and Dick Act

Secretary of War Elihu Root worked to reform Army after Spanish-American War.

As a result of the problems identified during the Spanish-American War, Secretary of War Elihu Root and other military leaders took steps to reform the Army, including the National Guard. Root's allies included Charles Dick, Congressman (later Senator) from Ohio and Chairman of the House Militia Affairs Committee, who also served as President of the National Guard Association of the United States.[14] Dick was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and a longtime National Guard member who attained the rank of Major General as commander of the Ohio National Guard.[15][16]

Dick championed the Militia Act of 1903, which became known as the Dick Act. This law repealed the Militia Acts of 1792 and organized the militia into two groups: the Reserve Militia, which included all able-bodied men between ages 17 and 45, and the Organized Militia, which included state militia (National Guard) units receiving federal support.[17][18][19][20]

The Dick Act included $2 million for National Guard units to modernize equipment, and permitted states to use federal funds to pay for National Guard summer training encampments. The National Guard in each state was also required to carry out a uniform schedule of weekend or weeknight drills and annual summer training camps. In addition, the War Department agreed to fund the attendance of Guard officers at Army schools, and active Army officers would serve as inspectors and instructors of National Guard units. The War Department also agreed to organize joint Army-National Guard exercises and training encampments.[21]

In return, the federal government gained greater control over the National Guard. The [22]

The Dick Act helped resolve the issue of when the United States government could mobilize the National Guard, but federal authorities were not permitted to order the National Guard to service outside the United States.[23]


James Parker, first head of Division of Militia Affairs.

The Dick Act was amended several times. In 1908, The nine-month limit on federal service was dropped, and the President was empowered to set the length of federal service.[24] The ban on National Guard units serving outside the United States was also dropped, though subsequently the [26] The 1908 law also included the creation of the Division of Militia Affairs as the Army agency responsible for overseeing federal training and administrative requirements for the National Guard.[27][28][29][30][31]

The National Defense Act of 1916 doubled the number of required drill periods from 24 to 48 and increased the length of summer training camps from five days to 15.[32] In addition, the War Department was enabled to centrally plan for the National Guard's authorized strength, and the number and types of National Guard units in each state.[33]

Under the 1916 law, the War Department was also empowered to implement uniform enlistment contracts and officer commissioning requirements for the National Guard. Guardsmen were also required to take both state and federal enlistment oaths or oaths of office.[34]

The 1916 law also replaced the federal subsidy with an annual budget to cover most Guard expenses, including drill pay, and the Division of Militia Affairs was expanded to form the Militia Bureau (now National Guard Bureau).[35][36]

In addition, the 1916 law resolved the issues of deploying National Guardsmen overseas by stipulating that they would be drafted into federal service, thus removing the National Guard from its status as the militia of the states when operating under federal authority.[37] This provision was employed to call up the National Guard during the Pancho Villa Expedition,[38] and again during World War I.[39]

In 1933, an amendment to the National Defense Act of 1916 created a separate reserve component of the Army called the Army National Guard of the United States. Since 1933, all National Guardsmen have been members of both their State National Guard (or militia) and the National Guard of the United States.[40]


Company A, 1st Arkansas Infantry, near Deming, New Mexico, during Pancho Villa Expedition.
John M. Palmer, advocate of National Guard following World War I.

The improvements to National Guard training and readiness and the resolution of the circumstances under which the National Guard could be federalized led to the call up of National Guard units for service on the Mexico-United States border during the Pancho Villa Expedition.[41][42][43]

In addition, National Guard units were federalized and deployed overseas during World War I.[44]

The improvements to the Army-National Guard relationship, the improvements to National Guard training and readiness, and the National Guard's successful service during the Villa Expedition and the First World War brought about by the Dick Act and subsequent amendments enabled John McAuley Palmer and other National Guard advocates to defeat a 1920 effort to completely replace the National Guard with a federal-only reserve force.[45]


While some sources cite the passage date of HR 11654 as June 28, 1902, others state January 21, 1903.[46][47]

A well-known internet meme cites the Dick Act as an argument against proposed gun control laws and regulations.[48][49] However, the meme is inaccurate and cannot be relied on as an argument against the regulation of firearms.[50][51][52]


  1. ^ Act of Jan. 21, 1903, 47th Congress, 2nd session, chapter 196, 32 Stat. 775-780.
  2. ^ Barry M. Stentiford, The American Home Guard: The State Militia in the Twentieth Century, 2002, page 12
  3. ^ Jesse Greenspan,, How U.S. Forces Failed to Conquer Canada 200 Years Ago, July 12, 2012
  4. ^ Spencer C. Tucker, The Encyclopedia Of the War Of 1812, 2012, page 132
  5. ^ Public Broadcasting System, A Call to Arms: The American Army in the Mexican War: An Overview, A Conversation With Richard Bruce Winders, Historian and Curator, The Alamo, March 14, 2006
  6. ^ Robert K. Krick, Gary W. Gallagher, The American Civil War: The War in the East, 1863-1865, 2001, page 7
  7. ^ U.S. Army Center of Military History, Spanish-American War: Volunteer Forces, 1899
  8. ^ Texas State Historical Association, Handbook of Texas Online, First United States Volunteer Cavalry, accessed July 3, 2013
  9. ^ Spanish-American War Centennial Website, Unit Profiles, Rosters, and Photos, accessed July 3, 2013
  10. ^ New York Times, The Volunteer Army Call: Further Instructions Issued to the Governors of States by the War Department; MODE OF ENLISTMENT GIVEN System for the Enrollment of the National Guard Organizations Much Simpler Than Had Been Supposed; Replies of the Governors, April 27, 1898
  11. ^ U.S. War Department, Spanish American War, 1898, Government Documents, 1899, pages 94-95
  12. ^ Connecticut Adjutant General, Annual Report, 1899, page xxiv
  13. ^ New York Times, The National Guard, January 1, 1897
  14. ^ Davenport Weekly Republican, Meeting of National Guard, January 28, 1904
  15. ^ Ohio General Assembly, Manual of Legislative Practice in the General Assembly of Ohio, 1912, page 199
  16. ^ Michael Dale Doubler, John W. Listman, Jr., The National Guard: An Illustrated History of America's Citizen-Soldiers, 2007, page 54
  17. ^ New York Times, For "A Well Regulated Militia", January 30, 1902
  18. ^ Spokane Daily Chronicle, Secretary Root Interprets Dick Law, May 15, 1903
  19. ^ Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Bill Becomes Law: New Law Makes Militia Part of Federal Military Force, January 16, 1903
  20. ^ United States Government Printing Office, Federal Statutes Annotated, Volume 6, 1918, page 433
  21. ^ Jerry M. Cooper, Citizens As Soldiers: A History Of The North Dakota National Guard, 2005, page 118
  22. ^ James A. Drain, Pearson's Magazine, Getting Ready for Our Next War, April, 1909, page 408
  23. ^ Derek Avery, Mark Lloyd, History of the United States Fighting Forces, 1989, page 74
  24. ^ Republican National Committee, Republican Campaign Text-Book, 1908, page 359
  25. ^ New York Times, The Army-Militia Plan, January 16, 1914
  26. ^ Edward Marshall, New York Times, Making Our Army More Efficient and Always Ready, March 5, 1911
  27. ^ Atlanta Constitution, Dick Militia Law Will be Amended, December 15, 1907
  28. ^ Pittsburgh Press, Discuss Dick Law, July 21, 1907
  29. ^ Providence News-Democrat, Wants Militia Ready for Instant Service, January 15, 1908
  30. ^ Charleston News and Courier, Will Not Quit State Militia, October 28, 1907
  31. ^ Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, General for I.N.G. Is Not Necessary, November 10, 1907
  32. ^ New York Times, Congress Studies the Militia Bill, February 13, 1916
  33. ^ Michael D. Doubler, The National Guard and Reserve: A Reference Handbook, 2008, pages 173-176
  34. ^ New York Times, Old Guardsmen Falter at Oath, June 27, 1916
  35. ^ New York Times, Says Pay for Guard Adds to Efficiency, May 28, 1916
  36. ^ United States War Department, Annual Report of the Secretary of War, Volume 1, 1916, page 191
  37. ^ New York Times, Wilson to Draft Guard, July 10, 1917
  38. ^ Montreal Daily Mail, U.S. Troops Called for Service on Mexican Border, June 19, 1916
  39. ^ Christian Science Monitor, President Drafts the National Guard, August 6, 1917
  40. ^ New Jersey Adjutant General, Annual Report, 1933, pages 2-25
  41. ^ Boston Globe, Testing the National Guard Law, August 8, 1916
  42. ^ New York Times, Militia Question, February 7, 1916
  43. ^ National Guard Bureau, Report on Mobilization of the Organized Militia and National Guard, 1916, page 4
  44. ^ National Guard Educational Foundation, Brief History of Army National Guard Mobilizations, accessed July 3, 2013
  45. ^ Russell Frank Weigley, The American Way of War, 1977, pages 221-222
  46. ^ George Washington Law Review, The Militia Clauses, the National Guard, and Federalism: a Constitutional Tug of War, 1988
  47. ^ Library of Congress, Catalog Record, The "Dick" Bill and Comments, accessed July 3, 2013
  48. ^ David Sterling, Billings Gazette, Letter to the Editor, Dick Act Invalidates So-Called Gun Control, February 7, 2013
  49. ^ David N. Green, Columbia Daily Tribune, Letter to the Editor, Dick Act Invalidates All Gun Control Laws, April 20, 2013
  50. ^ "Dick Act". Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  51. ^ David Hardy, Of Arms & the Law, Dick Act Mythmaking, January 25, 2013
  52. ^ Publius Huldah,, Gun Control, The Dick Act of 1902, Bills of Attainder and Ex Post Facto Laws, January 18, 2013

External links

  • William M. Donnelly. "The Root Reforms and the National Guard".  
  • Dick Act at
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