An interesting quote from George Mason:

I was looking up some material on George Mason and the Militia and found this quote from the Fairfax County Militia Association, 21 September 1774:

That we will form ourselves into a Company, not exceeding one hundred Men, by the Name of The Fairfax independant Company of Voluntiers, making Choice of our own Officers; to whom, for the Sake of Good-order & Regularity, we will pay due submission. That we will meet at such Times & Places in this County as our said Officers (to be chosen by a Majority of the Members, so soon as fifty have subscribed) shall appoint & direct, for the Purpose of learning & practising the military Exercise & Discipline; dress’d in a regular Uniform of Blue, turn’d up with Buff; with plain yellow metal Buttons, Buff Waist Coat & Breeches, & white Stockings; and furnished with a good Fire-lock & Bayonet, Sling Cartouch-Box, and Tomahawk. And that we will, each of us, constantly keep by us a Stock of six pounds of Gunpowder, twenty pounds of Lead, and fifty Gun-flints, at the least. That we will use our utmost Endeavours, as well at the Musters of the said Company, as by all other Means in our Power, to make ourselves Masters of the Military Exercise. And that we will always hold ourselves in Readiness, in Case of Necessity, hostile Invasion, or real Danger of the Community of which we are Members, to defend to the utmost of our Power, the legal prerogatives of our Sovereign King George the third, and the just Rights & Privileges of our Country, our Posterity & ourselves upon the Principles of the British Constitution.

O.K., I’ve highlighted the last sentences since they are what interests me, but point out something I have been saying for a while, which is that the Rebels during the War for American Independence were fighting for their rights as British Citizens. What I find interesting is that they mention the legal prerogatives of King George the Third. Of course, the ability to tax without the consent of his subjects through representation in the British Parliament wouldn’t have been one of these prerogatives, but still this is interesting.

This is the quote I was hoping to find which comes from the Fairfax County Committee of Safety Proceedings [17 January 1775]:

Resolved, That this Committee do concur in opinion with the Provincial Committee of the Province of Maryland, that a well regulated Militia, composed of gentlemen freeholders, and other freemen, is the natural strength and only stable security of a free Government, and that such Militia will relieve our mother country from any expense in our protection and defence, will obviate the pretence of a necessity for taxing us on that account, and render it unnecessary to keep Standing Armies among us—ever dangerous to liberty; and therefore it is recommended to such of the inhabitants of this County as are from sixteen to fifty years of age, to choose a Captain, two Lieutenants, an Ensign, four Sergeants, four Corporals, and one Drummer, for each Company; that they provide themselves with good Firelocks, and use their utmost endeavours to make themselves masters of the Military Exercise, published by order of his Majesty in 1764, and recommended by the Provincial Congress of the Massachusetts Bay, on the 29th of October last.

Note that the “well regulated Militia” is “composed of gentlemen freeholders, and other freemen”. The gentlemen freeholders being what in England is referred to as the “Landed Gentry”, in other words property owners. There is a problem with militia service though and that is that it takes time: time which could be better spent in more “profitable” pursuits (e.g., Commerce). Thus the burden of militia service usually fell upon the lower classes as the “gentlemen freeholders” either held positions as officers, or paid to have someone else (usually from the “labouring classes”) take their places.

Of course, there is the Famous George Mason misquotation, which is actually a partial quote from Elliot’s Debates, Vol. 3, Page 425

Mr. GEORGE MASON. Mr. Chairman, a worthy member has asked who are the militia, if they be not the people of this country, and if we are not to be protected from the fate of the Germans, Prussians, &c., by our representation? I ask, Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor; but they may be confined to the lower and middle classes of the people, granting exclusion to the higher classes of the people. If we should ever see that day, the most ignominious punishments and heavy fines may be expected. Under the present government, all ranks of people are subject to militia duty. Under such a full and equal representation as ours, there can be no ignominious punishment inflicted. But under this national, or rather consolidated government, the case will be different. The representation being so small and inadequate, they will have no fellow-feeling for the people. They may discriminate people in their own predicament, and exempt from duty all the officers and lowest creatures of the national government. If there were a more particular definition of their powers, and a clause exempting the militia from martial law except when in actual service, and from fines and punishments of an unusual nature, then we might expect that the militia would be what they are. But, if this be not the case, we cannot say how long all classes of people will be included in the militia. There will not be the same reason to expect it, because the government will be administered by different people. We know what they are now, but know not how soon they may be altered.

The whole quote addresses the system of exemptions from Militia service, which gets to my point about it being a burden when the system was in practise. Of course, what I was interested in finding out was whether Mason used the term “the people” in a rather restrictive form of “White male landowners” as opposed to the more liberal form which people are suggesting is the case. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that that is totally the case. Although, it does get to another aspect that has been mentioned in regard to Militia service–it was seen as a burden.

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