Militia Structure— 2nd Main Provision
2.) To be Armed: Pursuant to State Statute and Constitutional Provision

During the pre-constitutional period all eligible men were required to perform some Militia service—as Rhode Island’s Charter envisioned, all of the eligible male “Inhabitants of said Plantations” were subject to some Militia service: (i) in the Colony’s earliest days when the population was sparse; (ii) in periods of emergency throughout the Colony’s history when the services of every able-boded adult free man might be needed; and (iii) with respect to such foundational duties as personal possession of firearms and ammunition suitable for Militia service, (footnote 1) and participation in “the Watch” and “the Ward”. (footnote 2 ) 

The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 123-124.


Individual armament is required by law for every “able-bodied” adult for Militia service.

The Militia were armed systematically according to statute, not randomly and voluntarily. Guns were obtained in the free market. In every Militia statute, the individual is to obtain a firearm by buying it for himself. The modern day notion that the Second Amendment amounts to merely an individual “gun right” for personal self-defense or hunting has no basis in fact or in law in any Militia statute, of which there are hundreds that span the course of over 150 years. While self-defense is important it is an individual choice. Community self-defense, which is “necessary to the security of a free State” (Second Amendment) requires a collective effort of the vast amount of inhabitants properly organized, armed, and trained pursuant to statute, so that they can effectively provide themselves with security. In this way THE PEOPLE through their Militia Structure can provide themselves with security from any and all threats taking advantage of the strength and variety of skill sets in their numbers. When a function of the local Militia Structure proves to be ineffective—THE PEOPLE themselves—would better regulate (e.g., “a well regulated Militia”) their structure by updating their Militia statute to make them effective. As State government institutions the Militia would be immune from all contemporary forms of “gun control”. Militia Structures are largely outside the jurisdiction of Congress.

As technology advances, so do the armaments available in the free market. By properly regulating their Militia, THE PEOPLE would always be in possession of the most contemporary arms and accoutrements available. As a standard Militia principle, the average Militiaman is to be armed as well as the contemporary infantryman serving in the military. Why? Because in the extreme case, THE PEOPLE may encounter a “standing army”, which was the Founders experience. At all other times the Militia would provide themselves with security every day of the year by influencing and enforcing constitutional principles with full legal authority.

  • From America’s earliest days every ‘able bodied adult male’ was required to be armed under statute to perform their Militia service. Eight statutes spanning the course of 141 years—from 1639 to 1780.

    From the early 1600s in the American colonies through the post-constitutional period in the then independent States, the right to keep and bear arms was always and everywhere coincident with the duty to perform one’s Militia service. From the very beginning, Rhode Island’s officials ordered that:

    • • [1639] “noe man shall go two miles from the Towne unarmed, eyther with Gunn or Sword; and * * * none shall come to any public Meeting without his weapon”; (footnote 1)

    • • [1643] “every man” should have sufficient “powder”, “bulletts”, and “shot lying by him”; (footnote 2)

    • • [1643] inspectors should check “every inhabitant” to “see whether every one of them has powder, and what bullets run”, and “go to every house” to determine “what armes are defective”; (footnote 3)

    • • [1655] “an accompt * * * shall be given of what powder, lead and shot there is in the possession of everie inhabitant of ye townes”; (footnote 4)

    • • [1669] “each * * * Towne Councill in the Colony * * * [should] see that the inhabitants of each respective towne bee furnished with ammunition according to law; and that the armes bee fixed and in readiness for service”. (footnote 5)

    Also, in particular situations of “eminent dangers approaching”, such as invasions, insurrections, or other “great extremities”, Rhode Island’s “magistrates” were “empowered to press or cause to be impressed [that is, to draft for compulsory service], any person or persons”, and “to raise, appoint and authorize any or all persons requisitt for the preservation of * * * [the] Collony * * * to attend their allegiance and duty”. (footnote 6) Thus, during the War of Independence, the General Assembly:

    • • [1775] “directed and empowered [inspectors] to go to the house of each person in their respective towns, to take an account of the powder, arms and ammunition”; (footnote 7)

    • • [1775] “command[ed] every man in the colony, able to bear arms, to equip himself completely with arms and ammunition, according to law”; (footnote 8)

    • • [1780] authorized drafts from among “all male Persons whatsoever, of the Age of Sixteen Years and upwards, who have resided for the Space of Thirty Days within their respective Towns (Deserters, Indians, Mulattoes and Negroes excepted)”. (footnote 9)

    Moreover, that it was Rhode Island’s practice, from the early to the late 1700s, to require Militia service, not just from her permanent residents, but also from mere “transient persons”, evidences the near-universality and seriousness of the duty. (footnote 10)

    Footnotes:

    1.) EN-104 — By the Body Politicke in the Ile of Aqethnec, Inhabiting this present, 25 of 9: month. 1639, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 1, at 94 (emphasis supplied). Accord, At a Generall Towne Meetinge at Portsmouth, 1st of March, 1643, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 1, at 79 (“that every man do come armed unto the [general town] meeting upon every sixth day”). Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    2.) EN-105 — At a Generall Towne Meetinge at Portsmouth, 1st of March, 1643, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 1, at 79, and [A General Town Meeting in Portsmouth,] 5th of October, 1643, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 1, at 77. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    3.) EN-106 — [A General Town Meeting in Portsmouth,] The 10th of Aprill, 1643, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 1, at 80, and [A General Town Meeting in Portsmouth,] 5th of October, 1643, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 1, at 77. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    4.)  EN-107 — June ye 28th, 1655. The Court of Commissioners at Portsmouth, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 1, at 320. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    5.) EN-108 — Att a meeting of the Generall Councill, at Newport, on Thursday, August 26, 1669, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 2, at 282. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    6.) EN-109 — Acts, Orders and Proceedings of the Governor and Councill of His Majestys Collony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, held at Newport, May, 1667, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 2, at 192, 193 (emphasis supplied). Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    7.) EN-110 — Proceedings of the General Assembly, held for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, at Providence, on Wednesday, the 28th day of June, 1775, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 7, at 356. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    8.) EN-111 — Proceedings of the General Assembly, held for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, at Providence, on Wednesday, the 28th day of June, 1775, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 7, at 358 (emphasis supplied). Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    9.) EN-112 — An ACT for raising Six Hundred and Thirty able-bodied effective Men, At the General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence-Plantations, begun and holden (by Adjournment) at Newport, within and for the State aforesaid, on the Third Monday in July, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty, in Rhode Island Acts and Resolves, Volume 10 [13], at {29} (emphasis supplied). Accord, At the General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence- Plantations, begun and holden (by Adjournment) at Providence, within and for the State aforesaid, on the first Monday in July, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty, in Rhode Island Acts and Resolves, Volume 10 [13], at {7}. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 124.

    10.) EN-113 — See An Act for the electing of commissioned officers of the severall train bands in this Colony, Proceedings of the Generall Assembly held for the Collony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at Newport, the 19th day of June, 1705, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 3, at 534; An Act for numbering all persons able to bear arms within this state, Proceedings of the General Assembly, held for the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, at Providence, on the fourth Monday in March, 1777, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 8, at 189. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 125.

  • What if you were to poor to buy a gun?

    Some Militia statutes contained provisions to sell your produce for you, as most people in the pre-constitutional period were farmers. You would bring your produce into the town or county and they would buy it from you so that you could get enough money to buy the gun.

    What if you didn’t have produce?
    They would get you a job. There were Militia statutes that provided that they would find employment for you to earn wages to buy the gun.

    What if you were unemployable?
    When individuals were too poor to acquire firearms through their own efforts, the Militia (through fines imposed on defaulters) or Local governments (through general taxes) might supply, and then possibly control access to, the necessary equipment. For example, in 1776 Rhode Island provided that

    • • “each town” should supply all of its “inhabitants * * * who are not able to purchase” arms “with a good fire-arm, bayonet and cartouch box, at such town’s expense, to be lodged with the captains of such district wherein such poor persons belong, for their use upon any proper occasion”; (footnote 1) and

    • • “the Colony” would purchase “Two Thousand Stand of good Fire-Arms”, to be “distributed to each Town, in Proportion to the Number of Polls upon the Alarm List therein”, with the Town Councils “to determine what Persons * * * shall have the Benefit and Use of the Arms provided * * * , and be exempted from providing themselves as the Law requires”. (footnote 2)

    Footnotes:

    1.) EN-2011 — Proceedings of the General Assembly, held for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, at Providence, on the second Monday in January, 1776, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 7, at 422-423. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States”, Front Royal, Virginia CD ROM Edition 2012, by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 1114.

    2.) EN-2012 — An Act for purchasing Two Thousand Arms for the Colony, &c., At the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the GOVERNOR and COMPANY of the English Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, in New- England, in America, begun and holden (in Consequence of Warrants issued by his Honor the Governor) at East-Greenwich, within and for the said Colony, on Monday the Eighteenth Day of March, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-six, in Rhode Island Acts and Resolves, Volume 8 [9], at {303, 304-305}. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States”, Front Royal, Virginia CD ROM Edition 2012, by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 1114.

  • Where did the people keep their guns in the pre and post-constitutional period? In an armory?

    You kept your gun in your own home. You had to buy your own gun, ammunition and “accoutrements” and you were required by law to keep them in your home. Why?

    Because a Militiaman could be called at any moment, in an alarm situation, and every “able-bodied” adult had to be prepared individually to work together collectively as component parts of “[a] well regulated Militia”. In the extreme case, as the Declaration of Independence recognized: “It is their right, it is their duty” to stand up to oppressive governments. If the guns were kept in an armory under the control of the oppressive government, how would you get to them? Every gun control statute today looks to that conclusion, your talking about the very people that the Declaration of Independence was talking about—the people who pass these “gun control” statutes—the mentality is exactly the same.

That it was Rhode Island’s practice, from the early to the late 1700s, to require Militia service, not just from her permanent residents, but also from mere “transient persons”, evidences the near-universality and seriousness of the duty. (footnote 3)

  • Footnotes

    1.) See generally The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Chapters 6 and 7.

    2.) Id., pages 235-240.

    3.) EN-113 — See An Act for the electing of commissioned officers of the severall train bands in this Colony, Proceedings of the Generall Assembly held for the Collony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at Newport, the 19th day of June, 1705, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 3, at 534; An Act for numbering all persons able to bear arms within this state, Proceedings of the General Assembly, held for the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, at Providence, on the fourth Monday in March, 1777, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 8, at 189. Also see The Sword and Sovereignty: Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States” by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 125.