State Issued

Senior Class

The "Senior Class" was not excluded from the Militia, but instead assigned to a component separate from the Trained Bands and the Alarm List.

Last Updated on January 4, 2022 by Constitutional Militia

The Senior Class.

The “Senior Class” was the name Rhode Island applied to the set of men between the ages of sixteen and fifty who were otherwise exempted from regular Militia service in the Trained Bands because of their important public offices or critical private occupations, (see statutes below) but who nevertheless were “at all Times [to] be armed, accoutred and provided, * * * and subjected to the same Regulations” as the Trained Bands.[2] These requirements alone demonstrate that, as with the Alarm List, the Senior Class was not something separate from, but instead was integral to, Rhode Island’s Militia—its particular status being the product of nothing more than the commonsensical recognition that men whose offices or occupations warranted their exemptions from the normal duties of the Trained Bands should nevertheless be fully prepared to assume when necessary all of the fundamental Militia duties incumbent upon everyone else. Thus, the exemptions for these men did not operate as exclusions from the Militia, but simply caused them to be assigned to a component separate from the Trained Bands and the Alarm List.

The separate status of the Senior Class did not entail inferior organization, however. To the contrary: The Senior Class was highly organized throughout Rhode Island. Its members were to

“be officered in the same Manner as the Infantry Companies, with such Field and Staff Officers as their Numbers * * * entitle[d] them to, and who shall at all Times be armed, accoutred and provided * * * and subjected to the same Regulations as” the rest of the Militia. Members of “the Senior Class in the Town of Providence [were to] constitute one Company; those of the Town of Cranston, one Company; those of the Towns of Johnston and North-Providence, one Company; those of the Town of Smithfield, one Company; those of the Town of Cumberland, one Company; those of the Town of Scituate, one Company; and those of the Town of Gloucester, one Company: * * * the said Companies [to] be formed into one Battalion, to be commanded by one Lieutenant- Colonel Commandant, and one Major”—and on through the organization into Companies in a list of other Towns. In addition, “Companies of Horse” were “formed from the Senior Class of their respective Districts, at their own Election, * * * due Regard being had to their Abilities and local Situation”.[3]

Throughout the pre-constitutional period, Rhode Island exempted various of her public officeholders from regular training in her Trained Bands:

[1665] Eligible men were to “find themselves armes and traine in their owne persones; which all men from sixteene years of age to sixtye yeares old are * * * required to doe, * * * excepting such as are in publicke office”.[1]

• [1677] “[N]oe person or persons within this Collony from the age of sixteen yeares unto the age of sixty yeares, shall be released from traininge or other duties in millitary affaires, exceptinge * * * the civill officers in this Collony[.]”[2]

• [1718, 1730, and 1744] “[A]ll Male Persons Residing for the space of Three Months within this Colony from the Age of Sixteen, to the Age of Fifty Years, shall bear Arms in their respective Train-bands or Companies whereto by Law they shall belong, Excepting * * * one Goaler to each of his majesties Goals in the Colony, * * * and all Persons that are under Oath or Engagement to any Office.”[3]

• [1766] “[A]ll male Persons, who have resided for the Space of Three Months in this Colony, from the Age of Sixteen to Fifty, shall bear Arms in the respective trained Bands whereto by Law they shall belong, * * * excepting * * * one Gaoler to each Gaol, * * * and all other Persons who are under Oath or Engagement to any Office.”[4]

• [1779] “[A]ll Persons under the following Description be exempted from serving in the Infantry Battalions, and Companies of Artillery, viz. all Persons who have served in the Place of General Officers, Justices of the Peace, or other commissioned Officers, * * * all Town-Councilmen, Treasurers, Clerks and Serjeants, while serving in their respective Stations.”[5]

Footnotes:

1.) EN-572 — Acts and Orders of the Generall Assembly, sitting at Newport, May the 3, 1665, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 2, at 115. 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 252.

2.) EN-573 — At the Generall Assembly and Election held in his Majesty’s name, May the 2d, 1677, at Newport, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 2, at 570. 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 252.

3.) EN-574 — An Act for the Repealing several Laws relating to the Militia within this Colony, and for further Regulation of the same, LAWS Made and Past by the General Assembly of His Majesties Colony of Rhode- Island, and Providence-Plantations, in New-England, begun and Held at Newport, the Seventh Day of May, 1718, and Continued by Adjournments to the Ninth Day of September following, in Public Laws of Rhode Island, 1719, at 86; in Public Laws of Rhode Island, 1730, at 91; and in Public Laws of Rhode Island, 1744, at 65. 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 252.

4.) EN-575 — An ACT, regulating the Militia in this Colony, part of An ACT, establishing the Revisement of the Laws of this Colony, and for the putting the same in Force, in A LAW, Made and passed at the General Assembly of the Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence-Plantations, held at Providence on the First Monday in December, 1766, in Public Laws of Rhode Island, 1766, at 179. 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 252.

5.) EN-576 — An ACT for the better forming, regulating and conducting the military Force of this State, AT the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the Governor and Company of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence-Plantations, begun and holden at South-Kingstown, within and for the State aforesaid, on the last Monday in October, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-nine, in Rhode Island Acts and Resolves, Volume 10 [12], at {32}. 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 252-253.

Rhode Island considered a select set of private occupations sufficiently critical that she exempted the men practicing them, too, from service in her Trained Bands:

• [1677] “[N]oe person or persons within this Collony from the age of sixteen yeares unto the age of sixty yeares, shall be released from traininge or other duties in millitary affaires, exceptinge * * * such whose employments render them excusable by law[.]”[1]

• [1718, 1730, and 1744] “[A]ll Male Persons Residing for the space of Three Months within this Colony, from the Age of Sixteen, to the Age of Fifty Years, shall bear Arms in their Respective Train-bands or Companies * * * Excepting * * * one Minister or Teacher of each respective Congregation in each respective Town, all Sworn Practitioners in Chirurgery and Physick, all Apothecaries and School-masters, and also one Miller to each Grist Mill, [and] one Ferry-man to each stated Ferry[.]”[2]

• [1766] “[A]ll male Persons, who have resided for the Space of Three Months in this Colony, from the Age of Sixteen to Fifty, shall bear Arms in the respective trained Bands where by Law they shall belong, * * * excepting * * * the Ministers or Teachers of each Church or Congregation in the Colony, all sworn Practitioners in the Law, Physicians, Surgeons, Apothecaries, School-masters, all Persons appointed to work the Fire-Engines in this Colony, one Miller to each Grist-Mill, [and] One Ferryman to each stated Ferry[.]”[3]

• [1778] “[T]he council of war * * * are * * * empowered to excuse from personal duty in the militia, such persons as may from time to time be employed within this state, in manufacturing military stores and other articles for the use of the United States, agreeably to * * * a resolution of Congress[.]”[4]

• [1779]“[A]ll Persons under the following Description be exempted from serving in the Infantry Battalions, and Companies of Artillery, viz. * * * the Ministers or Teachers of each Church or Congregation in this State, all sworn Practitioners in the Law, Physicians, Surgeons, Apothecaries, all Persons appointed to work the Fire-Engines,one Miller to each Grist-Mill, [and] one Ferryman to each stated Ferry[.]”[5]

Footnotes:

1.) EN-579 — At the Generall Assembly and Election held in his Majesty’s name, May the 2d, 1677, at Newport, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 2, at 570. 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 254.

2.) EN-580 — An Act for the Repealing several Laws relating to the Militia within this Colony, and for further Regulation of the same, LAWS Made and Past by the General Assembly of His Majesties Colony of Rhode- Island, and Providence-Plantations, in New-England, begun and Held at Newport, the Seventh Day of May, 1718, and Continued by Adjournments to the Ninth Day of September following, in Public Laws of Rhode Island, 1719, at 86; in Public Laws of Rhode Island, 1730, at 91; and in Public Laws of Rhode Islands, 1744, at 65. 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 254.

3.) EN-581 — An ACT, regulating the Militia in this Colony, part of An ACT, establishing the Revisement of the Laws of this Colony, and for the putting the same in Force, in A LAW, Made and passed at the General Assembly of the Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, held at Providence on the First Monday in December, 1766, in Public Laws of Rhode Island, 1767, at 179. 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 254. 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 254.

4.) EN-582 — Proceedings of the General Assembly, held for the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, at Providence, on Thursday, the 28th day of May, 1778, in Rhode Island Records, Volume 8, at 421-422. 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 254.

5.) EN-583 — An ACT for the better forming, regulating and conducting the military Force of this State, AT the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the Governor and Company of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence-Plantations, begun and holden at South-Kingstown, within and for the State aforesaid, on the last Monday in October, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-nine, in Rhode Island Acts and Resolves, Volume 10 [12], at {32}. 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 254-255.

1.) EN-452 — An ACT for the better forming, regulating and conducting the military force of this State, AT the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the Governor and Company of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence-Plantations, begun and holden at South-Kingstown, within and for the State aforesaid, on the last Monday in October, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-nine, in Rhode Island Acts and Resolves, Volume 10 [12], at {32-33}.

2.) EN-451 — An ACT for the better forming, regulating and conducting the military Force of this State, AT the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the Governor and Company of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence-Plantations, begun and holden at South-Kingstown, within and for the State aforesaid, on the last Monday in October, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-nine, in Rhode Island Acts and Resolves, Volume 10 [12], at {32-33}. 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 224.

3.) Id at 1.

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