Defense

2003-04-20

In his First Annual Message to Congress, Thomas Jefferson said the following:

A statement has been formed by the secretary of war, on mature consideration, of all the posts and stations where garrisons will be expedient, and of the number of men requisite for each garrison. The whole amount is considerably short of the present military establishment. For the surplus no particular use can be pointed out. For defence against invasion, their number is as nothing; nor is it conceived needful or safe that a standing army should be kept up in time of peace for that purpose. Uncertain as we must ever be of the particular point in our circumference where an enemy may choose to invade us, the only force which can be ready at every point and competent to oppose them, is the body of neighboring citizens as formed into a militia. On these, collected from the parts most convenient, in numbers proportioned to the invading foe, it is best to rely, not only to meet the first attack, but if it threatens to be permanent, to maintain the defence until regulars may be engaged to relieve them. These considerations render it important that we should at every session continue to amend the defects which from time to time show themselves in the laws for regulating the militia, until they are sufficiently perfect. Nor should we now or at any time separate, until we can say we have done everything for the militia which we could do were an enemy at our door.

It may seem incredible in this day and age, but Thomas Jefferson's administration made deep cuts in the military establishment because it was not considered "needful or safe that a standing army should be kept up in time of peace", even for the purpose of defending the nation against invasion (yes, in those days it was common wisdom that citizen militas were sufficient to "maintain the defence until regulars may be engaged to relieve them"). Now the U.S. government not only keeps standing armies in time of peace, and not only keeps them in a hundred nations of the world, but indeed is engaged in the kind of endless war that the founders so loathed about the English government of their day. Our forefathers overthrew the tyrannical rule of a hated empire; now the American government is itself tyrannical and imperial. We have met the enemy, and it is us. Welcome to the new American century.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal