New York: [Francis Childs and John Swaine], September 29, 1789.
1p. Signed in print by George Washington, John Adams and Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg. Signed in manuscript by Samuel A. Otis, Secretary of Senate and John Beckley, Clerk of the House. Folio. The Establishment of the U.S. Army. Minor stain at head of document, old folds Bristol B7190; Shipton and Mooney 45712; ESTC W17363. Item #320118
When the delegates met at the Constitutional Convention to draft the U.S. Constitution, most held a healthy fear of a standing, peace-time Federal army, rooted in the Boston Massacre and other colonial experiences with British forces. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 29, however, successfully argued: "If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security." In order to provide a check and balance on the potential tyranny by such a standing federal force, the Constitution provided the "army clause" which allowed the U.S. Congress "to raise and support armies" but with biennial funding (Article I, Section 8, Clause 12).
However, when the first session of the first Congress met in New York, it took until the final day of the session -- September 29 -- to address their constitutional right and legalize the existing small federal force, a remnant of the Continental Army which had been created under the Articles of Confederation. Washington himself had prompted the passage of the act, writing to Congress on August 7: “I am particularly anxious it should receive an early attention as circumstances will admit; because it is now in our power to avail ourselves of the military knowledge disseminated throughout the several States by means of the many well instructed Officers and soldiers of the late Army; a resource which is daily diminishing by deaths and other causes.” When created on September 29 1789, the U.S. Army consisted of approximately 800 troops.
This separate printing of the act of the first Congress which established the United States Army is comprised of six sections. The first two reference resolves of the Continental Congress of October 3, 1787 and April 12, 1785 which continued for one year the existence of the army under the Articles of Confederation and provided for pay and allowances.
The third section is of particular note, as it is the first printing of the Oath of Enlistment: "support the Constitution" and "to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully, against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and to observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over me." The Oath of Enlistment remained largely unchanged until the Civil War.
The fourth section codifies that the troops will be governed by the rules and articles of war as established by Congress. The fifth section allows the President to to call into service state militias for the protection of the frontier. The final section, in keeping with the "Army Clause", confirms that the act will continue until the end of the next session of Congress. Below the printing of the Act is a certification, signed by Otis and Beckley, affirming the accuracy of the printed act with the original.
This act is very rare with only the New York Public Library copy recorded.
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