||2. Internal Military Interventions before 1877||Page 3|
The US attitude toward internal interventions has always been paradoxical. From the beginning of US history, there has been a fear of standing armies and military control. The Declaration of Independence lists as one of the major grievances against the British king: 'He has kept among us, in times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of, and superior to, the Civil Power.' Most of the state constitutions of the newly independent US republic asserted 'the danger of standing armies in time of peace, the superiority of the civil over the military authority, the right to freedom from troops being harbored in private dwellings, and prohibitions against military appropriations for longer than one or two years' (Ekirch, 1969, p. 141).
Despite the anti-militarist tradition, the first century of the USA culminated in an extraordinarily bloody internal war, the Civil War. And armed struggle around the issue of slavery both preceded and followed that war .
The South was an armed camp for the purpose of enforcing slavery prior to the Civil War. In his survey of American Negro slave revolts, Aptheker (1943) found records of about 250 revolts and conspiracies, but said that this was no doubt an underestimate. Most of the revolts were suppressed by state militia, for which records are not readily available. In addition to suppressing revolts, the military enforced a state of martial law. According to Mahon (1983) in his History of the Militia and the National Guard, before the US Revolution, 'the primary mission of the slave states' militia increasingly became the slave patrol' (p. 22) and after the revolution, 'the slave states continued to require militiamen to do patrol duty to discourage slave insurrections' (p. 54).
The militarization of Southern cities was described by F. L. Olmstead in the late 1850s, as quoted by Aptheker (1943, p. 69):
...police machinery such as you never find in towns under free government: citadels, sentries, passports, grapeshotted cannon, and daily public whippings. ..more than half of the inhabitants of this town were subject to arrest, imprisonment and barbarous punishment if found in the streets without a passport after the evening 'gunfire'. Similar precautions and similar customs may be discovered in every large town in the South. ..a military - organization which is invested with more arbitrary and cruel power than any police in Europe.
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