From the Archives - Thomas Jefferson On Universal Military Training
13, 1813, in the midst of the disasters of the War of 1812, former President
Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend James Monroe, then serving as Secretary of
State, on the subject of military preparedness in a republic.
more a subject of joy that we have so few of the desperate characters which
compose modern regular armies. But it
proves more forcibly the necessity of
obliging every citizen to be a soldier; this was the case with the
Greeks and the Romans, and must be that of every free State.
Where this is no oppression, there will be no pauper hirelings. We must train and classify the whole of our
male citizens, an make military instruction a regular part of collegiate
education. We can never be safe till
this is done.
Jefferson's sentiments were in keeping with
the republican principles earlier enunciated by men such as George Washington
and Henry Knox, though without the jibe at regular troops, the "Sage of
Monticello" failed to realize that the man-in-the-street was less
committed to the notion of universal military training in practice than he was
in principle. Virtually from the
formation of the Republic, citizens were generally loath to fulfill their militia.