Legal Definition of Militia

The military force of the nation, consisting of citizens called forth to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection and repel invasion.3 min read


The military force of the nation, consisting of citizens called forth to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection and repel invasion.

The Constitution of the United States provides on this subject as follows: Art. 1, s. 8, 14. Congress shall have power to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.

Section 15

15. to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia, according to the discipline prescribed by congress.


Under the clauses of the constitution, the following points have been decided. If congress had chosen, they might by law, have considered a militia man, called into the service ot the United States, as being, from the time of such call, constructively in that service, though not actually so, although he should not appear at the place of rendezvous. But they have not so considered him, in the acts of congress, till after his appearance at the place of rendezvous; previous to that, a fine was to be paid for the delinquency in not obeying the call, which fine was deemed an equivalent for his services, and an atonement for disobedience.The militia belong to the states respectively, and are subject, both in their civil and military capacities, to the jurisdiction and laws of the state, except so far as these laws are controlled by acts of congress, constitutionally made.

What Did the Framers Mean?

It is presumable the framers of the constitution contemplated a full exercise of all the powers of organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia; nevertheless, if congress had declined to exercise them, it was competent to the state governments respectively to do it. But congress has executed these powers as fully as was thought right, and covered the whole ground of their legislation by different laws, notwithstanding important provisions may have been omitted, or those enacted might be beneficially altered or enlarged.

After this, the states cannot enact or enforce laws on the same subject. For although their laws may not be directly repugnant to those of congress, yet congress, having exercised their will upon the subject, the states cannot legislate upon it. If the law of the latter be the same, it is inoperative; if they differ, they must, in the nature of things, oppose each other, so far as they differ.