The Organization and Use of the Maryland Militia in The Whiskey Rebellion, 1794

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1978

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Abstract

This thesis is directed at the use of the Maryland militia during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 in western Pennsylvania. The call for militia, made by President Washington, was not well received in the state. The quota was not tilled, and attempts to fill it touched off riots in western Maryland. These riots made another call necessary, this time made by Maryland Governor Thomas Sim Less. Only Maryland troops were requested, and the quota was filled completely and quickly. The difference in the militia's response is an important part of this thesis because it affords an examination of the condition of federal state relations in the first few years after the ratification of the Constitution. Evidence discussed in this thesis provides material from which several conclusions may be drawn. The examination of the federal and state militia law shows that the federal government was uncertain of its position in attempting to dictate legislation to the states. The state government was uncertain too, about how much it should be dictated to. The result of these uncertainties was a set of weak militia laws that left the responsibility of the obedience to them up the individual militia men. Indeed, the two governments were not only unsure of their positions with each other, but also unsure of their position with the citizens. They were not certain that the citizens would support militia laws, or militia calls. The difference in the militia's response to the two calls also shows that the militia was not certain of its responsibility to answer a requisition. Troops from Maryland were much more concerned with protecting their own state, and possibly homes and families, than they were with protecting the federal government's whiskey excise. Aside from the natural desire for self preservation, the difference indicates that the militia and its leaders were willing to inconvenience themselves for the state, but not for the Union.

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