Best Defense

Did the framers of the Constitution see the Army as fundamentally un-American?

I suspect so.


I suspect so. Section 8 says Congress has the powers to “raise” an Army but to “maintain” a Navy. Why is this?

It was because the authors of the Constitution distrusted standing armies. In most societies and in most of human history, notes Patricia Crone, “the army was as much an instrument for the maintenance of internal order as for defence against outsiders.”

This was true of the founding fathers. The military historian David Preston writes that in mid-18th century England, “Contemporary attitudes toward the Redcoats were not kind. They were traditionally viewed with deep suspicion as a potential threat to English liberty.”

The framers naturally thought they were good fellows, and in the democratic republic they were designing, no such instrument of internal repression would be required.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

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