Dick Act of 1902, Militia Act of 1903 by Rick Osmon

by Rick Osmon for The Hollow Earth Insider 2/2/2013

An acquaintance reminded me of this the other day. I read it years ago while looking into the history of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which was a direct outgrowth of the Dick Act aka the Militia Act of 1903. By Acts of Congress established a three level defense for our nation and provided a legal boundary of national, state, and private citizen militia where the national command authority had control over the Army, Navy, and Marines. There was not yet an Air Force and the Coast Guard then was part of the Treasury Department. The President could call up the National Guard for self defense purposes, but could not order their deployment overseas. The governors could call up the National Guard for emergencies inside their state. The Governors could also call up the unorganized militia, but the President could not. That’s right, the Militia Act of 1903 established by law provisions for an “unorganized militia” in each of the various states. The act also provided for arms and armories for both the National Guard and the unorganized militias. The states had the choice whether both levels used the same armory. However, if a separate armory was to be established for the unorganized militias, the states had to pay for that themselves.

The United States recognized during the Spanish American War just how vulnerable to attack the nation was when the Army was away across the pond someplace. The National Guard was established to act as home guard when the standing army was deployed elsewhere (how deployment overseas is a “defense” is beyond me).

The Civilian Marksmanship Program was established at the same time as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act,  the early equivalent of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The CMP was established to distribute surplus military firearms, ammunition, accessories, provide hands-on training and education. The CMP today still provides M1 Garrands (.30-06) M1 Carbines (.30 Carbine), 10, 15, & 30 round magazines for the carbines, shoulder straps, cleaning and maintenance supplies, training and use manuals, and practice targets (both bullseye and half scale man targets). However, in 1996, the execution of the program was shifted to a non-profit corporation chartered by Congress and the Army program office was abolished by the same act of Congress.

During his first term, President Obama, by Executive Order, completely bypassed legislative action in banning the re-importation of nearly a million of these rifles from South Korea. This effectively kills the CMP. More alarmingly, it is a violation of standing law as passed by Congress. What it represents is an effective end of the integrated layers of home defense established by the Militia Act that stood the test during WWII, deterring the Japanese from even seriously considering trying to establish a beachhead of more importance than a small patch in the  Aleutian Islands Chain.

The Militia Act of 1903 was indirectly used by the Executive Branch of the government during Civil Rights demonstrations during the 1960s. Many southern governors, chief among them George Wallace, attempted to use National Guard forces to block civil rights and desegregation initiatives. In these cases, whenever a governor called up the National Guard for use in blocking federal directives, the President promptly mobilized the Guard into the Army Reserve, placing the Guard commanders under federal authority, and subject to court martial should they not carry out executive directives. I am completely confident that President Obama would use the same tactic in a similar situation.

In 1965 when Martin Luther King, Jr was organizing marches, when locals in southern states were engaged in mob violence over federally enforced desegregation of schools, when voting rights activists literally came under fire by klansmen and others, the Deacons of Defense took it upon themselves to somewhat level the playing field.

Under a strict interpretation, the Militia Act also gave the governors exclusive power to call up the unorganized militia, but the Department of Defense has no command authority over the unorganized militia. So, in theory, had George Wallace called upon the unorganized militia, he would have forced the hand of LBJ to either accept that Wallace could exercise the 10th Amendment authority left to the states, successfully defying the forced integration, or LBJ could declare martial law in Alabama (although it is unclear just when or if martial law was lifted in Alabama during the occupation of the Civil War).

If Alabama had paid attention to the provisions of the Militia Act of 1903, the Deacons would have fallen under the direct command authority of George Wallace and would still have done what they did. Remember, all those organized marches were guarded by state police, the governors were not calling up the National Guard to prevent desegregation, they were trying to prevent mob violence. The idea that the governors “might” use the command authority differently was enough to prompt President Johnson to usurp states’ rights.

The greatest successes this nation has experienced with regard to racial desegregation has been in the armed forces. If the Militia Act had been carried out to its full intent, that desegregation would have started sixty years earlier because we would all be “brothers in arms”. That is a phrase not understood by people who have not experienced it, but to those who have, its meaning is universal and powerful. One of the greatest services to our nation to grow, at


Photo courtesy: Tuff Myers

least in part, from the CMP is the Junior Reserve Officers TrainingCorps. Today, the 2nd of February, 2013 was the regional drill competition for NJROTC in southern Indiana, held at Washington High School. The winners of the overall competition were from Ben Davis High School, a predominantly black high school in Indianapolis. Good job, cadets!


Now we have a choice, in each of our individual, various states, whether to exercise the legal provisions of the Militia Act.

The rifles banned from re-importation by Obama’s Executive Order are arms that the US taxpayers have already owned for seventy years. I would like to see an immediate, well supported class action suit against the President of the United States for mishandling of US assets, that those assets be made available immediately to the CMP, that a Congressional Act be drawn providing some level of matching funding for states that wish to exercise the provision within the Militia Act to build state armories for the unorganized militia, that the rifles now held in Korea be provided directly to those armories through the CMP, that each state establish an officer in charge of training and provisions for the unorganized militia of that state.

I strongly urge the National Rifle Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on Racial Equality, and any other organization that believes in both the rule of law and the importance of homegrown defense to take up the gauntlet and proffer a court challenge to President Obama’s executive Order barring the re-importation of CMP rifles. Winning that fight just may prevent a much worse one. Failing that, I urge all the governors to refresh the procedures for calling up the unorganized militia and start mulling what they will do to reconstitute the last lines of defense against foriegn invaders in their various states.


References:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militia_Act_of_1903 and http://lccn.loc.gov/96190993

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *