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The militia

8 May 1945 marks VE Day—the day WWII ended in Europe as the Germans surrendered. But that wasn’t the only thing that happened of note on 8 May in our nation’s history.

On 8 May 1792, Congress passes the second portion of the Militia Act, requiring that every free able-bodied white male citizen of the several states, who is or shall be of age 18 years, and under the age of 45 years be enrolled in the militia.

The Militia Act was tested shortly thereafter, when farmers in western Pennsylvania, angered by a federal tax on whiskey, attacked the home of a tax collector and, with their ranks swollen to 6000, camped outside Pittsburgh, threatened to march on the town. President Washington assembled 15,000 men from the surrounding states and eastern Pennsylvania as a federal militia; the force was commanded by Virginia’s Henry Lee and was to march upon the Pittsburgh encampment. Upon its arrival, the federal force found none of the rebels willing to fight. The mere threat of federal force had quelled the rebellion and established the supremacy of the federal government.

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