Maintaining permanent armies of paid or conscripted soldiers

A standing army, unlike a reserve army, is a permanent, often professional, army. It is composed of full-time soldiers (who may be either career soldiers or conscripts) and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are enrolled for the long term, but activated only during wars or natural disasters, and temporary armies, which are raised from the civilian population only during a war or threat of war and disbanded once the war or threat is over. The term dates from approximately 1600, although the phenomenon it describes is much older.


The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 reported by James Madison : June 29
"A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people."
United States Declaration of Independence
"He [the present King of Great-Britain] has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures."


A Cold Draft: Will Bush Bring Back the Draft?, by Ted Rall, 2 Dec 2003
An Independent Judiciary: Edward Coke, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Lengthy biographical essay
"When Parliament wouldn't give him as much as he wanted, [Charles I] dissolved it and resorted to conscription. The government rounded up as many able-bodied men as they could find around the port towns. ... 'At the back of the Parliamentary movement in all its expressions lay a deep fear,' explained Winston S. Churchill. 'Everywhere in Europe they saw the monarchies becoming more autocratic. ... The rise of standing armies, composed of men drilled in firearms and supported by trains of artillery, had stripped alike the nobles and the common people of their means of independent resistance.'"
Eisenhower Was Right, by Jacob Hornberger, 16 Feb 2004
Empire or Liberty: The Antifederalists and Foreign Policy, 1787-1788 [PDF], by Jonathan Marshall, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1980
Describes the arguments regarding foreign policy made during the period of ratification of the United States Constitution by the Federalists and the counterarguments, "largely ignored" by historians, from the Antifederalists
"The most obvious and direct threat to American liberties came not from British or Spanish invaders, but from a standing army at home ... Had not the colonists' own experience ... fully borne out the warnings against standing armies that radical Whig polemicists had long been sounding? Federalists ... were quick to drop their former principles in order to assert the dignity of America through military power; 'yet,' according to Elbridge Gerry, '... Standing armies have been the nursery of vice and the bane of liberty ... from the ruin of the Cortes of Spain to the planting of the British cohorts in the capitals of America.'"
Henry David Thoreau and "Civil Disobedience," Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Apr 2005
Examines several of the initial themes in "Civil Disobedience", including government injustice, the individual as the source of power and authority, war and the military and the reasons why people obey the state
"[Thoreau] considered the [Mexican-American] war to be 'the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool.' Without cooperation from the people, 'a few individuals' would not succeed in wielding that tool. In fact, the cooperation of the tool itself — the standing army — is required. Thoreau wonders about the psychology of men who would fight a war and, perhaps, kill others out of obedience. He concludes that soldiers, by virtue of their absolute obedience to the state, become somewhat less than human."
Liberalism, Marxism, and the State [PDF], by Ralph Raico, Cato Journal, 1992
Examines the writings about the state by the French founders and contributors to the early 19th century journal Le Censeur, compares them to Karl Marx (who they influenced), as well as some 1990 comments by Václav Havel
"The Industrialist attack on militarism and standing armies was savage and relentless. In a typical passage, Dunoyer (1817, p. 120) stated that the 'production' of Europe's standing armies has consisted in 'massacres, rapes, pillagings, conflagrations, vices and crimes, the depravation, ruin and enslavement of the peoples; they have been the shame and scourge of civilization.'"
Liberty or Empire?, by Patrick Henry, 5 Jun 1788
Excerpt of speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention; criticizes several clauses of the proposed Constitution and warns about the possibility of a U.S. President becoming even worse than a king
"Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? ... A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?"
Standing Armies Stand in the Way of Freedom, by Michael Peirce, 20 Aug 2001
The Failed Attempt to Leash the Dogs of War, by Bart Frazier, Future of Freedom, Dec 2006
Discusses provisions of the Constitution that were meant to prevent the United States from having a large, permanent military and becoming involved in warfare at the will of a single person
"People today cannot even contemplate not having an enormous standing military, but in the late 18th century, Americans considered a standing army to be a primary tool of despotism. A standing army is composed of professional soldiers, that is, of men who make their living preparing for war and waging it. ... The Founders thought it much wiser to depend on citizen-soldiers in the militias for defense."
The Latest Defamation of Jefferson, by Thomas DiLorenzo, 31 Mar 2006
Criticizes a conference titled "Mr. Jefferson Goes to the Middle East" and implying that George W. Bush is somehow Jeffersonian, by contrasting Jefferson and Lincoln's (and by extension Bush's) policies and actions
"Jefferson ... was stridently opposed to the existence of a standing army in peacetime. 'There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation,' Jefferson wrote to David Humphreys in 1789, that they should not be permitted. Such an instrument is 'a standing army.' 'I do not like [in the proposed Constitution] the omission of a Bill of Rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for ... protection against standing armies,' Jefferson wrote to Madison in 1787. 'The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force,' Mr. Jefferson wrote to Chandler Price in 1807."
The Third Amendment and the Issue of the Maintenance of Standing Armies: A Legal History, by William S. Fields, David T. Hardy, American Journal of Legal History, 1991
"... the grievance against the involuntary quartering of soldiers was in essence an individual complaint, the ramifications of which affected specific citizens who were forced to suffer its onerous burdens. The question ... was one involving the civil rights of the individual citizen versus the power of the government."
The Troops Don't Defend Our Freedoms, by Jacob Hornberger, 21 Oct 2005
"... as a practical matter the troops serve ... simply as a loyal and obedient personal army of the president, ready and prepared to serve him and obey his commands. ... ready to obey the president's orders to deploy to any country in the world ... to take into custody any American whom the commander in chief deems a 'terrorist' ..."
We don't draft firemen, by Alan Reynolds, 29 Apr 2004
Would You "Support the Troops" in Bolivia?, by Jacob Hornberger, 27 Dec 2006
Discusses U.S. military contracts and the hypothetical case of a soldier objecting to being deployed for an invasion of Bolivia on orders from the President, contrasting it to the real scenario of the 2003 invasion of Iraq
"But everyone knows that presidents don't use their standing army to defend America. They use it to attack countries that haven't attacked the United States. After all, how many times has America been invaded by a foreign army in the last 50 years? (Answer: None!) What country in the world today has the military capability of invading the United States? (Answer: None!) What country in the world today has the military capability of invading the United States? (Answer: None!)"
Related Topics: Ethics, Militarism, War

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Standing army" as of 15 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.