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A permanently established army of paid or conscripted soldiers and other military personnel

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.


The Bill of Rights: Antipathy to Militarism, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Sep 2004
After quoting the text of the Third Amendment, discusses standing armies in the historical context and in modern times
Historically, governments had misused standing armies in two ways, both of which ultimately subjected the citizenry to tyranny. One was to engage in faraway wars, which inevitably entailed enormous expenditures, enabling the government to place ever-increasing tax burdens on the people ... The second way to use a standing army to impose tyranny was the direct one—the use of troops to establish order and obedience among the citizenry. Ordinarily, if a government has no huge standing army at its disposal, many people will choose to violate immoral laws that always come with a tyrannical regime ...
A Cold Draft: Will Bush Bring Back the Draft?, by Ted Rall, 2 Dec 2003
The Court Almost Gets It Right on Guns, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Oct 2008
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court majority and dissenting opinions on the D.C. law that banned handguns in private homes
Scalia’s opinion goes to the heart of the matter. ... Using historical analysis, Scalia shows that the opening clause [of the Second Amendment], rather than limiting the stated right, merely explains why it was being codified in the Bill of Rights. He reminds us that when the Constitution was drafted, many people feared that the powerful central government would disarm the militias, which at the time comprised all able-bodied white men, in favor of a standing army, an object of great suspicion. Citing the importance of private gun ownership to a capable militia was meant to allay such fears.
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 ...; "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."
The Failed Attempt to Leash the Dogs of War, by Bart Frazier, Freedom Daily, 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. It is a good idea to have a standing army if it is thought that there is a good chance of an imminent attack or invasion, but ... it offers few benefits and yet poses dangerous risks. The Founders thought it much wiser to depend on citizen-soldiers in the militias for defense.
Henry David Thoreau and "Civil Disobedience," Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Apr 2005
Examines several of the initial themes in Thoreau's "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.
An Independent Judiciary, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Lengthy biographical essay of Edward Coke; first chapter of section 9, "Protecting Liberty"
When Parliament wouldn't give him as much [money] 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."
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.
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 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? ... Some way or other we must be a great and mighty empire; we must have an army, and a navy, and a number of things. When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different; liberty, sir, was then the primary object.
Standing Armies Stand in the Way of Freedom, by Michael Peirce, 20 Aug 2001
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 G. Hornberger, 21 Oct 2005
Examines whether foreign invasion, terrorists taking over the government and the federal government, through the President and its orders to a "loyal and obedient" standing army, are plausible threats to the freedom and well-being of Americans
Think back to 1989 ... when the Berlin Wall fell ... Why should the United States continue to have an enormous standing army and spend billions of dollars in taxpayer money to keep it in existence? ... along came the Pentagon's old ally, Saddam Hussein ... and gave America's standing army a new raison d’être ... If the American people had dismantled the nation's standing army when the Soviet empire was dismantled, the federal government would have lacked the military means to meddle and intervene in the Middle East ... many of our Founding Fathers opposed a standing, professional military force in America ...
War Is Peace and Other Things the Government Wants You to Believe [PDF], by Sheldon Richman, 8 Jun 2008
Transcript of speech given at The Future of Freedom Foundation's 2008 conference, “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties”, including audience questions
[T]he dominant sentiment in the colonies ran against British militarism ... "Colonial feelings became clear in the outcry that was raised against British notions of a standing army of 10,000 to protect the North American empire. The wisdom of keeping a standing army in North America was questioned immediately by influential colonial statesmen," [Arthur] Ekirch says. And this is reflected in state constitutions that were being adopted ... In Pennsylvania the Constitution declared a peacetime standing army was "a danger to liberty” ... "and ought not to be kept up."
We don't draft firemen, by Alan Reynolds, 29 Apr 2004
Would You "Support the Troops" in Bolivia?, by Jacob G. 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
[W]here is the morality in signing a contract that obligates a person to go kill people who haven't attacked his country? "But we signed the employment contract thinking that we were defending America," soldiers say ... 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!)
Related Topics: Bolivia, Ethics, Iraq War, 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.