Military Reorganization (March 1826 – May 1828)

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John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)

Military Reorganization (March 1826 – May 1828)
Questions about the organization of the United States Army and the role of the state militias in national defense had become a topic for national discussion in the aftermath of the War of 1812. Despite some reorganization of the War Department and the Army during Monroe's presidency, proponents of military reorganization in the 1820s pointed to the United States' increasing population and larger territorial size as they claimed the military needed further reorganization. Although Adams and his administration supported reorganization of the American military, they were hamstrung by proponents of states' rights.

In March 1826, Representative Samuel Allen of Massachusetts presented a resolution before the Congress calling for improved training of militia officers. Secretary of War James Barbour supported this resolution, and he convened a combined board of state militia officers and United States Army officers to review the organization of the state militia. The board found that the then-current militia system had become outdated and impractical. Although every adult white male was ostensibly a militia member, the dispersed nature of rural settlement meant that most militia members never trained and local communities lacked the funds to adequately arm the militia. Many men also were able to procure exemptions from service. The board recommended doing away with exemptions, but limiting the age of service to between 21 and 30. Soldiers would be trained regularly by militia officers. The War Department would pay militia officers, oversee their training, and a parallel organization of the militia would be required in all states.

There was little support for the proposed reforms in Congress. A Senate committee endorsed the board's report, but the proposals were never voted on by the full Senate. A House committee only complimented the suggestion of new training manuals, but in May 1828, the whole House ultimately voted against the idea of standardized training manuals. In the Senate and in the House, many saw any attempt by the federal government to reorganize the state militia as an infringement on states' rights. Additionally, the Congressmen who attacked the proposals for militia reorganization by Barbour and Adams also attacked the United States Military Academy at West Point – they saw it as a "monarchical" institution and its engineers were responsible for designing many contemporary internal improvement projects. All of these concerns were significant, as they became part of Andrew Jackson's political rhetoric when he defeated Adams in the election of 1828. Protecting the state militia – and all state institutions and rights – was an important part of the Jacksonian Democrats' appeal and thus a factor in Adams's defeat in 1828.

Mary W. M. Hargreaves, The Presidency of John Quincy Adams (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985)

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