A few observations on the Militia appear to follow naturally after remarks on fire-arms. According to the most reliable information which I have been able to obtain, every able-bodied male between 18 and 40 years of age is liable to militia service. Those who do not serve are subject to a fine, varying in different States, from 3s. upwards; which sum helps to pay those who do duty. The pay of a private while on duty is about 10s. a-day, and that of officers in proportion. Formerly, they only turned out two days in the year; now I believe, they generally turn out ten, and in some of the cities twenty, days annually. The persons excused from militia service, are the clergy, medical men, fire companies, and those who have held a commission for three years. Each regiment settles its own uniform; and it is a strange sight to see companies in French, German, and Highland uniforms, all marching gaily through the streets.
The day of firing at a mark is quite a fete; they parade the town, with the target untouched, on their road to the ground: there they commence firing, at 100 yards; if the bull’s-eye be not sufficiently riddled, they get closer and closer, until, perforated and in shreds, it scarce hangs together as they return through the town bearing it aloft in triumph, and followed by all the washed, half-washed, and unwashed aspirants to military glory.
I believe the good sense of the people is endeavouring to break through the system of nationalizing the companies into French, German, Highland, &c., believing that keeping up such distinctions is more calculated to produce discord than harmony. How long it will be before they succeed in eradicating these separate nationalities, I cannot pretend to say.
With respect to their numbers, I cannot give any accurate information. The American Almanack—generally a very useful source of information—puts them down at 2,202,113; which is evidently a little bit of Buncombe, as those figures represent very nearly the whole able-bodied men in the Republic between the ages of 18 and 40. As they are liable to be called on, the Almanack puts them down as though regularly enrolled; their real numbers I leave to the fertility of the imagination. In the same authority, I find the officers calculated at 76,920, of which 765 are generals. These numbers, I imagine, must also go through a powerful process of subtraction before the exact truth would be arrived at, although I believe there are twice 765 citizens who enjoy the titular honour.
One fact, however, is beyond doubt; they have a large militia, accustomed to, and fond of, using fire-arms; and those who feel disposed to approach their shores with hostile intentions, will find the old Scotch motto applicable to them in its fullest sense,—
“Nemo me impune lacessit.”
[Footnote CI: The Marquis de Jouffroy is said to have worked a boat by steam on the Seine in 1781; but the Revolution breaking out, he appears to have been unable to complete his invention.]