New Hampshire Governors fail in the Oath of Office

Note: we welcome Dan Itse to our ranks as a Grokster! A long time member of the NH House of Representatives, he was acknowledged to be one of the foremost experts on both the US and NH Constitutions here in the State of NH and with his first post, he does not disappoint by bringing to light some responsibilities that many of us didn’t know we had – including our elected officials!

Welcome, Dan!

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New Hampshire Governors, like every elected officer of the State and many appointed officers take an oath to uphold The Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, and the Constitution for the United States of America. However, I would wager most do not know these documents to well enough to know the full scope of or limitations upon the office they hold. Part 1, Article 24 of the Constitution of the State of New Hampshire proclaims:

“A well regulated militia is the proper, natural, and sure defense, of a State.”

This sentiment is echoed in the Second Amendment to the Constitution for the United States:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The laws enacted by the people who wrote these words created forces comprised of every male over the age of 16 in the State, except conscientious objectors. Every adult male was in the Training Band, unless they were over 60, in an exempt profession or disables; in which case they were in the Alarm List. In all cases each and everyone was required to own a musket with a bayonet (a military grade weapon), and to keep a specified number of cartouches (the formal name for a shot gun shell) as well as additional shot and powder, as well as the accouterments of a soldier. In 1784, the law was amended changed dropping the age to 40, changing musket to rifle, (the current military technology) and increasing the number of cartouches. In short every member of the community was required by law to own military grade weapons and kit. This was the militia. Families were required to equip their sons. Tradesmen were required to equip their apprentices. Widows head of household were require to equip their hired hands. If any man was unable to equip himself, the town was required to do so, to be paid back over time and any man who destroyed his equipment was liable to flogging.

In 1776 the Officers Commissions, were given by the Legislature, and the militia was under the command of the Legislature, specifically the Committee of Safety, which was the executive committee of the Legislature headed by the President of the Executive Council, the upper body of the Legislature. In 1784, the commissioning of the Officers was given to the President (now Governor) and Executive Council, and the command was given to the President. In no case did the militia exist outside of the control of the elected civil government.

Today the role of the militia is by federal statute rests in State Defense Forces, and they are often coined State Guards. A total of about 24 States maintain active State Guards including Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. Current New Hampshire Statutes (RSA 111) defines the State Guard. The Governor has the power at all times to Constitute a Cadre of Officers (the core command structure). The Governor also has the power constitute the State Guard when any element of the National Guard is out of the State.

Despite these clear duties, instructions and power, no Governor since Lane Dwinell has commanded a State Defense Force, a constitutional militia. That would be since the mid-1950s. No Legislature has ordered its creation, No Governor has instituted a Cadre. No Adjutant General has advocated for the militia.

In light of all these facts, I ask the following question:

What does it mean that that Article 24, “A well regulated militia is the proper, natural, and sure defense, of a State.” is in the Bill of Rights, the rights of the people relative to the government.

That pursuant to this Article, the Legislature wrote laws requiring every adult male of the State to be a member of the militia, to be equipped the in the same manner and degree as member of the regular army, and to train together on a quarterly basis.

I submit to you, that there is a constitutional obligation of the government, the Legislature and the Governor, to organize the people into an armed force, personally equipped as well as the regular army with their own weapons and accouterments, for their common protection and defense from dangers natural and man-made. What say you?