The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution today recognizing Salem, Mass., as the birthplace of the National Guard.
That may seem like no big deal to you, but the designation doesn’t sit well with the congressman from Salem, Va., or his colleague from Roanoke County.
Republicans Morgan Griffith of Salem and Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke County issued a joint statement today explaining why they voted against H.R. 1339, which asserts that the nation’s first militia was formed in Salem, Mass. in 1629. Griffith and Goodlatte question that claim, citing research showing that Virginia’s General Assembly took steps to create a militia in 1624.
Only six House members voted against the resolution, but four of them represent Virginia. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Fairfax County, also opposed it. Virginia Republicans Rob Wittman of Westmoreland County and Randy Forbes of Chesapeake voted “present” and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Henrico County did not vote.
Here’s the full statement from the Griffith and Goodlatte:
WASHINGTON – Congressmen Morgan Griffith and Bob Goodlatte issued the following statement after voting against a resolution to recognize the City of Salem, Massachusetts, as the Birthplace of the National Guard of the United States (H.R. 1339):
“This resolution asserts that the first militia – thus the National Guard – was formed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1629. According to William Shea, author of The Virginia Militia in the Seventeenth Century, his research indicates a very different story.
“When the General Assembly met in 1624, during a period of warfare with the Powhatan Indians, the members decided that, although those men who had arrived before 1612 were exempt from active military service, everyone else was to be trained and ready. Shea contends that ‘it is not inaccurate to say that the Virginia militia was established in a very rudimentary form by the general assembly of 1624.’ Moreover, he notes that in 1626, the General Assembly exempted newcomers to the colony, who would be free from military service for their first year in Virginia. But, all other males from 17 (later 16) through 60 (except for the “olde planters”) were eligible for military duty and were taxed in order to support defense. Shea cites the Records of the Virginia Company of London as his primary source.
“In 1629, the colony of Virginia was divided into four military districts to provide quicker response and flexibility. Local commanders were authorized to raise troops whenever they deemed it necessary to defend their lands. This preceded the establishment of the first eight counties in 1634, at which point, the counties took over administration.
“While we fully support the National Guard, we had to oppose this resolution because of questionable historical data.”
The assistance of the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation was sincerely appreciated.