EAGLE AND SWORD: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America, 1783-1802 by Richard H. Kohn

EAGLE AND SWORD: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America, 1783-1802

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The result of a decade's scholarship, this study of the development of a national army in the first 20 years of the United States' existence offers a valuable handle on the period as a whole. Kohn, writing from an anti-militarist point of view, argues that the Federalists conspired to create a ""standing army"" on the European model; even when the nation was at peace and the Continental Army officially disbanded, the military remained the largest single cost of the new government, and in 1794 the 15,000-man mobilization to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion required enormous financial and logistical burdens. Kohn identifies a group of Continental Army officers as the active sponsors of a standing army; they included the financier Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was the leading figure, a fact less explicable by an arcane ""conspiracy"" than by his desire to maintain domestic order, preserve his national economic networks, and inhibit other powers' border incursions. Indeed, it is Kohn's descriptions of the Indian wars, recurrent border clashes with the British, fears of French invasion during the Haitian revolution, and assorted domestic plots and rebellions that make the book so worthwhile and justify to some degree the national army proponents. Kohn acknowledges, for example, that Shay's Rebellion in 1786 could not be handled by local militia, who in fact, were among its leaders, while Jefferson, arch-opponent of Federalism and militarism, inaugurated the first military academy and developed the Army Corps of Engineers. Kohn's thesis will provoke polemics; the material will command attention; a sturdy accomplishment on both counts.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan