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Buckshot War

. Governor Ritner of Pennsylvania asked President Van Buren for Federal troops to put down violence resulting from contested elections to the Pennsylvania legislature. The President replied that the intervention of Federal troops was justified only where "domestic violence . . . is of such a character that the State authorities, civil and military, after having been called upon, have proved inadequate to suppress it." The disorder was settled locally without the aid of Federal troops.



Dorr Rebellion

. Governor King of Rhode Island appealed to President Tyler for assistance in stopping the attempt of Thomas Dorr and his followers to take over the government of that State. President Tyler replied that the time for Federal interference had not arrived since no actual insurrection was in progress when the request was made. Thereafter, with Governor King’s approval, the Rhode Island legislature passed a resolution declaring the existence of an insurrection and calling for the interposition of Federal -authority to suppress it. President Tyler sent no troops, although he assured the Governor that Federal aid would be forthcoming when


*Most of the incidents listed in the Appendix are discussed in B. M. Rich, The Presidents and Civil Disorder (The Brookings Institution, 1941). Others are described in S. Doc. No. 263, 67th Cong., 2d Sess. (1922).




the civil authorities had proved unable to put down the insurrection. Thereafter, the President continued to maintain the position that he would not intervene unless it became absolutely necessary to do so. Dorr’s rebellion ended bloodlessly. No Federal troops were used.



San Francisco Vigilance Committee

. Governor Johnson of California requested President Pierce for aid in stopping the Committee from usurping the powers of the State. Attorney General Cushing advised the President that the circumstances did not afford sufficient legal justification for Federal assistance, since there had been no "actual shock of arms" between the insurgents and the State, and since the State had not exhausted its powers to deal with the situation. (8 Op. A.G. 8, 14-15). The President did not send in troops. The Vigilance Committee soon thereafter ceased to function.



New Orleans Unrest

. Racial problems of the Reconstruction period and political uncertainties as to proper occupants of political office resulted in violence throughout the State of Louisiana. Unable to suppress the increasing disorders, Governor Kellogg appealed to President Grant for aid. The President issued a proclamation on May 22 ordering the insurgents to disperse. Failure to heed the proclamation and increased disturbance resulted in a further proclamation on September 15, followed by the dispatch of Federal troops.



Political disturbances in Arkansas

. Both Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter claimed to have been validly elected Governor of Arkansas. Each of them gathered armed followers, contested possession of the State Capitol and petitioned the President to send in Federal troops. President Grant was loathe to intervene and


wanted to leave the question to the State courts to decide. He did, however, interpose a small force of regular troops between the opposing camps, thereby averting a major riot. The troops never played more than a passive role in this affair.



South Carolina riots

. An altercation between the Ku Klux Klan and Negro State militia was followed by bloodshed, rioting and pillaging. Governor Chamberlain applied to President Grant for assistance. In his proclamation of October 17, 1876, preceding the dispatch of Federal troops to suppress the disorders, President Grant noted that the so-called "rifle clubs" of the Klan, "though forbidden by the laws of the State, can not be controlled or suppressed by the ordinary course of justice."



Railroad strike riots

. Industrial strikes to protest wage reductions led to eruptions of labor violence in nine States. President Hayes responded cautiously to numerous requests for Federal aid, and repeatedly insisted that Federal troops would not be used to protect States against domestic violence unless the violence was beyond the capacity of State authorities to control.


The President demanded and received from Governor Matthews of West Virginia a complete statement of facts as to the strength of the insurgents and the reasons for that State’s inability to cope with the disorder. The President ordered troops into West Virginia in response to the Governor’s request, but they did not clash with the insurgents and most of the troops were quickly removed. The President also sent troops into Maryland and Pennsylvania at the


request of Governors Carroll and Hartranft, after bloody clashes had occurred and it became clear that the militia of those States could not bring the situation under control.


A request from Governor Williams of Indiana was turned down on the ground that it was incorrectly made. The Governor was informed that, in the absence of a valid request, Federal troops could be used only to protect Federal property and to enforce Federal court orders. The President also turned down a request from the Governor of Michigan. Although he granted a request from Governor Cullom of Illinois, the President restricted the use of troops in that State, as in Indiana, to protection of Federal property and enforcement of Federal law.



Idaho's Coeur D'Alene

. During a seven year period, repeated incidents of violence on the part of mine workers over problems of wages and unionization kept the State in turmoil. Presidents Harrison, Cleveland and McKinley furnished Federal troops to quell the disorders at the request of Governors Willey, McConnell and Steunenberg.



Coxey's March on Washington

. On its way to Washington to dramatize the plight of those suffering from the depression, Coxey's "army of the unemployed" seized Federal railroad properties, disregarded Federal court injunctions, and engaged in acts of violence. Governor Rickarts of Montana informed President Cleveland that the militia of his State could not keep Coxey's army under control, and requested Federal troops. The President instructed the Army to intervene.



The Strike at Telluride, Colorado

. Governor Peabody twice requested President Roosevelt to "furnish me such aid as I may call for" to put down anticipated outbreaks of labor violence. The President refused twice to take action, explaining that a disturbance must amount to an insurrection against the government of a State and that the State's inability to maintain order must be demonstrated before he could comply with such a request. Instead, the President called for an inquiry into the extent of the disturbance. The Government’s position, as stated in the instructions to the chief investigator, Major General Bates, was that "compliance with such a call as is here made is, under well established precedents, not to be ordered as a matter of convenience and for the suppression of a mere disturbance, but must in every instance be based upon urgent necessity proceeding from open, organized, and armed opposition to the execution of the laws of the State which the State authorities, civil and military, are clearly unable to overcome." The President never did send in Federal troops, and the labor unrest in Colorado continued as a local issue.



Labor Troubles at Goldfield, Nevada

. After receiving two requests from Governor Sparks alleging the existence of labor disturbances beyond the power of the State to control and noting the lack of an organized militia in that State, President Roosevelt dispatched Federal troops. However, the troops took no affirmative action after they arrived, since it appeared that their presence was not actually necessary to restore order. Later, a Presidential investigating committee found
there was no warrant for the assertion that civil


authority had collapsed in Nevada. The President thereupon informed the Governor that the troops would shortly be withdrawn. Their withdrawal was delayed only until the State adopted measures for its own protection against domestic violence.



Colorado coal strike

. When warfare broke out between operators and coal miners, Governor Ammons wired President Wilson requesting United States troops. There were no funds at that time to pay for the Colorado militia. The President’s response was to pay for the Colorado militia. The Governor made a second request, to which the President replied that he doubted his power to send troops under the circumstances, and that troops would not be sent until every avenue to peaceful settlement had been closed. Troops were finally sent, although not in the number Governor Ammons thought necessary. The President thereafter explained to Governor Ammons that "the Federal forces are there only until the State of Colorado has time and opportunity to resume complete sovereignty and control in the matter."



Race riots in Washington, D.C. and Omaha, Nebraska; steel strike at Gary, Indiana

. The drafting of the National Guard into Federal service to fight in World War I had left the States without adequate protection against internal disorders. Since the draft law made no provision for the Guard's return to its former status after the war, the Army responded quickly to requests for aid in suppressing domestic disturbances in the Summer of 1919.



Warfare in the coal fields of West Virginia

. Problems of unionization and alleged maltreatment of miners led to a shooting war between operators and miners along the boundary line between West Virginia and Kentucky. Since West Virginia had never organized


its National Guard after World War I and therefore had no organized force adequate to deal with an emergency, Governor Morgan requested President Harding to send in Federal troops. Governor Morrow of Kentucky joined in the request, noting that the situation was beyond the control of State forces at his command. President Harding, however, did not dispatch troops, but ordered an investigation of the need for Federal forces. The investigation revealed that there was no necessity for troops. Thereafter the President informed Governor Morgan that he would not be justified in sending Federal troops until he was "well assured that the State has exhausted all its resources in the performance of its functions."


When Governor Morgan appealed a second time for Federal troops, a second investigation was undertaken, culminating in another decision by the President that troops were not needed. Only when conditions suddenly worsened and Governor Morgan appealed a third time for help did the President finally agree to send in troops. However, the troops took no military action against the miners. Their mere presence was enough to halt the fighting.



The Bonus Army

. Needy veterans marched on the Nation’s capital determined to force the immediate payment of soldiers' bonuses. After refusing to vacate Government property, they rioted and clashed bloodily with the police. Shortly alter the riot, the District Commissioners telephoned the White House asking that troops be dispatched to the scene, President Hoover asked that the Commissioners put their request in writing, and when they had done so, he instructed the Secretary of War to call out the troops.



Detroit race riots

. Serious tension between the races erupted in rioting, which soon spread to downtown Detroit, where it was estimated that about 100,000 people were involved. Many of the rioters were armed. All available police and police reserves were sent into action, and the Michigan State Troops were mobilized by order of Governor Kelly. The State National Guard was not available since it was then in Federal service. The Governor requested Federal troops and President Roosevelt complied with the request. As noted in a proclamation issued by the President, Governor Kelly had represented that "domestic violence exists in said State which the authorities of said State are unable to suppress . . ."



Detroit riots

. Following a police raid on an illegal drinking place, rioting, looting, arson and sniping broke out on a large scale in the city. When State and local police, reinforced by units of the Michigan National Guard, proved unable to restore order, President Johnson directed the use of Federal troops at the request of Governor Romney. In an accompanying proclamation, the President recited information received from the Governor to the effect that "conditions of domestic violence and disorder exist in the City of Detroit . . . and . . . the law enforcement resources available to the City and State, including the National Guard, have been unable to suppress such acts of violence and to restore law and order."

Last Updated October 1, 2008