American discomfort with the idea of a European-style standing army did not abate with the successful conclusion of the War of Independence. Concerns about the expense of maintaining an army in peacetime, and about the way in which a professional soldier class might erode the very values for which they fought the Revolution, led the founding generation to dismantle the Continental Army very quickly after the end of the war.

By January 1784, the army had shrunk to fewer than 1,000 men; all the other veterans returned to civilian life. The dramatic and speedy demobilization after the War of Independence set a potent precedent for nearly 170 years. Profoundly anxious about maintaining a large, professional army in peacetime, the United States continued to depend on a very small professional force that could be rapidly expanded (through volunteers or conscripts) in times of emergency.


“Military Discharge,” 1783, The American Revolution Center (accessed September 6, 2012).


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