What Is Martial Law, and Could It Happen In The US?

martial law

Martial Law is always a real possibility.

These days, with the talk of possible economic collapse, terrorist attacks, and civil unrest, I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “Martial Law” (sometimes incorrectly referred to as “Marshall Law”).  In this article, our goal is to get you up to speed on what it is, and the chances of it ever being implemented in the United States.

What is Martial Law?

The simple definition of Martial Law as it applies to the United States, is, the suspension of the Constitution, and your rights, in order to restore order in a chaotic civil situation.  This would involve forced curfews, being detained without any reason, and the confiscation of weapons. ammunition, money, food, or any another supplies.  Also, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom of movement, and freedom of association can be limited.  The suspension of habeas corpus is common as well.  Sounds kinda scary, doesn’t it?

Under martial law, usually the military is called in to enforce laws and rules.  In some cases, for example, coup d’etats, government overthrows, or corrupted governments, the military themselves, acting as the governing body could declare martial law.

Who Can Declare It In The U.S.?

In the U.S., according to The Constitution, only The President, and Congress can declare martial law on a national level.  Individual state Governors can declare for their own states only.  Although The Constitution doesn’t specifically reference martial law, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 states that Congress has the authority “to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.”.


Has It Been Declared In the Past?

civil unrest

Martial Law was imposed in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Yes, martial law has been declared in the United States numerous times in the past.

The only time it was declared on a national level was by Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, in 1861.  This allowed the Union soldiers to detain and question Confederate soldiers and sympathizers.

Other times it’s been declared on a state or regional level:

  • US General Andrew Jackson declared martial law in New Orleans and the surrounding 4 mile area during the fight against the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1812.
  • After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Governor of Hawaii declared martial law on the islands of Hawaii.
  • Following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the mayor of Chicago declared martial law and appointed a military General to be in charge of the city.
  • In 1906, after the San Francisco Earthquake, troops were spread around the city, and dynamite was confiscated to be used to keep the fire from spreading further.
  • More recently, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the mayor of New Orleans assigned 1500 police officers to stop looters in the aftermath of the storm.

Could It Happen Again?

Of course it could.  Maybe not on a national scale, but don’t rule that out either.  An economic collapse in our country could cause mass panic, rioting, looting and general civil unrest. The same can be said for a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or even a civil war.  As we all know, situations sometimes escalate rapidly, especially when people are panicked and concerned for their and their family’s survival.  People become desperate and irrational.  Although, don’t assume that the situation would have to be apocalyptic in order for it to happen.  Don’t assume that there will be checkpoints, army tanks on your street, soldiers forcing people out of their homes, or snipers on the rooftop.  Movies and TV often condition us on what we should expect to see in situations we’ve never been in before.  It’s important that you keep a clear head no matter what the situation ends up being like.  Being level-headed and rational in the chaos of an emergency is always the key to survival.  That is what gives you a major advantage over the unprepared.

Of course, as with any other emergency situations, make sure you’re prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

“There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.”
― Stephen King, Different Seasons


Should We Resist If Martial Law is Declared?

Here at Bugoutbasics.com, our goal is to help keep you and your family safe.  We try to avoid political and philosophical agendas and focus more on the techniques and skills of survival, no matter what the emergency or cause of the emergency is.  There are many survival sites on the web, and some of them may have somewhat of a “rebellious”, or a “suspicious-of-the-government” stance. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that.  We just don’t choose to foster that mentality with our readers.  We don’t want to sway you to think a certain way.  That’s not the point of this site.  With a topic like “Martial Law”, it gets touchy, since people (understandably) start thinking about agendas, and contemplating if the government would abuse such a power for nefarious purposes.  And once again, there’s nothing wrong with that either.  It’s healthy to do that.  It’s good that people have a level of suspicion.

The point is, especially with the subject of martial law, some would tell others to resist, and not follow orders.  Not us.  The point of this site is to teach survival, not encourage a revolution, or tell you to fight the “powers that be”.  From conspiracy theories of detainment camps to fears of a global economic collapse, there’s plenty material about that on the web elsewhere.  We just want you and yours to be safe, and suggesting that anyone “rocks the boat” would go against our intentions here.  Of course, you have the freedom to make your own decisions and decide what actions you should take to protect yourself and your family.  That would be your decision, and one that should be made without our input.

Do you have any comments or anything else to add?  Feel free to share in the comments area below.



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