President Thomas Jefferson
Father of the District of Columbia National Guard
"For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so,
a well-organized and armed militia is their best security." - Thomas Jefferson
Projecting the Nation’s Capital
In 1800, the President took up residence in the District of Columbia and was soon followed by members of Congress and the executive office. One of the first items to appear on Congresses’ agenda was to create a local militia exclusively under federal control to protect the Nation’s Capital.
Taking a Personal Interest
President Thomas Jefferson took a keen interest in the District of Columbia Militia from its inception. After passage of the Assumption Act, Jefferson personally hand-picked his new officers, oversaw its organization during May and June 1802, and attended the first general muster.
Brigadier General John Mason, First Commanding General
On June 28, 1802, President Jefferson appointed the first military officers, including the first commanding general of the District of Columbia Militia, Brigadier General John Mason of Georgetown, the son of George Mason, a Founding Father of the United States of America.
On October 30, 1802, the District of Columbia National Guard held its first muster
General Mason organized his men in a matter of months and held Washington’s first militia muster on Saturday, October 30, 1802. It paraded at the Washington race grounds north of the President’s House on Sixteenth Street, which is today’s Meridian Hill Park in Northwest Washington. President Jefferson, acting as reviewing officer of the District militia and in his capacity as its commander-in-chief, attended the muster, along with Secretary of War Hennery Dearborn.
The Mission Continues Today
In General Mason’s inaugural speech to troops, delivered before President Jefferson and other dignitaries, the General acknowledged the militia’s role in the Nation’s Capital, “ to repeal any outrage which may be possibly attempted [on the government’s] records, their property, or their persons.” This mission continues today, carried forth by the District of Columbia Capital Guardians.