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Old November 12, 2021, 11:14 PM   #1
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Join Date: July 16, 2002
Location: AZ
Posts: 574
on Veterans Day weekend - some thoughts on the citizen army and the 'three percenters'

So I was just kind of thinking about citizen participation in the military the other day, and reflected on my family. We have been in every war since the Revolution, right up through Afghanistan. A lot of families I know are the same. They normally don't buy drinks when I am around.

Having seen the 3 Percenter bumper stickers a few times, that got me thinking. I wondered where they got that number. I mean, the number 3 has some significant historical appearances, so could it be an actual coincidence that only three percent of eligible males fought in the revolution? And does that make American society at large a bunch of parasites riding on the backs of a few true heroes?

Anyway, the numbers are actually available, so I did the math. Raw populations numbers are based on the 1790 census (the first ever taken), but the percentages are from 1800, so it may be fractionally off.

The US population, including slaves, was 3.9 million (to the nearest 100,000) in 1790. Of that population, ~18% was enslaved and ~82% free. Males composed about 49% of the population and about 30% were in the 16-45 age bracket (life expectancy was under 40 at that time). That gives us an eligible population of about 430,000. Now, we do have records on the size of the Continental Army. Over the length of the war, about 230,000 US men served, although the size of the army fluctuated, and the largest size at any given moment was 80,000.

The math is relatively simple on this. Since 230,000 men served, that number represented about 53% of the population. Now, I may be overestimating the size of the US population, because it was growing rapidly during this time. If I take a non-census population estimate of 1780 at 2.7 million, then 69% of eligible men fought. Even if we take the 80,000 number (which is just a single-moment figure), we get 24% of military-age men at that moment were in the Continental Army, using 1780 numbers.

So, I don't know a whole lot about the guy who started the 3 Percenters. But, as we say in science, he didn't 'show the math' anywhere I could see. So, if you see that sticker on the back of a pickup somewhere, keep in mind that the group is founded on a false premise. Most of America did fight for freedom (my ancestors did, and in every war since) and liberty is not the result of the sacrifices of a privileged few who follow the pure faith.

So, so the many citizen-soldiers throughout US history, here is a tip of my hat to you!

Last edited by roscoe; November 12, 2021 at 11:20 PM.
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