Many people say the insurance mandate in the March 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as "Obamacare," was the first federal mandate for citizens to acquire a private product.
However, others point to the Second Militia Act of 1792, signed by President George Washington on May 8, 1792, as the first such mandate since it required all men conscripted into mandatory militia service to acquire a gun, ammunition, and related military items at their own expense.
ProCon.org (online at http://www.procon.org/), a nonpartisan research organization devoted to critical thinking on controversial issues, published new research containing the full text of the Second Militia Act, pro and con arguments about its relevance to Obamacare, and amicus briefs mentioning the Act in the recent US Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the PPACA.
The Second Militia Act of 1792 required a conscripted militia member to (in part) "…provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges...”
On Mar. 27, 2012, during the second day of US Supreme Court hearings over the PPACA, two of the pro-PPACA amicus briefs referenced the Second Militia Act of 1792 – the first from Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Harry Reid (D-NV), and others, and the second from a group of 20 law professors led by Barry Friedman and Matthew Adler – as an example of how the federal government had legally required individuals to acquire a private product.
ProCon.org launched its comprehensive website on the pros and cons of the March 2010 health care reforms, http://healthcarereform.procon.org/, on Sep. 2, 2010, and it continues to serve as a nonpartisan hub of research, analysis, and perspective on the issue.
[Disclaimer on comment system: The unmoderated comment system below is powered by Facebook. ProCon.org has no control over the content of these comments, and we therefore take no responsibility for them. Comments you post here may also appear on your Facebook page. We have provided this comment system as a courtesy to our readers. We may remove it in the future. If some comments are clearly spam or otherwise abuse the comment system, please report them to Facebook.]