In 1877, the Minnesota Legislature amended the state Militia Act to exempt certain conscientious objectors. The law, effective February 20, 1877, provided:
"All able-bodied male persons residing in the State of Minnesota, between the ages of eighteen (18) and forty-five (45) years, shall constitute the militia of this State, and be liable to perform military-duty in case of war, invasion, rebellion, or to maintain the public peace and enforce the laws, excepting:
"First. -- All persons who shall make and file with the clerk of the district court of their respective counties an affidavit that they are members of any religious society or organization by whose creed or discipline the bearing of arms is forbidden, and which affidavits shall be renewed every five (5) years.
"Second. -- Indians not taxed, idiots, lunatics, and persons who have been convicted of infamous crimes."
This article explores two questions: (1) why did the legislature pass this law? and (2) did it work? -- that is, did it accomplish what the legislature intended?