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Conscription

Conscription. Compulsory military service has played a periodic and often controversial role in raising America's wartime forces. It has only rarely been used in peacetime in America.

English colonists revitalized the county militia system of compulsory, short‐term training and service for local defense. However, in the eighteenth century for longer‐term forces most colonies turned to ad hoc units composed primarily of volunteers with occasional draftees and legally hired substitutes.

During the Revolutionary War, state governments assumed the colonies' authority to raise their short‐term militias through drafts if necessary. They sometimes extended this to state units in the Continental Army, but they denied Gen. George Washington's request that the central government be empowered to conscript. As the initial volunteering slackened, states boosted enlistment bounties and held occasional drafts, producing more hired substitutes than actual draftees.

The Constitution neither mentioned nor prohibited national conscription, simply providing Congress with the power “to raise and support armies.” Most of the framers apparently believed that the United States, like England, would enlist rather than conscript its soldiers, paying for them through federal taxes.

For much of the nineteenth century, the United States relied upon a small, all‐volunteer regular army, augmented in wartime by the militia (renamed the National Guard) and by large numbers of temporary, locally organized, federally funded units—the U.S. Volunteers. During the War of 1812, however, the Madison administration tried unsuccessfully to adopt a national draft (which Daniel Webster, a New England Federalist, denounced as “Napoleonic despotism”).

National conscription came to America in the Civil War. With fewer people, the South adopted conscription in 1862, eventually applying it to white males seventeen to fifty years of age. Conscription raised 21 percent of the 1 million Confederate soldiers. But because it violated individual liberty and states' rights and included unpopular class‐based occupational exemptions, such as for overseers on large plantations, it eroded some popular support for the Confederacy.

The North adopted the draft in 1863, making it applicable to males twenty to forty‐five. Avoiding unpopular occupational exemptions, Congress permitted draftees to hire a substitute or pay a commutation fee of $300, then comparable to a worker's annual wages. Peace Democrats denounced it as a “rich man's war but a poor man's fight,” and thousands evaded or resisted when military provost marshals began conscripting. Bloody draft riots erupted New York and other cities.

Four federal drafts produced only 46,000 conscripts and 118,000 substitutes (2 and 6%, respectively, of the 2.1 million Union troops). Most soldiers were U.S. Volunteers. However, the draft was credited, along with $600 million in enlistment bounties, with prodding volunteers, encouraging reenlistments, and demonstrating political will.

Not until World War I did the United States rely primarily upon conscription. A civilian‐led “Preparedness” movement helped persuade many Americans that national compulsion was more equitable and efficient than local voluntarism for an industrial society to raise a mass army. President Woodrow Wilson overcame considerable opposition—particularly from agrarian isolationists and ethnic and ideological opponents of U.S. involvement—to obtain a temporary wartime, national, selective draft.

The Selective Service Act of 1917 prohibited enlistment bounties and hiring substitutes but authorized deferments on the grounds of dependency or essential work in industry or agriculture. The draft was implemented by a Selective Service System composed of a national headquarters commanded by Gen. Enoch Crowder and some 4,000 local draft boards staffed by civilian volunteers. The boards decided, within overall national guidelines, on the induction or deferment of particular individuals.

In 1917–18, Selective Service registered and classified 23.9 million men, eighteen to forty‐five, and drafted 2.8 million of them. In all, 72 percent of the 3.5 million‐man wartime army were draftees. Despite the initial divisions over the war, there were no draft riots. Authorities arrested those who counseled draft resistance, including the anarchist Emma Goldman and Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs. Except for a few rural incidents, opposition took the form of draft evasion or registration as conscientious objectors (COs). Apparently between 2 and 3 million men never registered, and 338,000 (12% of those drafted) failed to report when called or deserted after arrival at training camp. In addition, 64,700 registrants sought CO status. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the draft law in 1918.

In World War II, following the German defeat of France, Congress in 1940 adopted the nation's first prewar conscription act, the result of a campaign headed by old “Preparedness” leaders. The draft system was set to operate through 1945, but because of intense opposition from isolationists, Congress obligated the 1940 draftees to serve only one year, for training purposes. A year later, the lawmakers voted (203–202 in the House) to retain the 600,000 draftees. After Pearl Harbor, the Congress extended the draft to men aged eighteen to thirty‐eight (and briefly to forty‐five), and prolonged military duty for the duration.

Headed by Gen. Lewis Hershey, Selective Service drafted a total of 10.1 million men in World War II, the majority for the army. Nearly 6 million other men and women joined voluntarily, primarily in the Army Air Corps, the navy, and the Marines. Deferments were limited primarily to war industries, hardship cases, and agriculture.

Still there was dissent, reflected in the 72,000 registrants who applied for CO status and in antidraft incidents in Chicago and other cities. The latter included protests by African Americans against discrimination and segregation in the armed forces. In addition, the Justice Department investigated 373,000 cases of draft evasion; 16,000 evaders were convicted.

After the war, until Congress let the induction authority expire in 1947, conscription was extended to help maintain the much‐reduced military. Escalation of Cold War tensions led Congress to adopt a new draft law in 1948. It required twenty‐one months of military training and service by individuals selected by their local draft boards. The Cold War military was composed of volunteers, draftees, and draft‐induced volunteers.

During the Korean War, 1.5 million men, eighteen to twenty‐five, were drafted; another 1.3 volunteered, primarily for the navy and air force. Discontent led to an increase in the number of COs, and there were 80,000 reported cases of draft evasion.

Cold War conscription became a casualty of the Vietnam War. The draft enabled President Lyndon B. Johnson to build up U.S. forces in Vietnam between 1964 and 1968 from 23,000 military advisers to 543,000 troops. In 1964–66, annual draft calls soared from 100,000 to 400,000.

Although draftees were a small minority (16%) in the U.S. armed forces, they comprised the bulk of infantry riflemen in Vietnam (88% in 1969). They accounted for more than half the army's battle deaths. Because of stu‐dent and other deferments, the draft and the casualties fell disproportionately upon working‐class youths, black and white.

Dissent increased, along with soaring draft calls and casualty rates. Supported by an antiwar coalition of students, pacifists, and clergy, and many liberal and radical groups, draft evasion and resistance increased dramatically. There were antidraft demonstrations, draft card burnings, sit‐ins at induction centers, break‐ins and destruction of records at a dozen local draft boards.

In 1965–75, confronted with well over 100,000 instances of draft evasion or resistance, the federal government indicted 22,500 persons. Some 8,800 were convicted and 4,000 imprisoned. As the Supreme Court expanded the criteria for conscientious objection, CO exemptions rose to more than 170,000 between 1965 and 1970.

An estimated 571,000 young men illegally evaded the draft. Of these, 360,000 were never caught, and another 198,000 had their cases dismissed, but some 9,000 were convicted and 4,000 sent to prison. Between 30,000 and 50,000 others fled into exile, mainly to Canada, Britain, and Sweden.

Congress came under pressure to reform or eliminate the draft. With conservative support, however, General Hershey, Selective Service director since 1941, blocked any significant changes, including recommendations for national uniformity by a 1967 presidential commis‐sion headed by former Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall.

Having criticized the draft in his 1968 campaign, President Richard M. Nixon removed Hershey, ended new occupational and dependency deferments, and initiated an annual draft lottery in 1969 among eighteen‐year‐olds (to reduce prolonged uncertainty). He also appointed a commission, headed by former Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates, which in 1970 recommended an All‐Volunteer Force (AVF), with a standby draft for emergency use.

President Nixon reduced draft calls while gradually withdrawing troops from Vietnam. However, his dispatch of American units into Cambodia in 1970 triggered massive new public protests. Only reluctantly did Congress in 1971 extend the draft for two more years. The lawmakers also eliminated student deferments, deemed a class‐based privilege, and voted a major pay increase ($2.4 million) for the lower ranks of the military to achieve an AVF by mid‐1973. During the 1972 election campaign, Nixon cut draft calls to 50,000 and stopped requiring draftees to go to Vietnam. On 27 January 1973, the day a cease‐fire was announced, the administration stopped drafting, six months before induction authority expired on 1 July 1973.

Even without induction, Selective Service maintained compulsory draft registration until 1975, when President Ford suspended the process. President Jimmy Carter resumed it in 1980 in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. With local draft boards dismantled, Selective Service headquarters directed the program. In response to a suit that women, as equal citizens, should also have to register, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of male‐only draft registration. In 1980–84, half a million young men did not register, and under President Ronald Reagan the Justice Department prosecuted a few of those who publicly refused to register.

In the post‐Vietnam era, the military relied entirely on volunteers. However, in the 1990 buildup for the Persian Gulf War, Selective Service headquarters prepared contingency plans to call up 100,000 men in 30 days if reactivation of the draft was required to obtain replacements if there were massive American casualties. In November 1990, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney issued orders preventing any military personnel from leaving even if their enlistment contracts had expired, in effect, making the AVF temporarily less voluntary. The quick victory against Iraq in 1991 did not produce massive American casualties; the draft was not reactivated; and after the war, military personnel were allowed to leave the service.

By 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, debate resumed over whether to maintain even a semblance of Selective Service. The House of Representatives voted in 1993 to eliminate Selective Service headquarters and end compulsory draft registration, but the Defense Department successfully argued the need to retain Selective Service and draft registra‐tion, and the measure to end them died in the Senate. Appropriations were reduced in the 1990s and evaders were not prosecuted.
[See also Conscientious Objection; Draft Resistance and Evasion; New York City Draft Riots; Peace and Antiwar Movements; Selective Draft Cases; Volunteers, U.S.]

Bibliography

Albert B. Moore , Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy, 1924.
Eugene C. Murdock , Patriotism Limited, 1862–1865: The Civil War Draft and the Bounty System, 1967.
Eugene C. Murdock , One Million Men: The Civil War Draft in the North, 1971.
John Whiteclay Chambers II, ed., Draftees or Volunteers: A Documentary History of the Debate Over Military Conscription in the United States, 1787–1973, 1975.
Lawrence M. Baskir and and William A. Strauss , Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War and the Vietnam Generation, 1978.
John O'sullivan , From Voluntarism to Conscription: Congress and Selective Service, 1940–1945, 1982.
Eliot A. Cohen , Citizens and Soldiers: The Dilemmas of Military Service, 1985.
George Q. Flynn , Mr. Selective Service: Lewis B. Hershey, 1985.
John Garry Clifford and and Samuel R. Spencer, Jr. , The First Peacetime Draft, 1986.
John Whiteclay Chambers II , To Raise an Army: The Draft Comes to Modern America, 1987.
James W. Geary , We Need Men: The Union Draft in the Civil War, 1991.
George Q. Flynn , America and the Draft, 1940–1973, 1993.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

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"Conscription." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Conscription

CONSCRIPTION

Compulsory enrollment and induction into the military service.

Conscription is commonly known as the draft, but the concepts are not exactly the same. Conscription is the compulsory induction of individuals into the armed services, whereas the draft is the procedure by which individuals are chosen for conscription. Men within a certain age group must register with the Selective Service for possible conscription, but conscription itself was suspended in 1973.

Conscription first came into use as a legal term in France in 1798. It derives from the Latin conscriptionem, which refers to the gathering of troops by written orders, and conscribere, which means "to put a name on a list or roll, especially a list of soldiers." A person who becomes a member of the armed forces through the process of conscription is called a conscript.

Conscription typically involves individuals who are deemed fit for military service. At times, however, governments have instituted universal military service, in which all men or all people of a certain age are conscripted.

Most governments use conscription at some time, usually when the voluntary enlistment of soldiers fails to meet military needs. Conscription by national governments became widespread in Europe during the nineteenth century.

Some of the American colonies employed conscription. During the Revolutionary War, the American government used selective, temporary conscription to fill the ranks of its military.

The United States used conscription again briefly during the Civil War. The Union Enrollment Act of 1863 drafted all able-bodied men between twenty and forty-five years of age. The act provoked a hostile public response because it excused from military service those who were able to pay a fee of three hundred dollars. The law incited violent public disturbances, called the Draft Riots, in New York City between July 13 and 16, 1863. One thousand people were injured in the riots.

In 1917, one month after the entry of the United States into world war i, Congress passed the Selective Draft Act (40 Stat. 76). The act created a government office to oversee conscription. It also authorized local draft boards to select eligible individuals for conscription. The following year, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of conscription, noting that Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to "raise and support Armies" (SelectiveDraft cases, 245 U.S. 366, 38 S. Ct. 159, 62 L. Ed. 349 [1918]).

Congress instituted the first peacetime use of conscription in 1940 when it passed the Selective Training and Service Act (54 Stat. 885). This act, which expired in 1947, enrolled those who served in U.S. armed forces during world war ii. In 1948, Congress passed the Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C.A. app. § 451 et seq.), which was used to induct individuals for service in the korean war (1950–53) and the vietnam war (1954–75). Presidential authority to conscript individuals into the U.S. armed forces ended in 1973. No individual has been conscripted into the military since then.

In 1976, the selective service system was placed on a standby status, and local offices of the agency were closed. President jimmy carter issued a proclamation in 1980 requiring all males who were born after January 1, 1960, and who had attained age eighteen to register with the Selective Service at their local post office or at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States (Presidential Proclamation No. 4771, 3 C.F.R. 82 [1981]). Those who fail to register are subject to prosecution by the federal government.

In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of requiring only men, and not women, to register with the Selective Service (rostker v. goldberg, 453 U.S. 57, 101 S. Ct. 2646, 69 L. Ed. 2d 478). The United States has never conscripted women into military service, nor has it ever instituted universal military service. It has conscripted only individuals meeting certain age, mental, and physical standards. Congress has allowed the deferral of conscription for certain individuals, including those who need to support dependents or are pursuing an education. Among those who have been declared exempt from service are sole surviving sons, conscientious objectors to war, and ministers of religion.

The U.S. government also has the power to conscript property in times of emergency.

further readings

Brophy, Alfred L. 2000. "'Necessity Knows No Law': Vested Rights and the Styles of Reasoning in the Confederate Conscription Cases." Mississippi Law Journal 69 (spring): 1123–80.

cross-references

Involuntary Servitude; Solomon Amendment; Thirteenth Amendment.

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conscription

conscription, compulsory enrollment of personnel for service in the armed forces. Obligatory service in the armed forces has existed since ancient times in many cultures, including the samurai in Japan, warriors in the Aztec Empire, citizen militiamen in ancient Greece and Rome, and aristocrats and their peasants or yeomen during the Middle Ages in Europe. In England, compulsory military service was employed on the local level in the Anglo-Saxon fyrd as early as the 9th cent. In the 16th cent. Machiavelli argued that every able-bodied man in a nation was a potential soldier and could by means of conscription be required to serve in the armed forces. Conscription in the modern sense of the term dates from 1793, when the Convention of the French Republic raised an army of 300,000 men from the provinces. A few years later, conscription enabled Napoleon I to build his tremendous fighting forces. Following Napoleon's example, Muhammad Ali of Egypt raised a powerful army in the 1830s. Compulsory peacetime recruitment was introduced (1811–12) by Prussia. Mass armies, raised at little cost by conscription, completely changed the scale of battle by the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The institution of conscription, which was increasingly justified by statesmen on grounds of national defense and economic stimulation, spread to other European nations and Japan in the 19th cent. At the outbreak of World War I, Great Britain adopted conscription and used it again in World War II; it was abolished in 1962. Though little used in the United States prior to the Civil War, conscription was used by both sides in that war and in most large-scale U.S. wars since, often with great controversy. Most of the important military powers of the 20th cent. have used conscription to raise their armed forces. China, because of its large population, has a policy of selective conscription. Impressment is the forcible mustering of recruits. It lacks the scope and bureaucratic form of conscription. Many countries throughout the world, such as Israel, have mandatory military service; a few allow for alternate civilian service or release for conscientious objectors. See also selective service.

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conscription

conscription. In 1914 Britain was the only great power which relied upon volunteers to man its army. This tradition was continued until January 1916, by when nearly 2.5 million men had volunteered to join Kitchener's New Armies. But by the summer of 1915 the flow of volunteers was failing to keep pace with the anticipated rate of casualties. Between June 1915 and May 1916 the Asquith coalition government was convulsed by the conscription debate. Anti-conscriptionists argued that if more men were taken for the army, industry would have too little labour and Britain would be bankrupted before the army won the war. Pro-conscriptionists retorted that without conscription there would be no military victory. Asquith compromised. In January 1916 legislation was passed conscripting single men, followed in May by a second Act conscripting married men. By the end of the war nearly 2.3 million men had been conscripted, and without their efforts the British army would have collapsed long before the armistice. In 1939, conscription was introduced at once.

David French

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conscription

con·scrip·tion / kənˈskripshən/ • n. compulsory enlistment for state service, typically into the armed forces. ORIGIN: early 19th cent.: via French (conscription was introduced in France in 1798), from late Latin conscriptio(n-) ‘levying of troops,’ from Latin conscribere ‘write down together, enroll,’ from con- ‘together’ + scribere ‘write.’

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conscription

conscription (draft) Compulsory enlistment of people for service in the armed forces. In Britain, conscription was used in both World Wars and continued as National Service until 1962. In the United States, conscription was used during the Civil War, but dropped until 1940, when it was reintroduced and continued until 1973. Draft registration resumed in 1980.

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conscription

conscriptionashen, fashion, passion, ration •abstraction, action, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction •expansion, mansion, scansion, stanchion •sanction •caption, contraption •harshen, Martian •cession, discretion, freshen, session •abjection, affection, circumspection, collection, complexion, confection, connection, convection, correction, defection, deflection, dejection, detection, direction, ejection, election, erection, genuflection, imperfection, infection, inflection, injection, inspection, insurrection, interconnection, interjection, intersection, introspection, lection, misdirection, objection, perfection, predilection, projection, protection, refection, reflection, rejection, resurrection, retrospection, section, selection, subjection, transection, vivisection •exemption, pre-emption, redemption •abstention, apprehension, ascension, attention, circumvention, comprehension, condescension, contention, contravention, convention, declension, detention, dimension, dissension, extension, gentian, hypertension, hypotension, intention, intervention, invention, mention, misapprehension, obtention, pension, prehension, prevention, recension, retention, subvention, supervention, suspension, tension •conception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception, misconception, perception, reception •Übermenschen • subsection •ablation, aeration, agnation, Alsatian, Amerasian, Asian, aviation, cetacean, citation, conation, creation, Croatian, crustacean, curation, Dalmatian, delation, dilation, donation, duration, elation, fixation, Galatian, gyration, Haitian, halation, Horatian, ideation, illation, lavation, legation, libation, location, lunation, mutation, natation, nation, negation, notation, nutation, oblation, oration, ovation, potation, relation, rogation, rotation, Sarmatian, sedation, Serbo-Croatian, station, taxation, Thracian, vacation, vexation, vocation, zonation •accretion, Capetian, completion, concretion, deletion, depletion, Diocletian, excretion, Grecian, Helvetian, repletion, Rhodesian, secretion, suppletion, Tahitian, venetian •academician, addition, aesthetician (US esthetician), ambition, audition, beautician, clinician, coition, cosmetician, diagnostician, dialectician, dietitian, Domitian, edition, electrician, emission, fission, fruition, Hermitian, ignition, linguistician, logician, magician, mathematician, Mauritian, mechanician, metaphysician, mission, monition, mortician, munition, musician, obstetrician, omission, optician, paediatrician (US pediatrician), patrician, petition, Phoenician, physician, politician, position, rhetorician, sedition, statistician, suspicion, tactician, technician, theoretician, Titian, tuition, volition •addiction, affliction, benediction, constriction, conviction, crucifixion, depiction, dereliction, diction, eviction, fiction, friction, infliction, interdiction, jurisdiction, malediction, restriction, transfixion, valediction •distinction, extinction, intinction •ascription, circumscription, conscription, decryption, description, Egyptian, encryption, inscription, misdescription, prescription, subscription, superscription, transcription •proscription •concoction, decoction •adoption, option •abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, proportion, retortion, torsion •auction •absorption, sorption •commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, motion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion •ablution, absolution, allocution, attribution, circumlocution, circumvolution, Confucian, constitution, contribution, convolution, counter-revolution, destitution, dilution, diminution, distribution, electrocution, elocution, evolution, execution, institution, interlocution, irresolution, Lilliputian, locution, perlocution, persecution, pollution, prosecution, prostitution, restitution, retribution, Rosicrucian, solution, substitution, volution •cushion • resumption • München •pincushion •Belorussian, Prussian, Russian •abduction, conduction, construction, deduction, destruction, eduction, effluxion, induction, instruction, introduction, misconstruction, obstruction, production, reduction, ruction, seduction, suction, underproduction •avulsion, compulsion, convulsion, emulsion, expulsion, impulsion, propulsion, repulsion, revulsion •assumption, consumption, gumption, presumption •luncheon, scuncheon, truncheon •compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction, unction •abruption, corruption, disruption, eruption, interruption •T-junction • liposuction •animadversion, aspersion, assertion, aversion, Cistercian, coercion, conversion, desertion, disconcertion, dispersion, diversion, emersion, excursion, exertion, extroversion, immersion, incursion, insertion, interspersion, introversion, Persian, perversion, submersion, subversion, tertian, version •excerption

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