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Selective Draft Cases

Selective Draft Cases (1918).In World War I, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Selective Draft Act of 1917 and national conscription in general in the Selective Draft Law Cases (officially, Arver et al. v. United States, 245 U.S. 366).

In a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Edward White, the Court rejected arguments that the draft was not authorized by the Constitution and violated the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition against involuntary servitude. Citing Southern court rulings upholding conscription in the Civil War (the Northern judiciary had divided), White—a Confederate veteran and former Louisiana judge and senator—declared that the power to compel military service was inherent in any state for its defense. The Constitution permitted national conscription as “necessary and proper” to implement the specific congressional authority “to raise and maintain armies.” Although the judiciary modified some Selective Service procedures, particularly during the Vietnam War, the Supreme Court has never reexamined the constitutionality of national conscription.
[See also Conscientious Objection; Supreme Court, War, and the Military.]


Paul L. Murphy , The Constitution in Crisis Times, 1918–1969, 1972.
John Whiteclay Chambers II , To Raise an Army: The Draft Comes to Modern America, 1987.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

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