Skip to main content

Selective Service Act 40 Stat. 76 (1917)

SELECTIVE SERVICE ACT 40 Stat. 76 (1917)

In the National Defense Act of 1916, the General Staff prepared a blueprint for increasing the military, but it failed to recruit adequate personnel through a voluntary system. With war declared, President woodrow wilson in April 1917 sent to Congress a bill to "Authorize the President to Increase Temporarily the Military Establishment." After a six-week debate, the Selective Service Act of 1917 was enacted. The measure vested the President with the power to raise an army by conscription. Enrollment and selection were to be carried out by 4,000 local civilian boards, appointed by the President and organized under federally appointed state directors. Although these boards operated under uniform federal regulations, they were given considerable discretion in meeting quotas and handling deferment applications. The manpower requirements for the war period were developed by the army General Staff and apportioned to the states. The order of induction was determined by lottery. Over twenty-four million American males were registered under the law. Nearly three million were selected and inducted.

The constitutionality of the law was early challenged by its opponents on the grounds of illegal delegation of power and a violation of the thirteenth, Fifth, tenth, and first amendments. The Supreme Court brushed aside such challenges in the selective draft law cases (1918), determining that the powers of the central government to make war and support armies encompass the authority to impose compulsory military service.

Paul M. Murphy


Duggan, Joseph S. 1946 Legislative and Statutory Development of the Federal Concept of Conscription for Military Service. Washington: Catholic University Press.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Selective Service Act 40 Stat. 76 (1917)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . 23 Sep. 2019 <>.

"Selective Service Act 40 Stat. 76 (1917)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . (September 23, 2019).

"Selective Service Act 40 Stat. 76 (1917)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . Retrieved September 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.