Selective Service Act 40 Stat. 76 (1917)

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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.

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Selective Service Act 40 Stat. 76 (1917)

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