Selective Service Acts Conscription Act 12 Stat. 731 (1863) Burke-Wadsworth Selective Training and Service Act 54 Stat. 885 (1940) Universal Military Training and Service Act 62 Stat. 604 (1948)

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SELECTIVE SERVICE ACTS Conscription Act 12 Stat. 731 (1863) Burke-Wadsworth Selective Training and Service Act 54 Stat. 885 (1940) Universal Military Training and Service Act 62 Stat. 604 (1948)

The Constitution gives Congress the power to "raise and support armies" and to "provide and maintain a navy." The traditions of the American people have dictated that throughout most of our history peacetime military service has been voluntary and emergencies have been met, in the first instance, by activating the organized state militias. Conscription, drafting men for compulsory military duty, is available for the gravest emergencies. During the War of 1812, Congress considered, but did not adopt, a Draft Bill.

The first federal military draft in American history was authorized by the Conscription Act of 1863. That act required registration of all able-bodied male citizens eighteen to forty-five years old, and provided that whenever a congressional district failed to provide its quota of volunteers the deficiency should be made up by drawing from the pool of registrants. The act further provided that the draftee could avoid service by providing a substitute or by paying $300. The first draft under the act, in July 1863, was the occasion of a week-long riot in New York City, in which over one thousand people were killed and over oneand-a-half million dollars worth of property was destroyed.

The first peacetime selective service law was the Burke-Wadsworth Act of 1940, requiring registration in anticipation of American entry into world war ii. The act, also known as the Selective Training and Service Act, was patterned after the selective service act of 1917: universal registration and classification administered by local boards. The 1940 act expired in 1947 and was replaced by the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1948, which continued the basic scheme of the 1917 and 1940 statutes. The first draft under this act was in 1950, and conscription for the korean war and vietnam war was done under provisions of that act. Registration under the act (renamed the Military Selective Service Act in 1967) ceased in 1975.

President jimmy carter in 1980 sought and received congressional authorization to reimplement peacetime draft registration, but the 1980 measure provided for registration only, not for classification or conscription.

(See rostker v. goldberg.)

Dennis J. Mahoney
(1986)