The Power of Conscription

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“Congress shall have power to raise and support armies…” (Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution). In the midst of World War I, Woodrow Wilson the president at the time was prompted to institute a way to recruit men for the war effort. The solution to this particular need was the Selective Service Act, which was passed by Congress on May 18, 1917, approximately six weeks after the United States formally entered the war. This act gave the president the power to draft soldiers for the First World War. The draft would come to be seen as an effective way to recruit men to fight with American’s Allies to defeat Germany. The origin of the Selective Service Act along with its effects can be compared to the differences of previous conscriptions in the United States. The need for the Selective Service Act arose when America’s Allies: France, Britain, Russia, and Italy were in deep need of fresh troops to relieve their exhausted men. Unfortunately America was not able to provide these troops until Congress put the draft into action (“U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act”). Wilson tried to improve military preparedness over the course of 1916 because at the time America only had a small hand full of volunteers that were not properly trained or equipped to handle the fighting in Europe. The U.S. Army of 1917 was quite small and inexperienced and had never been particularly large, except for the Civil War. The army had significantly decreased since the Spanish-American War, the total number of men reached possibly 200,000. This was not a great comfort to them. In the battles that had already occurred, over four months the participants of the war had lost more men than existed in the entire U.S. Army (Allen, Schweikart 516). In order ... ... middle of paper ... ...monstrous as 2.8 million men who were drafted served in the war with many of them receiving prestigious awards for heroism. Differences were present comparing the draft of World War I to the only war previous that exercised the method of conscription, the Civil War. When America finds itself in the midst of a war and in need of men to fight to ensure a victory, Congress has the power through the Constitution to raise and support armies. Works Cited Allen, Michael. A Patriot's History of the United States. By Larry Schweikart. England: Sentinel, 2007. 516-517. Print. “The Call to Arms.” 23 Jan. 2014. . “Timeline of Conscription in the U.S.” Online Newshour. 23 Jan. 2014. . “U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act.” World War I. 23 Jan. 2014. .
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