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Draft Riots

Draft Riots

By January 1863 it was clear that state governors in the north could not raise enough troops for the Union Army. On 3rd March, the federal government passed the Enrollment Act. This was the first example of conscription or compulsory military service in United States history. The decision to allow men to avoid the draft by paying $300 to hire a substitute, resulted in the accusation that this was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.

The Enrollment Act resulted in Draft Riots in several American cities. There was heavy loss of life in Detroit but the worst rioting took place in New York City in July, 1863. The mob set fire to an African American church and orphanage, and attacked the office of the New York Tribune. Started by Irish immigrants, the main victims were African Americans and activists in the anti-slavery movement. The Union Army was sent in and had to open fire on the rioters in order to gain control of the city. By the time the riot was over, nearly a 1,000 people had been killed or wounded.

The Cigarmakers' Society Union of England, whose members were frequently unemployed and suffering, established an emigration fund - that is, instead of paying the members unemployment benefits, a sum of money was granted to help passage from England to the United States. The sum was not large, between five and ten pounds. This was a very practical method which benefited both the emigrants and those who remained by decreasing the number seeking work in their trade. After much discussion and consultation father decided to go to the New World. He had friends in New York City and a brother-in-law who proceeded us by six months to whom father wrote we were coming.

There came busy days in which my mother gathered together and packed our household belongings. Father secured passage on the City of London, a sailing vessel which left Chadwick Basin, June 10, 1863, and reached Castle Garden, July 29, 1863, after seven weeks and one day.

Our ship was the old type of sailing vessel. We had none of the modern comforts of travel. The sleeping quarters were cramped and we had to had to do our own cooking in the gallery of the boat. Mother had provided salt beef and other preserved meats and fish, dried vegetables, and red pickled cabbage which I remember most vividly. We were all seasick except father, mother the longest of all. Father had to do all the cooking in the meanwhile and take care of the sick. There was a Negro man employed on the boat who was very kind in many ways to help father. Father did not know much about cooking.

When we reached New York we landed at the old Castle Garden of lower Manhattan, now the Aquarium, where we were met by relatives and friends. As we were standing in a little group, the Negro who had befriended father on the trip, came off the boat. Father was grateful and as a matter of courtesy, shook hands with him and gave him his blessing. Now it happened that the draft and negro rights were convulsing New York City. Only that very day Negroes had been chased and hanged by mobs. The onlookers, not understanding, grew very much excited over father's shaking hands with this Negro. A crowd gathered round and threatened to hang both father and the Negro to the lamp-post.

The Intense True Story Of The New York City Draft Riots

Though many people may associate draft riots with the Vietnam War, protests against conscription actually have a much longer history. One of the most intense and violent examples includes the New York City draft riots that took place from July 13 to July 16 in 1863 and claimed an estimated 119 lives, per History.com.

The draft was to enlist men for the Civil War. Though New York was part of the Union, many businesses had ties to the South and were against the war. Moreover, much of New York's population was filled with immigrants who had newly arrived from places like Ireland and Germany and did not anticipate being forced to be soldiers upon arriving on American soil.

The first lotteries for the conscription law were held in July, shortly after the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg. Though the first day passed peaceably, the second one was met with 500 protesters arriving on the scene purportedly ready for violence. Led by the volunteer Engine Company No. 33, men smashed windows in Lower Manhattan, set fire to the buildings, including the Provost Marshall's office as well as residential homes, and even cut telegraph cables to cripple communication between law enforcement.

Since New York state's militia was fighting in the war, the New York Police Department was left to counter the violent protesters even though they were severely outnumbered. It was not until Union troops were able to travel to the Big Apple two days later that peace in the city was restored.

Civil War Draft Riots in Wisconsin, 1862

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established the military draft for the Civil War. It was unpopular in many German communities around Wisconsin. Many Germans had left their homeland to escape compulsory military service. Anti-draft riots broke out in several cities. On November 10, 1862, a mob of roughly 300 attacked the Port Washington draft office and vandalized the homes of Union supporters until troops arrived to quell the disturbance. The same week, a mob of protesters shut down the draft proceedings in Milwaukee, and in West Bend the draft commissioner was beaten bloody and chased from the scene.

Related Resources

&ldquoResistance to the Draft in Wisconsin&rdquo Milwaukee Pilot, (newspaper), Nov. 12, 1862 Oliver, John W. &ldquoDraft Riots in Wisconsin During the Civil War&rdquo Wisconsin Magazine of History: Vol. 2, No. 3, March 1919: 334-337.

The Draft and the Draft Riots of 1863

Use this Narrative after the Chapter 8 Introductory Essay: 1860-1877 to introduce students to the reactions of citizens and immigrants to the conscription laws during the Civil War.

How do you force someone to fight for someone else’s freedom? This question reveals the irony of the policy of conscription that the U.S. government implemented during the Civil War. The Confederacy had introduced conscription first and experienced its own widespread popular opposition. But as the conflict wore on and casualties mounted, the Northern rush to enlist to put down the rebellion and preserve national unity eventually ebbed, and the question became relevant to the Union. In July 1862, Congress passed a militia law authorizing the president to draft state militia troops into service in the national army. Although some states managed to delay implementing it by successfully recruiting volunteers, by autumn the government had begun widespread use of the “state draft” or “militia draft,” authorizing the president to draft militiamen from the states, especially after President Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation after the Battle of Antietam.

By promising to free the slaves still held in rebel territory on January 1, 1863, the president’s executive order explicitly made the war a conflict over slavery and saving the Union. This motive proved unpopular in many areas of the North, and racist sentiment now combined with fears of job competition with blacks, higher taxes, expanded government power, and what some considered to be the tyranny of a stronger executive branch. Recruitment for the vast expansion of the armed forces became more difficult, and federal authorities turned more frequently to ever-increasing inducements for volunteers and the threat of conscription. Opponents reacted with protests and sometimes violence. In response, the army sent troops into areas of resistance, such as the coal regions of Pennsylvania, German Catholic communities in Wisconsin, and parts of southern Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, where large populations of migrants from the South had settled decades before the war. The provost marshals began arresting those who resisted, and the army imprisoned protesters and newspaper editors whose columns urged antiwar activism and resistance. This, in turn, led to more protests and opposition.

This political cartoon, entitled “Don’t you see the point?”, appeared in Harper’s Weekly on August 29, 1863.

That fall, the Democrats used civil liberties, racism, and opposition to the draft and emancipation to gain ground with voters in the 1862 election. The Republicans, meanwhile, argued that anyone who opposed the war and the government was a traitor and called some Democrats “Copperheads” – after a poisonous snake. The term meant a Democrat who went so far in opposing the war as to commit treason. Although the Republicans held on to their congressional majority and most state legislatures, Democrats won control in several states, including the key state of New York. Combined with other issues, the draft became a potent political policy that, even as it allowed the government to continue waging the war, served to unify the opposition to it.

The next spring, in March 1863, Congress passed the Enrollment Act, a conscription law authorizing a national draft. Every able-bodied male citizen and immigrant between the ages of 20 and 45 years was to be enrolled in the draft. When districts proved unable to fill their quota of recruits with volunteers, the provost marshals were to implement the draft to make up the difference. In July 1863, the army carried out the first of four drafts the next three followed in 1864.

This broadside announced the draft for Ohio’s 14th Congressional district would begin on September 17, 1863, at the courthouse in Wooster, Ohio. (credit: “Civil War draft broadside,” Ohio History Connection)

Those whose names were drawn in the draft lottery might be eligible for an exemption – especially if they were the sole means of support for a widow, aging parents, or motherless children. If such an exemption could not be obtained, the draftee could hire a substitute to take his place or pay a $300 commutation fee (which typically only the wealthy could afford) that allowed him to return home. Substitutes tended to be young men of 18 or 19 years who were old enough to serve but too young to be drafted. Immigrants who had not yet applied for citizenship also provided a large pool of possible substitutes. The option to hire a substitute or pay a fee not to serve angered many Americans, who complained about the conflict’s being a “rich man’s war and [a] poor man’s fight.” With many tens of thousands of soldiers dying of disease, infections, and wounds, it was not surprising that large numbers of men tried to avoid the draft. More than 20 percent of those drafted refused to report for duty, fleeing to the West or going into hiding to avoid the provost marshals.

Immigration raised additional concerns about the draft. Throughout the decades before the war, the number of immigrants had increased exponentially. The beginning of the war slowed the rate to a mere trickle, but the demand for workers during the conflict brought dramatic increases in wages, and the number of immigrants began to grow again in response to such economic opportunities. Some immigrant men saw military service as a financial boon as well, viewing the bounties offered to enlistees and the hiring of substitutes as a chance to improve their lot.

Approximately 25 percent of the Union soldiers were immigrants. Whereas some wanted to enlist, others were tricked into service by manipulative criminals who took advantage of their inability to speak or read English. Some immigrants stepped off a ship and found themselves in the army before they realized what was happening. Nativism remained strong in the Northern states, and Irish immigrants especially experienced prejudice, bigotry, and violence. Because most of them were Roman Catholic, they also faced religious prejudice.

In the army, immigrant troops served well, often in units made up of soldiers of the same ethnic background. Most famously, the Irish Brigade from New York consisted mostly of Irish American and Irish immigrant soldiers. The unit served throughout the war and fought with distinction at the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg.

Many in the North saw the draft as violation of individual freedom and civil liberties. When the first national draft was carried out in July 1863, the result was widespread protest and violence. To rally the poor, workers, white farmers, and immigrants against the draft, the Democratic Party often used racist rhetoric, blasting the Lincoln Administration for forcing white men to fight and die for the cause of freeing black slaves. Race, ethnicity, economics, and the expansion of government power all combined in the crisis of the draft.

A convention of Iowa Democrats declared its members opposed to the Lincoln Administration for its “wicked Abolition crusade” and pledged to “resist to the death all attempts to draft any of our citizens into the army.” New York’s governor, Horatio Seymour, predicted a draft would lead to mob violence. The editor of a New York City Catholic newspaper used racist language in telling a mass meeting to refuse to answer Lincoln’s call for more troops. In such a context, then, it was not surprising that protests were held in a number of cities across the country. In some places, blood was shed. The worst came when opposition to conscription led to the New York City Draft Riots.

The situation in New York made the city a tinderbox of tension that summer. Divided along ethnic and racial lines, New Yorkers were also stratified by social class and religion. Long the gateway to the nation, the city was home to many German and Irish immigrants, who lived in ethnic areas and neighborhoods and worked for low wages. Thousands of African Americans also called New York home and found themselves targets of racism and discrimination. The Democratic Party had built a political machine in New York City, organizing the city’s wards to win elections in exchange for valuable help with everything from municipal services to jobs and housing. Party leaders directed the Democratic ward bosses to move immigrants quickly along the path to citizenship in order to get their votes. When the draft began, immigrants who had applied for citizenship were enrolled and made eligible for conscription. Meanwhile, the Emancipation Proclamation implied that the war was a crusade against slavery and this stoked resentment against blacks among workers, the poor, and immigrants, in part because they feared job competition from millions of freed slaves and in part because of widespread racism.

On July 11, 1863, army officers began the draft lottery in New York City. Most Union troops in and around the city had been sent to help stop the Confederate invasion that had resulted in the Battle of Gettysburg in early July, but the draft officers went forward with their duty despite the absence of many troops to keep order. The first day went smoothly, but on July 13, a mob began to form as hundreds of men began gathering in opposition to conscription. What had started as a protest quickly became a riot marked by violence and the destruction of property. Buildings were set on fire, and firefighters who arrived to fight the blaze were attacked. Soldiers and policemen were targeted, but so too were African Americans. The mob beat and tortured those it managed to capture. They lynched black men and set their bodies afire.

For three days the riot raged on, until state militia and U.S. Army troops arrived and restored order. The violence left more than 100 dead, at least 2,000 injured, and more than 50 buildings destroyed. It was one of the worst riots in American history and demonstrated how the draft mixed with other issues like government overreach, civil liberties, race, and economics to create a combustible context in which seethed the divisions within the Union.

Review Questions

1. Congress passed a conscription law because

  1. it was believed that a draft was a more democratic way of raising an army
  2. too many men wanted to volunteer and the government needed a way to control the size of the army
  3. Congress wanted more citizens in the army because too many immigrants were fighting the war
  4. the rush to enlist to save the Union had ebbed and more men were needed

2. All the following were reasons for resisting the draft except

  1. whites in the North were not willing to fight for the freedom of slaves
  2. there was growing fear of a tyrannical executive branch
  3. immigrants were joining the Union army in growing numbers
  4. the people were growing weary of fighting due to the length of the war

3. One reaction to the introduction of conscription was that

  1. more men volunteered for the Union army
  2. the Democrats were very successful in the election of 1862
  3. President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus
  4. Confederate confidence grew, leading to several strategic military victories

4. The term “Copperhead” was used to describe

  1. men who avoided the draft
  2. men who paid another to take their place in the draft
  3. Northern opponents of the Civil War who were labeled traitors
  4. men who took the place of drafted men

5. The response to conscription in the North revealed that

  1. nativism still had a significant influence in the Union
  2. the United States was becoming a “melting pot”
  3. persons of all backgrounds were willing to fight in the Civil War
  4. the idea of national unity was significant in maintaining a strong democracy

6. The worst violence in protest of conscription occurred in

7. Compared with the poor, wealthy men were able to avoid the draft by

  1. bribing military officials
  2. paying a $300 commutation fee
  3. passing a literacy test for exemption
  4. enrolling in universities for exemption

Free Response Questions

  1. Describe the reaction of northerners to the introduction of conscription.
  2. Analyze the reaction to conscription in relation to the U.S. ideals of democracy and freedom.

AP Practice Questions

This broadside announced the draft for Ohio’s 14th Congressional district would begin on September 17, 1863, at the courthouse in Wooster, Ohio. (credit: “Civil War draft broadside,” Ohio History Connection)

1. Which group would most likely see the poster as a cause for grievance against President Lincoln?

2. The actions called for in the poster were most likely a reaction to

  1. the growing shortfall of volunteers from across the Union as the Civil War continued
  2. a dramatic increase in immigrants from Ireland and Germany during the 1840s and 1850s
  3. the fear that the Confederacy would capture Washington, DC, during the Civil War
  4. a demand from the African American community that they be allowed to serve in the military

3. The events called for in the poster led to what result?

  1. A resurgence of political machines
  2. Draft riots
  3. The Emancipation Proclamation
  4. Troop desertions in the Confederacy

Primary Sources

Report of the Committee of Merchants for the Relief of Colored People, Suffering from the Late Riots in the City of New York. African American Pamphlet Collection, Library of Congress. New York: G. A. Whitehorne, 1863.

“The Bill for Enrolling and Calling Out the National Forces.” New York Times. February 19, 1863.

Suggested Resources

Bernstein, Iver. The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Cook, Adrian. The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.

Gray, Wood. The Hidden Civil War: The Story of the Copperheads. New York: Viking Press, 1942.

Schecter, Barnet. The Devil’s Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005.

The Real Story of the ‘Draft Riots’

In 1863, mobs of white New Yorkers terrorized Black people. The response has something to teach us.

Ms. Mitchell is a journalist and the author of four nonfiction books, including “Lincoln’s Lie: A True Civil War Caper Through Fake News, Wall Street and the White House.”

A mob murdered 23-year-old Abraham Franklin at 27th Street and Seventh Avenue in New York City. He had hurried to visit his mother to pray by her side for her protection when the rioters began raging from Downtown to Uptown. Just as he finished his prayers, they crashed through the door, beat him and hanged him as his mother looked on. Then they mutilated his body in front of her.

During the riots in July 1863, the mob also came upon Peter Heuston, a 63-year-old widowed war veteran and a member of the Mohawk tribe, whom they took to be Black. They brutally attacked him on Roosevelt and Oak Streets near the East River. He died of his injuries, leaving his 8-year-old daughter an orphan.

Another victim, William Jones, was so disfigured, whether from the mob’s mutilation or the decay his body endured waiting for observers to gain courage to investigate his identity, that he could be identified only by the loaf of bread under his arm. He had gone out to fetch the staple for his wife and never returned.

One woman testified that the mob broke through the doors of her son’s house on East 28th Street in Manhattan, where she was visiting, using pickaxes to break through. The thugs threw a baby out the window to its death. They chopped through the water pipes so the people hiding in the basement of the building would be drowned. They struck her son over the head with a crowbar, and he died in the hospital two days later.

Some 400 white people attacked the Black orphanage on Fifth Avenue near 43rd Street. They cut the trees with axes, uprooted the shrubs in what had been a carefully tended garden, carted away the fence and burned the building to the ground.

Many people today, if they have even heard of the Draft Riots, probably know it as a violent citizens’ revolt against President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 conscription of soldiers. In Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” inspired by the nonfiction book by Herbert Asbury, what happened over those days comes across as a somewhat entertaining if gory battle between rival white gangs.

The truth is that over the course of some four days, mobs of white New Yorkers roamed the streets of the city from City Hall to Gramercy Park to past 40th Street, setting fire to buildings and killing people, targeting Black people for the most horrific violence. Historians are still assessing the overall death toll, with estimates ranging from more than 100 to more than a thousand. One of the most prestigious Black newspapers of the time estimated the deaths of people of color to be as high as 175. Other Black people were driven from their homes and all of their property destroyed. In the aftermath, some 5,000 Black New Yorkers were discovered hiding on Blackwell’s Island, in police stations, in the swamps of New Jersey and in barns on Long Island, desperately seeking safety from the murderous white crowds.

The gruesome events should be remembered. They are as much a part of the city’s history as Sept. 11, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire or immigration through Ellis Island. And there is a related story to tell. One reason we know about the brutality of those events is a booklet, “Report of the Merchants’ Committee for the Relief of Colored People Suffering From the Riots in the City of New York,” published in 1863, from which I’ve drawn many of the descriptions in this article. Importantly, the clerks of the merchants’ committee recorded the testimony of many of the people who had lost loved ones to the murderous gangs, creating a clear record of many of the atrocities committed.

Immediately after the riots, the white merchants of New York combined forces to raise money to care for the injured, repair the damaged property and support the legal and employment needs of the terrorized Black people. Of course, nothing could make up for the lives lost and the pain and suffering inflicted on those who were attacked. But the shopkeepers quickly raised over $40,000, equivalent to more than $825,000 today. Their fund-raising effort was notable because it focused on preserving and honoring the dignity of the people the merchant committee’s report described as the “sufferers.”

“We have not come together to devise means for their relief because they are colored people,” wrote Jonathan Sturges, the treasurer of the group, “but because they are, as a class, persecuted and in distress at the present moment.”

The merchants went about their work methodically. They vowed to secure help from the county. Lawyers volunteered their expertise. When requested, ministers visited the homes of survivors. They urged businesses that were afraid to rehire their Black employees for fear of the mob’s vengeance to be courageous, and promised to guard the businesses that did rehire.

J.D. McKenzie, the chairman, noted that the murderers and pillagers “sought to destroy a race.” But the shopkeepers made a point of not wasting their time focusing on who perpetrated each of the evil deeds. The report made clear that the murderers were clearly “bad men.” The group moved on to what they could do to rectify the inhumanity.

On Saturday, July 25, 1863, the third day that funds were disbursed, applicants packed Fourth Street near Broadway. The donors prided themselves on limiting stress for the recipients. “There are no harsh or unkind words uttered by the clerks — no impertinent quizzing in regard to irrelevant matters — no partisan or sectarian view advanced. The business is transacted in a straightforward, practical manner, without chilling the charity into an offense by creating the impression that the recipient is humiliated by accepting the gift,” The New York Daily Tribune reported. The donors encouraged people to return if they needed more help.

In the first month, the group assisted 6,392 people. Since their children were beneficiaries as well, the total number helped added up to 12,782 — from laborers to music teachers, physicians to cooks, ministers, artists, and farmers.

Black ministers and laymen wrote a note to the merchants about what it all meant: “You did not hesitate to come forward to our relief amid the threatened destruction of your own lives and property. You obeyed the noblest dictates of the human heart, and by your generous moral courage you rolled back the tide of violence that had well nigh swept us away.”

This episode from the 19th century is haunting even now, first, because of its brutality. The violence occurred on streets where people now dine and shop, oblivious to what happened. Men were lynched while simply walking home from their jobs. But the manner in which the shopkeepers of New York responded is also important, and it may be instructive to how all people confront and respond to racism today.

It’s horrific what happened on Washington and Leroy Streets, or 34th Street at the East River, East 28th Street, Fulton Ferry, 30th Street and Second Avenue, and Carmine Street in 1863. But horrific events fueled by racism are not just in our past. Think of what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis and David McAtee in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in South Georgia, and what happens in the cells of people still waiting to be freed under the Supreme Court’s ruling against juvenile life sentences.

The story of the merchants’ response to the so-called Draft Riots is a reminder that we can all do more if we don’t want the lives of more Black people to be marred by cruelty. That begins with having a cleareyed view of our own history. Understanding the past in a way that’s neither sugarcoated nor whitewashed will keep us moving forward.

Elizabeth Mitchell is a journalist and the author of four nonfiction books, including “Lincoln’s Lie: A True Civil War Caper Through Fake News, Wall Street and the White House.”

The Real Story of the ‘Draft Riots’

Ms. Mitchell is a journalist and the author of four nonfiction books, including Lincoln&rsquos Lie: A True Civil War Caper Through Fake News, Wall Street and the White House.

A mob murdered 23-year-old Abraham Franklin at 27th Street and Seventh Avenue in New York City. He had hurried to visit his mother to pray by her side for her protection when the rioters began raging from Downtown to Uptown. Just as he finished his prayers, they crashed through the door, beat him and hanged him as his mother looked on. Then they mutilated his body in front of her.

During the riots in July 1863, the mob also came upon Peter Heuston, a 63-year-old widowed war veteran and a member of the Mohawk tribe, whom they took to be Black. They brutally attacked him on Roosevelt and Oak Streets near the East River. He died of his injuries, leaving his 8-year-old daughter an orphan.

Another victim, William Jones, was so disfigured, whether from the mob&rsquos mutilation or the decay his body endured waiting for observers to gain courage to investigate his identity, that he could be identified only by the loaf of bread under his arm. He had gone out to fetch the staple for his wife and never returned.

One woman testified that the mob broke through the doors of her son&rsquos house on East 28th Street in Manhattan, where she was visiting, using pickaxes to break through. The thugs threw a baby out the window to its death. They chopped through the water pipes so the people hiding in the basement of the building would be drowned. They struck her son over the head with a crowbar, and he died in the hospital two days later.

Some 400 white people attacked the Black orphanage on Fifth Avenue near 43rd Street. They cut the trees with axes, uprooted the shrubs in what had been a carefully tended garden, carted away the fence and burned the building to the ground.

Many people today, if they have even heard of the Draft Riots, probably know it as a violent citizens&rsquo revolt against President Abraham Lincoln&rsquos 1863 conscription of soldiers. In Martin Scorsese&rsquos &ldquoGangs of New York,&rdquo inspired by the nonfiction book by Herbert Asbury, what happened over those days comes across as a somewhat entertaining if gory battle between rival white gangs.

The truth is that over the course of some four days, mobs of white New Yorkers roamed the streets of the city from City Hall to Gramercy Park to past 40th Street, setting fire to buildings and killing people, targeting Black people for the most horrific violence. Historians are still assessing the overall death toll, with estimates ranging from more than 100 to more than a thousand. One of the most prestigious Black newspapers of the time estimated the deaths of people of color to be as high as 175. Other Black people were driven from their homes and all of their property destroyed. In the aftermath, some 5,000 Black New Yorkers were discovered hiding on Blackwell&rsquos Island, in police stations, in the swamps of New Jersey and in barns on Long Island, desperately seeking safety from the murderous white crowds.


Colonial to 1862 Edit

In colonial times, the Thirteen Colonies used a militia system for defense. Colonial militia laws—and after independence those of the United States and the various states—required able-bodied males to enroll in the militia, to undergo a minimum of military training, and to serve for limited periods of time in war or emergency. This earliest form of conscription involved selective drafts of militiamen for service in particular campaigns. Following this system in its essentials, the Continental Congress in 1778 recommended that the states draft men from their militias for one year's service in the Continental Army this first national conscription was irregularly applied and failed to fill the Continental ranks.

For long-term operations, conscription was occasionally used when volunteers or paid substitutes were insufficient to raise the needed manpower. During the American Revolutionary War, the states sometimes drafted men for militia duty or to fill state Continental Army units, but the central government did not have the authority to conscript except for purposes of naval impressment. Post Ratification of the Constitution, Article I.8.15, allows for Congress to conscript. Giving it the power to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions Section 8.16 of the same article, allows Congress to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress. Article II.2.1 makes the President the commander in chief of the militia. The second amendment protects the infringement of the militia regulations, being necessary to the security of a free state. The Second Militia Act of 1792 defined the first group who could be called up as “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen” between the ages of 18 and 45.

The administration asserts the right to fill the ranks of the regular army by compulsion . Is this, sir, consistent with the character of a free government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No, sir, indeed it is not . Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty?
Daniel Webster (December 9, 1814 House of Representatives Address)

During the War of 1812, President James Madison and his Secretary of War James Monroe unsuccessfully attempted to create a national draft of 40,000 men. [7] The proposal was fiercely criticized on the House floor by antiwar Congressman Daniel Webster of New Hampshire. [8]

Civil War Edit

The United States first employed national conscription during the American Civil War. The vast majority of troops were volunteers of the 2,200,000 Union soldiers, about 2% were draftees, and another 6% were substitutes paid by draftees. [9] [10]

The Confederacy had far fewer inhabitants than the Union, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis proposed the first conscription act on March 28, 1862 it was passed into law the next month. [11] Resistance was both widespread and violent, with comparisons made between conscription and slavery.

Both sides permitted conscripts to hire substitutes to serve in their place. In the Union, many states and cities offered bounties and bonuses for enlistment. They also arranged to take credit against their draft quota by claiming freed slaves who enlisted in the Union Army.

Although both sides resorted to conscription, the system did not work effectively in either. [12] The Confederate Congress on April 16, 1862, passed an act requiring military service for three years from all white males aged 18 to 35 not legally exempt it later extended the obligation.

The U.S. Congress passed the Militia Act of 1862 which mirrored the 1792 Act except to allow African-Americans to serve in the militias and authorizing a militia draft within a state when it could not meet its quota with volunteers. [ citation needed ] This state-administered system failed in practice and Congress passed the Enrollment Act of 1863, the first genuine national conscription law, replacing the Militia Act of 1862, which required the enrollment of every male citizen and those immigrants (aliens) who had filed for citizenship, between 20 and 45 years of age, unless exempted by the Act. It set up under the Union Army an elaborate machine for enrolling and drafting men. Quotas were assigned in each state, the deficiencies in volunteers required to be met by conscription.

Still, men drafted could provide substitutes, and until mid-1864 could even avoid service by paying commutation money. Many eligible men pooled their money to cover the cost of any one of them drafted. Families used the substitute provision to select which member should go into the army and which would stay home. The other popular means of procuring a substitute was to pay a soldier whose period of enlistment was about to expire—the advantage of this method was that the Army could retain a trained veteran in place of a raw recruit. Of the 168,649 men procured for the Union Army through the draft, 117,986 were substitutes, leaving only 50,663 who had their personal services conscripted. There was much evasion and overt resistance to the draft, and the New York City draft riots were in direct response to the draft and were the first large-scale resistance against the draft in the United States.

The problem of Confederate desertion was aggravated by the inequitable inclinations of conscription officers and local judges. The three conscription acts of the Confederacy exempted certain categories, most notably the planter class, and enrolling officers and local judges often practiced favoritism, sometimes accepting bribes. Attempts to effectively deal with the issue were frustrated by conflict between state and local governments on the one hand and the national government of the Confederacy. [13]

World War I Edit

In 1917 the administration of President Woodrow Wilson decided to rely primarily on conscription, rather than voluntary enlistment, to raise military manpower for World War I when only 73,000 volunteers enlisted out of the initial 1 million target in the first six weeks of the war. [14] One ascribed motivation was to head off the former president, Theodore Roosevelt, who proposed to raise a volunteer division, which would upstage Wilson however, there is no evidence that Roosevelt had the support to carry out that plan, and also, since Wilson had just started his second term in office the former President's prospects for substantial political gain would seem dubious.

The Selective Service Act of 1917 was carefully drawn to remedy the defects in the Civil War system and—by allowing exemptions for dependency, essential occupations, and religious scruples—to place each man in his proper niche in a national war effort. [15] The act established a "liability for military service of all male citizens" authorized a selective draft of all those between 21 and 31 years of age (later from 18 to 45) and prohibited all forms of bounties, substitutions, or purchase of exemptions. Administration was entrusted to local boards composed of leading civilians in each community. These boards issued draft calls in order of numbers drawn in a national lottery and determined exemptions.

In 1917, 10 million men were registered. This was deemed to be inadequate, so age ranges were increased and exemptions reduced, and so by the end of 1918 this increased to 24 million men that were registered with nearly 3 million inducted into the military services, with little of the resistance that characterized the Civil War, thanks to a well-received campaign by the government to increase support for the war, and shut down newspapers and magazines that published articles against the war. [16] [17]

The draft was universal and included blacks on the same terms as whites, although they served in different units. In all 367,710 black Americans were drafted (13.0% of the total), compared to 2,442,586 white (86.9%). Along with a general opposition to American involvement in a foreign conflict, Southern farmers objected to perceived unfair conscription practices that exempted members of the upper class and industrial workers.

Draft boards were localized and based their decisions on social class: the poorest were the most often conscripted because they were considered the least likely to be the skilled labor needed for the war effort. Poor men were also less likely to convince local boards that they were primary breadwinners who could be deferred to support dependents. [18] [ citation needed ] African-Americans in particular were often disproportionately drafted, though they generally were conscripted as laborers. [ citation needed ] Forms of resistance ranged from peaceful protest to violent demonstrations and from humble letter-writing campaigns asking for mercy to radical newspapers demanding reform. The most common tactics were dodging and desertion, and some communities in isolationist areas even sheltered and defended their draft dodgers as political heroes.

Nearly half a million immigrants were drafted, which forced the military to develop training procedures that took ethnic differences into account. Military leaders invited Progressive reformers and ethnic group leaders to assist in formulating new military policies. The military attempted to socialize and Americanize young immigrant recruits, not by forcing "angloconformity", but by showing remarkable sensitivity and respect for ethnic values and traditions and a concern for the morale of immigrant troops, with the aim of blending them into the larger society. Sports activities, keeping immigrant groups together, newspapers in various languages, the assistance of bilingual officers, and ethnic entertainment programs were all employed. [19]

Opposition Edit

The Conscription Act of 1917 was passed in June. Conscripts were court-martialed by the Army if they refused to wear uniforms, bear arms, perform basic duties, or submit to military authority. Convicted objectors were often given long sentences of 20 years in Fort Leavenworth. [20] In 1918 Secretary of War Newton D. Baker created the Board of Inquiry to question the conscientious objectors' sincerity. [21] Military tribunals tried men found by the Board to be insincere for a variety of offenses, sentencing 17 to death, 142 to life imprisonment, and 345 to penal labor camps. [21] Many of these sentences were commuted after the war's end.

In 1917, a number of radicals and anarchists, including Emma Goldman, tried to challenge the new draft law in federal court, arguing that it was a direct violation of the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition against slavery and involuntary servitude. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the draft act in the Selective Draft Law Cases on January 7, 1918. The decision said the Constitution gave Congress the power to declare war and to raise and support armies. The Court, relying partly on Vattel's The Law of Nations, emphasized the principle of the reciprocal rights and duties of citizens: [22]

It may not be doubted that the very conception of a just government and its duty to the citizen includes the reciprocal obligation of the citizen to render military service in case of need, and the right to compel it. To do more than state the proposition is absolutely unnecessary in view of the practical illustration afforded by the almost universal legislation to that effect now in force.

Conscription was unpopular from left-wing sectors at the start, with many Socialists jailed for "obstructing the recruitment or enlistment service". The most famous was Eugene Debs, head of the Socialist Party of America, who ran for president in 1920 from his Atlanta prison cell. He had his sentence commuted to time served and was released on December 25, 1921, by President Warren G. Harding. Also notably, the Industrial Workers of the World attempted to obstruct the war effort through strikes in war-related industries and not registering, but it did not meet with large success.

Although draft riots were not widespread, an estimated 171,000 people never registered for the draft while another 360,000 people never responded to induction orders. [23]

Conscientious objectors Edit

Conscientious objector (CO) exemptions were allowed for the Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, and Church of the Brethren only. All other religious and political objectors were forced to participate. Some 64,700 men claimed conscientious objector status local draft boards certified 57,000, of whom 30,000 passed the physical and 21,000 were inducted into the U.S. Army. About 80% of the 21,000 decided to abandon their objection and take up arms, [23] but 3,989 drafted objectors refused to serve. Most belonged to historically pacifist denominations, especially Quakers, Mennonites, and Moravian Brethren, as well as a few Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. About 15% were religious objectors from non-pacifist churches. [24]

Ben Salmon was a nationally known political activist who encouraged men not to register and personally refused to comply with the draft procedures. He rejected the Army Review Board proposal that he do noncombatant farm work. Sentenced to 25 years in prison, he again refused a proposed desk job. He was pardoned and released in November 1920 with a "dishonorable discharge". [25]

Interwar Edit

The draft ended in 1918 but the Army designed the modern draft mechanism in 1926 and built it based on military needs despite an era of pacifism. Working where Congress would not, it gathered a cadre of officers for its nascent Joint Army-Navy Selective Service Committee, most of whom were commissioned based on social standing rather than military experience. [26] This effort did not receive congressionally approved funding until 1934 when Major General Lewis B. Hershey was assigned to the organization. The passage of a conscription act was opposed by some, including Dorothy Day and George Barry O'Toole, who were concerned that such conscription would not provide adequate protection for the rights of conscientious objectors. However, much of Hershey's work was codified into law with the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 (STSA). [27]

World War II Edit

By the summer of 1940, as Germany conquered France, Americans supported the return of conscription. One national survey found that 67% of respondents believed that a German-Italian victory would endanger the United States, and that 71% supported "the immediate adoption of compulsory military training for all young men". [28] Similarly, a November 1942 survey of American high-school students found that 69% favored compulsory postwar military training. [29]

The World War I system served as a model for that of World War II. The 1940 law instituted conscription in peacetime, requiring the registration of all men between 21 and 35. President Roosevelt's signing of the Selective Training and Service Act on September 16, 1940, began the first peacetime draft in the United States. It also reestablished the Selective Service System as an independent agency responsible for identifying young men and facilitating their military service. Roosevelt named Lewis B. Hershey to head the System on July 31, 1941, where he remained until 1969. [27] This act came when other preparations, such as increased training and equipment production, had not yet been approved. Nevertheless, it served as the basis for the conscription programs that would continue to the present.

The act set a cap of 900,000 men to be in training at any given time, and limited military service to 12 months unless Congress deemed it necessary to extend such service in the interest of national defense. An amendment added 18 more months to this service period on August 18, 1941. After the Pearl Harbor attack the STSA was further amended (December 19, 1941), extending the term of service to the duration of the war plus six months and requiring the registration of all men 18 to 64 years of age. During World War II, 49 million men were registered, 36 million classified, [ failed verification ] and 10 million inducted. [30] 18 and 19 year olds were made liable for induction on November 13, 1942. By late 1942, the Selective Service System moved away from a national lottery to administrative selection by its more than 6,000 local boards.

On December 5, 1942, presidential Executive Order 9279 closed voluntary enlistment for all men from the ages of 18 to 37 for the duration of the war, providing protection for the nation's home front manpower pool. The Navy and Marine Corps began procuring their personnel through the Selective Service System in early 1943. The Navy and Marine Corps enlisted inductees and volunteers under the same service agreements, but with different service obligations, while the Army placed wartime inductees and volunteers into a special service component known as the Army of the United States, commonly known as the "AUS" service commitments were set at the length of the war plus six months. [31] [32]

Paul V. McNutt, head of the War Manpower Commission, estimated that the changes would increase the ratio of men drafted from one out of nine to one out of five. The commission's goal was to have nine million men in the armed forces by the end of 1943. [33] This facilitated the massive requirement of up to 200,000 men per month and would remain the standard for the length of the war.

The World War II draft operated from 1940 until 1946 when further inductions were suspended, and its legislative authorization expired without further extension by Congress in 1947. During this time, more than 10 million men had been inducted into military service. [34] However, the Selective Service System remained intact.

Opposition Edit

Draft evasion accounted for about 4% of the total inducted. About 373,000 alleged evaders were investigated with just over 16,000 being imprisoned. [35] Opposition was nonetheless encountered, especially in the northern cities where some African-Americans protested the system. The Nation of Islam was at the forefront, with many black Muslims jailed for refusing the draft, and their leader Elijah Muhammad was sentenced to federal prison for 5 years for inciting draft resistance. Organized draft resistance also developed in the Japanese American internment camps, where groups like the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee refused to serve unless they and their families were released. 300 Nisei men from eight of the ten War Relocation Authority camps were arrested and stood trial for felony draft evasion most were sentenced to federal prison. [36] American Communists also opposed the war by forming the "American Peace Committee", which tried to organize a coalition of anti-war groups. This lasted until Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, whereupon they changed the committee's name to the "American People's Committee" and supported aid to Britain, the draft and other preparations for war. [37]

Conscientious objectors Edit

Of the more than 72,000 men registering as conscientious objectors (CO), nearly 52,000 received CO status. Of these, over 25,000 entered the military in noncombatant roles, another 12,000 went to civilian work camps, and nearly 6,000 went to prison.

Cold War Edit

The second peacetime draft began with passage of the Selective Service Act of 1948 after the STSA expired. The new law required all men of age 18 to 26 to register. It also created the system for the "Doctor Draft", aimed at inducting health professionals into military service. [38] Unless otherwise exempted or deferred (see Berry Plan), these men could be called for up to 21 months of active duty and five years of reserve duty service. Congress further tweaked this act in 1950 although the post–World War II surplus of military manpower left little need for draft calls until President Truman's declaration of a national emergency in December 1950. [39] Only 20,348 men were inducted in 1948 and only 9,781 in 1949.

Between the Korean War's outbreak in June 1950 and the armistice agreement in 1953, Selective Service inducted over 1.5 million men. [34] Another 1.3 million volunteered, usually choosing the Navy or Air Force. [26] [35] Congress passed the Universal Military Training and Service Act in 1951 to meet the demands of the war. It lowered the induction age to 18½ and extended active-duty service commitments to 24 months. Despite the early combat failures and later stalemate in Korea, the draft has been credited by some as playing a vital role in turning the tide of war. [26] A February 1953 Gallup Poll showed that 70 percent of Americans surveyed felt that the SSS had handled the draft fairly. Notably, Gallup reported that 64 percent of the demographic group including all draft age men (males 21 to 29) believed the draft to be fair. [40]

To increase equity in the system, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order on July 11, 1953 that ended the paternity deferment for married men. [41] In large part, the change in the draft served the purposes of the burgeoning Cold War. From a program that had just barely passed Congressional muster during the fearful prelude to World War II, a more robust draft continued as fears now focused on the Soviet threat. Nevertheless, some dissenting voices in Congress continued to advocate for voluntary military service. [42] [43]

The onset of the Cold War coincided with the time at which men born during the Great Depression began to reach military age. Hershey and other supporters of the draft frequently pointed out that the Depression had resulted in a substantial reduction of the birth rate in order to back up their doubts regarding the return to an all-volunteer military at a time when it was known that the number of men reaching military age was going to fall significantly. The Korean War era marked the first time that any form of student deferment had been used. During the Korean War, a student carrying at least 12 semester hours was spared until the end of his current semester. [44]

Though the United States signed the Korean War Armistice on July 27, 1953, technology brought new promises and threats. American air and nuclear power fueled the Eisenhower doctrine of "massive retaliation." This strategy demanded more machines and fewer foot soldiers, so the draft slipped to the back burner. However, SSS director Gen. Hershey urged caution, fearing the conflict looming in Vietnam. In May 1953, he told his state directors to do everything possible to keep the SSS alive in order to meet upcoming needs. [45]

Following the 1953 Korean War Armistice, Congress passed the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 with the aim of improving National Guard and federal Reserve Component readiness while also constraining its use by the president. Toward this end, it mandated a six-year service commitment, in a combination of reserve and active duty time, for every line military member regardless of their means of entry. Meanwhile, the SSS kept itself alive by devising and managing a complex system of deferments for a swelling pool of candidates during a period of shrinking requirements. The greatest challenge to the draft came not from protesters but rather from lobbyists seeking additional deferments for their constituency groups, such as scientists and farmers. [27]

Many government leaders felt that the potential for a draft was a critical element in maintaining a constant flow of volunteers. On numerous occasions, Gen. Hershey told Congress that for every man drafted, three or four more were scared into volunteering. [46] Assuming that his assessment was accurate, this would mean that more than 11 million men volunteered for service because of the draft between January 1954 and April 1975. [26]

The policy of using the draft as a force to compel voluntary enlistment was unique in American history. Previous drafts had not aimed to encourage individuals to enlist in order to gain preferential placement or less dangerous postings. However, the incremental buildup of the Vietnam War without a clear threat to the country bolstered this type of focus. [26] Some estimates suggest that almost one-third of all eligible men were conscripted during the period of 1965–69. [47] [48] This group represented those without exemption or resources to avoid military service. During the active combat phase, the possibility of avoiding combat by selecting their service and military specialty led as many as four out of 11 eligible men to enlist. [49] [50] The military relied upon this draft-induced volunteerism to make its quotas, especially the Army, which accounted for nearly 95 percent of all inductees during the Vietnam War era. For example, defense recruiting reports show that 34% of the recruits in 1964, up to 50% in 1970, indicated that they had joined voluntarily in order to avoid placement uncertainty via the draft. [51] [52] [53] These rates dwindled to 24% in 1972 and 15% in 1973 after the change to a lottery system. Accounting for other factors, it can be argued up to 60% of those who served throughout the Vietnam War era did so directly or indirectly because of the draft. [49]

In addition, deferments provided an incentive for men to follow pursuits considered useful to the state. This process, known as channeling, helped push men into educational, occupational, and family choices that they might not otherwise have pursued. Undergraduate degrees were valued. Graduate work had varying value over time, though technical and religious training received nearly constant support. War-industry support in the form of teaching, research, or skilled labor also received deferred or exempt status. Finally, married and family men were exempted because of the positive social consequences. [27] [54] This included using presidential orders to extend exemptions again to fathers and others. [55] Channeling was also seen as a means of preempting the early loss of the country's "best and brightest" who had historically joined and died early in war. [56]

In the only extended period of military conscription of U.S. males during a major peacetime period, the draft continued on a more limited basis during the late 1950s and early 1960s. While a far smaller percentage of eligible males were conscripted than in war periods, draftees by law served in the Army for two years. Elvis Presley and Willie Mays were two of the most famous people drafted during this period.

Public protests in the United States were few during the Korean War. However, the percentage of CO exemptions for inductees grew to 1.5%, compared to a rate of just 0.5% in the past two wars. The Justice Department also investigated more than 80,000 draft-evasion cases. [48] [57] [58]

Vietnam War Edit

President Kennedy's decision to send military troops to Vietnam as advisors was a signal that Selective Service Director Lewis B. Hershey needed to visit the Oval Office. From that visit emerged two wishes of JFK with regard to conscription. The first was that the names of married men with children should occupy the very bottom of the callup list. Just above them should be the names of men who were married. This Presidential policy, however, was not to be formally encoded into Selective Service Status. Men who fit into these categories became known as Kennedy Husbands. When President Lyndon Johnson decided to rescind this Kennedy policy [ clarification needed ] , there was a last-minute rush to the altar by thousands of American couples. [59]

Many early rank-and-file anti-conscription protesters had been allied with the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy. The signing in 1963 of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty left them free to focus on other issues. [ citation needed ] Syndicated cartoonist Al Capp portrayed them as S.W.I.N.E, (Students Wildly Indignant About Nearly Everything). The catalyst for protest reconnection was the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Consequently, there was some opposition to the draft even before the major U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War began. The large cohort of Baby Boomers who became eligible for military service during the Vietnam War was responsible [ clarification needed ] for a steep increase in the number of exemptions and deferments, especially for college students. Besides being able to avoid the draft, college graduates who volunteered for military service (primarily as commissioned officers) had a much better chance of securing a preferential posting compared to less-educated inductees.

As U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam increased, more young men were drafted for service there, and many of those still at home sought means of avoiding the draft. Since only 15,000 National Guard and Reserve soldiers were sent to South Vietnam, enlistment in the Guard or the Reserves became a popular means of avoiding serving in a war zone. For those who could meet the more stringent enlistment standards, service in the Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard was a means of reducing the chances of being killed. Vocations to the ministry and the rabbinate soared, because divinity students were exempt from the draft. [ citation needed ] Doctors and draft board members found themselves being pressured by relatives or family friends to exempt potential draftees. [ citation needed ]

The marriage deferment ended suddenly on August 26, 1965. Around 3:10pm President Johnson signed an order allowing the draft of men who married after midnight that day, then around 5pm he announced the change for the first time. [60]

Some conscientious objectors objected to the war based on the theory of Just War. One of these, Stephen Spiro, was convicted of avoiding the draft, but given a suspended sentence of five years. He was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford. [61]

There were 8,744,000 service members between 1964 and 1975, of whom 3,403,000 were deployed to Southeast Asia. [62] From a pool of approximately 27 million, the draft raised 2,215,000 men for military service (in the United States, South Vietnam, and elsewhere) during the Vietnam War era. The majority of service members deployed to South Vietnam were volunteers, even though [ clarification needed ] hundreds of thousands of men opted to join the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard (for three or four year terms of enlistment) before they could be drafted, serve for two years, and have no choice over their military occupational specialty (MOS) [ clarification needed ] . [63]

Of the nearly 16 million men not engaged in active military service, 96% were exempted (typically because of jobs including other military service), deferred (usually for educational reasons), or disqualified (usually for physical and mental deficiencies but also for criminal records including draft violations). [26] The requirements for obtaining and maintaining an educational deferment changed several times in the late 1960s. For several years, students were required to take an annual qualification test. In 1967 educational deferments were changed for graduate students. Those starting graduate studies in the fall of 1967 were given two semester deferments becoming eligible in June 1968. Those further along in their graduate study who entered prior to the summer of 1967 could continue to receive a deferment until they completed their studies. Peace Corps Volunteers were no longer given deferments and their induction was left to the discretion of their local boards. However most boards allowed Peace Corps Volunteers to complete their two years assignment before inducting them into the service. On December 1, 1969, a lottery was held to establish a draft priority for all those born between 1944 and 1950. Those with a high number no longer had to be concerned about the draft. Nearly 500,000 men were disqualified for criminal records, but less than 10,000 of them were convicted of draft violations. [35] Finally, as many as 100,000 draft eligible men fled the country. [64] [65]

End of conscription Edit

During the 1968 presidential election, Richard Nixon campaigned on a promise to end the draft. [66] [67] He had first become interested in the idea of an all-volunteer army during his time out of office, based upon a paper by Martin Anderson of Columbia University. [68] Nixon also saw ending the draft as an effective way to undermine the anti-Vietnam War movement, since he believed affluent youths would stop protesting the war once their own probability of having to fight in it was gone. [67] [69] There was opposition to the all-volunteer notion from both the Department of Defense and Congress, so Nixon took no immediate action towards ending the draft early in his presidency. [68]

Instead, the Gates Commission was formed, headed by Thomas S. Gates, Jr., a former Secretary of Defense in the Eisenhower administration. Gates initially opposed the all-volunteer army idea, but changed his mind during the course of the 15-member commission's work. [68] The Gates Commission issued its report in February 1970, describing how adequate military strength could be maintained without having conscription. [66] [70] The existing draft law was expiring at the end of June 1971, but the Department of Defense and Nixon administration decided the draft needed to continue for at least some time. [70] In February 1971, the administration requested of Congress a two-year extension of the draft, to June 1973. [71] [72]

Senatorial opponents of the war wanted to reduce this to a one-year extension, or eliminate the draft altogether, or tie the draft renewal to a timetable for troop withdrawal from Vietnam [73] Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska took the most forceful approach, trying to filibuster the draft renewal legislation, shut down conscription, and directly force an end to the war. [74] Senators supporting Nixon's war efforts supported the bill, even though some had qualms about ending the draft. [72] After a prolonged battle in the Senate, in September 1971 cloture was achieved over the filibuster and the draft renewal bill was approved. [75] Meanwhile, military pay was increased as an incentive to attract volunteers, and television advertising for the U.S. Army began. [66] With the end of active U.S. ground participation in Vietnam, December 1972 saw the last men conscripted, who were born in 1952 and earlier [76] and who reported for duty during the first six months of 1973.

On February 2, 1972, a drawing was held to determine draft priority numbers for men born in 1953, but in January 1973 Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced that no further draft orders would be issued. [77] [78] In March 1973, 1974, and 1975, the Selective Service assigned draft priority numbers for all men born in 1954, 1955, and 1956, in case the draft was extended, but it never was. [79]

Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger, believed to be the last drafted enlisted ranked soldier still on active duty, retired in 2011. [80] [81] Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ralph E. Rigby, the last Vietnam War-era drafted soldier of Warrant Officer rank, retired from the army on November 10, 2014 after a 42-year career. [82]

December 28, 1972 had been scheduled to be the last day that draftees would be inducted that year. However, President Nixon declared that day a national day of mourning due to the death of former President Truman, and Federal offices were closed. [83] Men scheduled to report that day were never inducted, since the draft was not resumed in 1973.

Post-1980 draft registration Edit

On July 2, 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued Presidential Proclamation 4771 and re-instated the requirement that young men register with the Selective Service System. [84] At that time it was required that all males, born on or after January 1, 1960, register with the Selective Service System. Those who were now in this category were male U.S. citizens and male immigrant non-citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 they were required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday even if they were not actually eligible to join the military.

The Selective Service System, still essentially what it was in 1980, describes its mission as "to serve the emergency manpower needs of the Military by conscripting untrained manpower, or personnel with professional health care skills, if directed by Congress and the President in a national crisis". [85] Registration forms are available either online, or at any U.S. Post Office or DMV.

The Selective Service registration form states that failure to register is a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment or a $250,000 fine. [86] In practice, though, no one has been prosecuted for failure to comply with draft registration since 1986, [87] in part because prosecutions of draft resisters proved counter-productive for the government during the Vietnam War, and in part because of the difficulty of proving that noncompliance with the law was "knowing and wilful". In interviews published in U.S. News & World Report in May 2016, current and former Selective Service System officials said that in 1988, the Department of Justice and Selective Service agreed to suspend any further prosecutions of nonregistrants. [88] Many men do not register at all, register late, or change addresses without notifying the Selective Service System. [89]

Even in the absence of prosecution, however, failure to register may lead to other consequences. Registration is a requirement for employment by the federal government and some state governments, as well as for receiving various state benefits such as driver's licenses. [90] Refusing to register can also cause a loss of eligibility for federal financial aid for college. [91]

On December 1, 1989, Congress ordered the Selective Service System to put in place a system capable of drafting "persons qualified for practice or employment in a health care and professional occupation", if such a special-skills draft should be ordered by Congress. [92] In response, Selective Service published plans for the "Health Care Personnel Delivery System" (HCPDS) in 1989 and has had them ready ever since. The concept underwent a preliminary field exercise in Fiscal Year 1998, followed by a more extensive nationwide readiness exercise in Fiscal Year 1999. The HCPDS plans include women and men ages 20–54 in 57 different job categories. [93] As of May 2003, the Defense Department has said the most likely form of draft is a special skills draft, probably of health care workers. [94]

In 1918, the Supreme Court ruled that the World War I draft did not violate the United States Constitution in the Selective Draft Law Cases. The Court summarized the history of conscription in England and in colonial America, a history that it read as establishing that the Framers envisioned compulsory military service as a governmental power. It held that the Constitution's grant to Congress of the powers to declare war and to raise and support armies included the power to mandate conscription. It rejected arguments based on states' rights, the 13th Amendment, and other provisions of the Constitution.

Later, during the Vietnam War, a lower appellate court also concluded that the draft was constitutional. United States v. Holmes, 387 F.2d 781 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 391 U.S. 936 (1968). [95] Justice William O. Douglas, in voting to hear the appeal in Holmes, agreed that the government had the authority to employ conscription in wartime, but argued that the constitutionality of a draft in the absence of a declaration of war was an open question, which the Supreme Court should address.

During the World War I era, the Supreme Court allowed the government great latitude in suppressing criticism of the draft. Examples include Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919) [96] and Gilbert v. Minnesota, 254 U.S. 325 (1920). [97] In subsequent decades, however, the Court has taken a much broader view of the extent to which advocacy speech is protected by the First Amendment. Thus, in 1971 the Court held it unconstitutional for a state to punish a man who entered a county courthouse wearing a jacket with the words "Fuck the Draft" visible on it. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). [98] Nevertheless, protesting the draft by the specific means of burning a draft registration card can be constitutionally prohibited, because of the government's interest in prohibiting the "nonspeech" element involved in destroying the card. United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968). [99]

Since the reinstatement of draft registration in 1980, the Supreme Court has heard and decided four cases related to the Military Selective Service Act: Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57 (1981), upholding the Constitutionality of requiring men but not women to register for the draft Selective Service v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), 468 U.S. 841 (1984), upholding the Constitutionality of the first of the federal "Solomon Amendment" laws, which requires applicants for Federal student aid to certify that they have complied with draft registration, either by having registered or by not being required to register Wayte v. United States, 470 U.S. 598 (1985), upholding the policies and procedures which the Supreme Court thought the government had used to select the "most vocal" nonregistrants for prosecution, after the government refused to comply with discovery orders by the trial court to produce documents and witnesses related to the selection of nonregistrants for prosecution and Elgin v. Department of the Treasury, 567 U.S. ____ (2012), regarding procedures for judicial review of denial of Federal employment for nonregistrants. [100]

In 1981, several men filed lawsuit in the case Rostker v. Goldberg, alleging that the Military Selective Service Act violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by requiring that men only and not also women register with the Selective Service System. The Supreme Court upheld the act, stating that Congress's "decision to exempt women was not the accidental byproduct of a traditional way of thinking about women", that "since women are excluded from combat service by statute or military policy, men and women are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft, and Congress' decision to authorize the registration of only men therefore does not violate the Due Process Clause", and that "the argument for registering women was based on considerations of equity, but Congress was entitled, in the exercise of its constitutional powers, to focus on the question of military need, rather than 'equity. ' " [101]

The Rostker v. Goldberg opinion's dependence upon deference on decision of the executive to exclude women from combat has garnered renewed scrutiny since the Department of Defense announced its decision in January 2013 to do away with most of the federal policies that have kept women from serving in combat roles in ground war situations. [102] Both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force had by then already opened up virtually all positions in sea and air combat to women. Lawsuits were filed challenging the continued constitutionality of requiring men but not women to register with the Selective Service system: National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System (filed April 4, 2013, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed by the District Court July 29, 2013 as not "ripe" for decision appeal argued December 8, 2015 before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals [103] reversed and remanded February 19, 2016 [104] ), and Kyle v. Selective Service System (filed July 3, 2015, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey), brought on behalf of 17-year-old Elizabeth Kyle-LaBell by her mother, Allison. Elizabeth tried to register, but as a female, was not eligible. [105]

National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System Edit

In February 2019, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that male-only conscription registration breached the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, overturning the previous ruling on the grounds that the policies of the armed forces regarding women had changed significantly, such that they can now be used interchangeably with men. In a case brought by non-profit men's rights organisation the National Coalition for Men against the U.S. Selective Service System, judge Gray H. Miller issued a declaratory judgement that the male-only registration requirement is unconstitutional, though did not specify what action the government should take. [106] That decision was reversed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. [107] A petition for review was then filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. [108]

According to the Selective Service System, [109]

A conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles. .

Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man's lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims.

The Supreme Court has ruled in cases United States v. Seeger [110] (1965) and Welsh v. United States [111] (1970) that conscientious objection can be by non-religious beliefs as well as religious beliefs but it has also ruled in Gillette v. United States (1971) against objections to specific wars as grounds for conscientious objection. [112]

There is currently no mechanism to indicate that one is a conscientious objector in the Selective Service system. According to the SSS, after a person is drafted, he can claim conscientious objector status and then justify it before the Local Board. This is criticized because during the times of a draft, when the country is in emergency conditions, there could be increased pressure for Local Boards to be more harsh on conscientious objector claims.

There are two types of status for conscientious objectors. If a person objects only to combat but not to service in the military, then the person could be given noncombatant service in the military without training of weapons. If the person objects to all military service, then the person could be ordered to "alternative service" with a job "deemed to make a meaningful contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest".

The "poverty draft" is a term describing U.S. military recruiters' purposeful tendency to focus their recruiting efforts on inner-city and poor rural schools. The low-income youth and young people of color who attend these schools generally have fewer good educational and job opportunities than middle-class and wealthy youth and are therefore more likely to enlist. Proponents of the poverty draft view often claim that because of this the U.S. armed forces are disproportionally men and women of color and from poor and working-class backgrounds. [113] [114]

The Selective Service System has maintained that they have implemented several reforms that would make the draft more fair and equitable.

Some of the measures they have implemented include: [115]

  • Before and during the Vietnam War, a young man could get a deferment by showing that he was a full-time student making satisfactory progress towards a degree now deferment only lasts to the end of the semester. If the man is a senior he can defer until the end of the academic year.
  • The government has said that draft boards are now more representative of the local communities in areas such as race and national origin.
  • A lottery system would be used to determine the order of people being called up. Previously the oldest men who were found eligible for the draft would be taken first. In the new system, the men called first would be those who are or will turn 20 years old in the calendar year or those whose deferments will end in the calendar year. Each year after, the man will be placed on a lower priority status until his liability ends.

The effort to enforce Selective Service registration law was abandoned in 1986. Since then, no attempt to reinstate conscription has been able to attract much support in the legislature or among the public. [89] Since early 2003, when the Iraq War appeared imminent, there had been attempts through legislation and campaign rhetoric to begin a new public conversation on the topic. Public opinion since 1981 has been largely negative. [116]

In 2003, several Democratic congressmen (Charles Rangel of New York, Jim McDermott of Washington, John Conyers of Michigan, John Lewis of Georgia, Pete Stark of California, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii) introduced legislation that would draft both men and women into either military or civilian government service, should there be a draft in the future. The Republican majority leadership suddenly considered the bill, nine months after its introduction, without a report from the Armed Services Committee (to which it had been referred), and just one month prior to the 2004 presidential and congressional elections. The Republican leadership used an expedited parliamentary procedure that would have required a two-thirds vote for passage of the bill. The bill was defeated on October 5, 2004, with two members voting for it and 402 members voting against.

This statement was in reference to the U.S. Department of Defense use of "stop-loss" orders, which have extended the Active Duty periods of some military personnel. All enlistees, upon entering the service, volunteer for a minimum eight-year Military Service Obligation (MSO). This MSO is split between a minimum active duty period, followed by a reserve period where enlistees may be called back to active duty for the remainder of the eight years. [117] Some of these active duty extensions have been for as long as two years. The Pentagon stated that as of August 24, 2004, 20,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines had been affected. [118] As of January 31, 2006 it has been reported that more than 50,000 soldiers and reservists had been affected. [119]

Despite arguments by defense leaders that they had no interest in re-instituting the draft, Representative Neil Abercrombie's (D-HI) inclusion of a DOD memo in the Congressional Record which detailed a meeting by senior leaders signaled renewed interest. Though the conclusion of the meeting memo did not call for a reinstatement of the draft, it did suggest Selective Service Act modifications to include registration by women and self-reporting of critical skills that could serve to meet military, homeland-defense, and humanitarian needs. [120] This hinted at more targeted draft options being considered, perhaps like that of the "Doctor Draft" that began in the 1950s to provide nearly 66% of the medical professionals who served in the Army in Korea. [121] Once created, this manpower tool continued to be used through 1972. The meeting memo gave DOD's primary reason for opposing a draft as a matter of cost effectiveness and efficiency. Draftees with less than two years' retention were said to be a net drain on military resources providing insufficient benefit to offset overhead costs of using them. [26]

Mentions of the draft during the presidential campaign led to a resurgence of anti-draft and draft resistance organizing. [122] One poll of young voters in October 2004 found that 29% would resist if drafted. [123]

In November 2006, Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) again called for the draft to be reinstated Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rejected the proposal. [124]

On December 19, 2006, President George W. Bush announced that he was considering sending more troops to Iraq. The next day, the Selective Service System's director for operations and chief information officer, Scott Campbell, announced plans for a "readiness exercise" to test the system's operations in 2006, for the first time since 1998. [125]

On December 21, 2006, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, when asked by a reporter whether the draft should be reinstated to make the military more equal, said, "I think that our society would benefit from that, yes sir." Nicholson proceeded to relate his experience as a company commander in an infantry unit which brought together soldiers of different socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels, noting that the draft "does bring people from all quarters of our society together in the common purpose of serving". Nicholson later issued a statement saying he does not support reinstating the draft. [126]

On August 10, 2007, with National Public Radio on "All Things Considered", Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, National Security Adviser to the President and Congress for all matters pertaining to the United States Military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, expressed support for a draft to alleviate the stress on the Army's all-volunteer force. He cited the fact that repeated deployments place much strain upon one soldier's family and himself which, in turn, can affect retention. [127]

A similar bill to Rangel's 2003 one was introduced in 2007, called the Universal National Service Act of 2007 (H.R. 393), but it has not received a hearing or been scheduled for consideration.

At the end of June 2014 in Pennsylvania, 14,250 letters of conscription were erroneously posted to men born in the 19th century calling upon them to register for the US military draft. This was attributed to a clerk at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation who failed to select a century during a transfer of 400,000 records to the Selective Service as a result, the system did not differentiate between men born in 1993 (who would need to register) and those born in 1893 (who would almost certainly be dead). [128] This was compared to the "Year 2000 problem" ("Y2K bug"), in which computer programs that represented years using two digits instead of four digits were expected to have problems beginning in the year 2000. [129] The Selective Service identified 27,218 records of men born in the 19th century made errantly applicable by the change of century and began sending out notices to them on June 30. [129]

On June 14, 2016, the Senate voted to require women to register for the draft, though language requiring this was dropped from later versions of the bill. [130]

In 2020, the bipartisan National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued a final report recommending that the military improve enlistment rates through improved outreach and recruiting rather than a renewed draft. However, it also recommended that the U.S. Department of Defense perform regular national mobilization drills to rehearse a recommencement of the draft. [131]

The Selective Service (and the draft) in the United States is not limited to citizens. Howard Stringer, for example, was drafted six weeks after arriving from his native Britain in 1965. [132] [133] Today, non-citizen males of appropriate age in the United States, who are permanent residents (holders of green cards), seasonal agricultural workers not holding an H-2A Visa, refugees, parolees, asylees, and illegal immigrants, are required to register with the Selective Service System. [134] Refusal to do so is grounds for denial of a future citizenship application. In addition, immigrants who seek to naturalize as citizens must, as part of the Oath of Citizenship, swear to the following:

. that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law [135]

However, since 1975, USCIS has allowed the oath to be taken without the clauses: ". that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law . " [135]

Civil War Draft Riots

Brooklyn had a free black community as well, called Weeksville. Established in 1838, and allowed economic mobility, intellectual freedom, and was self-sustaining . By the 1850s, Weeksville had over 500 residents, “ boasting more opportunity for homeownership, employment and success for its black residents than any other part of Brooklyn, and well beyond.”. Many African .

The Draft Riots: Final Thoughts and Bibliography

The riots were quelled when federal troops faced off with rioters on Thursday, July 16th, eventually ending the immediate disarray in New York City. After the riots were over, Governor Horatio Seymour addressed the people of New York City and made a statement to the rioters, “I know that many who have participated in these .

The Draft Riots: Its Roots and Occurance

The New York City Civil War Draft Riots of 1863: Four Days of Unrest On the morning of July 13th, 1863, the American Civil War had been ongoing for two years. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on the first of that year, freeing the slaves. The battle of Gettysburg had claimed its lives, .

The Draft Riots: Staten Island

Staten Island traditional oral history recalls the events of the initial response to the riots as a single noble defense, but in actuality had two outcomes. The main telling goes that citizens in Port Richmond, which was a ‘hop, skip, and jump’ away from Manhattan, pointed a cannon towards the bridge at Bodine’s Creek to .

The Draft Riots: Its Roots and Occurance

The New York City Civil War Draft Riots of 1863: Four Days of Unrest On the morning of July 13th, 1863, the American Civil War had been ongoing for two years. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on the first of that year, freeing the slaves. The battle&hellip Read more

The Draft Riots: Staten Island

Staten Island traditional oral history recalls the events of the initial response to the riots as a single noble defense, but in actuality had two outcomes. The main telling goes that citizens in Port Richmond, which was a ‘hop, skip, and jump’ away from Manhattan, pointed a cannon towards the&hellip Read more

The Draft Riots: Brooklyn

Brooklyn had a free black community as well, called Weeksville. Established in 1838, and allowed economic mobility, intellectual freedom, and was self-sustaining . By the 1850s, Weeksville had over 500 residents, “ boasting more opportunity for homeownership, employment and success for its black residents than any other part of Brooklyn,&hellip Read more

The Draft Riots: Final Thoughts and Bibliography

The riots were quelled when federal troops faced off with rioters on Thursday, July 16th, eventually ending the immediate disarray in New York City. After the riots were over, Governor Horatio Seymour addressed the people of New York City and made a statement to the rioters, “I know that many&hellip Read more

New York City draft riots

The New York City draft riots (July 13–16, 1863), known at the time as Draft Week, were violent disturbances in New York City that were the culmination of working-class discontent with new laws passed by Congress that year to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. The riots remain the largest civil and racial insurrection in American history, aside from the Civil War itself.

President Abraham Lincoln diverted several regiments of militia and volunteer troops from following up after the Battle of Gettysburg to control the city. The rioters were overwhelmingly working-class men, primarily ethnic Irish, resenting particularly that wealthier men, who could afford to pay a $300 (equivalent to $5,746 in 2015) commutation fee to hire a substitute, were spared from the draft.

Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests turned into a race riot, with white rioters, mainly but not exclusively Irish immigrants, attacking blacks wherever they could find them. The official death toll was listed at 119. The conditions in the city were such that Major General John E. Wool, commander of the Department of the East, said on July 16 that "Martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not a sufficient force to enforce it." The military did not reach the city until after the first day of rioting, when mobs had already ransacked or destroyed numerous public buildings, two Protestant churches, the homes of various abolitionists or sympathizers, many black homes, and the Colored Orphan Asylum at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, which was burned to the ground.

The demographics of the city changed as a result of the riot. So many blacks left Manhattan permanently (many moving to Brooklyn), that by 1865 their population fell below 10,000, the number in 1820.

Persian Gulf War/Iraq War

Joshua Besneatte, of Los Angeles, and Susan Robbins, right, of Irvine, take part in an anti-war protest at the Federal Building in Westwood, California October 6, 2002 . Over 4,000 people gathered to voice their opposition to a war against Iraq.

Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

There was little protest against the 1991 Persian Gulf War in which the United States led an international coalition to repel the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, but that was not the case more than a decade later. Although most Americans supported the invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks, huge protests questioned the purpose of the 2003 Iraq War that toppled the government of Saddam Hussein.

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Watch the video: New York City Draft Riots of 1863 (January 2022).