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The Power Of Conscription Essay

1424 words - 6 pages

“Congress shall have power to raise and support armies…” (Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution). In the midst of World War I, Woodrow Wilson the president at the time was prompted to institute a way to recruit men for the war effort. The solution to this particular need was the Selective Service Act, which was passed by Congress on May 18, 1917, approximately six weeks after the United States formally entered the war. This act gave the president the power to draft soldiers for the First World War. The draft would come to be seen as an effective way to recruit men to fight with American’s Allies to defeat Germany. The origin of the Selective Service Act along with its effects can be ...view middle of the document...

Incredibly, within a few months there were roughly ten million men that had registered across the country in response to the draft (“U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act”). Even though the men entering to fight in the First World War by means of the draft were not highly experienced the effects of the Selective Service Act were seen to have a great impact on the war as a whole.
The effects of the Selective Service Act were evident in the sudden increase of the U.S. Army as well as many of these men received awards for their heroic fighting in battle. One month after the act had been signed into law, drafted troops were arriving in Europe. The majority of these men needed to be transported and trained. They did not begin having a substantial role in the fighting in France until a year later, during the spring and summer of 1918. At that time, Russia had pulled themselves out of the fighting due to uprising problems in their own country, while Germany had launched an aggressive offensive on the Western front. The U.S. not only gave its Allies much needed help in the area of fresh troops but also in the form of economic assistance. America raised income taxes to generate more revenue for the war effort. The U.S. also sold liberty bonds, helping citizens finance purchases of products and raw materials (“U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act”). Not only did men come into the army through the draft but they also volunteered for service. Three million came in through the draft, whereas two million volunteered. African Americans also entered the armed forces through the draft, 240,000 of them entered with most of them serving in France. Unfortunately African Americans had a greater chance of being drafted but a less likely chance of seeing combat compared to white Americans. This fact did not stop the 369th Infantry, one of the most famous black combat regiments from receiving a prestigious award of heroism from the French government for being in the trenches for almost two hundred days. One hundred and seventy-one individual soldiers were also awarded for their courage under fire during combat (Allen, Schweikart 517). By the close of World War I in 1918, twenty-four million men had registered under the Selective Service Act. Out of almost 4.8 million Americans that eventually served in the war, 2.8 of them had been drafted (“U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act”). The Selective Service Act had a great impact on the war in the area of recruiting much needed men to fight in the First World War. Similarly in prior wars the American government instituted conscriptions but these differed in some areas compared to the Selective Service Act.
Prior to World War I America had fought in multiple wars, including the war that gave the U.S. their independence, the wars against Mexico, and the Civil War. In all of these wars the president at the time found himself looking for a method in which to grow America’s army so that they were adequately...

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