Compulsory enrollment and induction into the military service.
Conscription is commonly known as the draft, but the concepts are not exactly the same. Conscription is the compulsory induction of individuals into the ARMED SERVICES, whereas the draft is the procedure by which individuals are chosen for conscription. Men within a certain age group must register with the Selective Service for possible conscription, but conscription itself was suspended in 1973.
Conscription first came into use as a legal term in France in 1798. It derives from the Latin conscriptionem, which refers to the gathering of troops by written orders, and conscribere, which means "to put a name on a list or roll, especially a list of soldiers." A person who becomes a member of the armed forces through the process of conscription is called a conscript.
Conscription typically involves individuals who are deemed fit for military service. At times, however, governments have instituted universal military service, in which all men or all people of a certain age are conscripted.
Most governments use conscription at some time, usually when the voluntary enlistment of soldiers fails to meet military needs. Conscription by national governments became widespread in Europe during the nineteenth century.
Some of the American colonies employed conscription. During the Revolutionary War, the American government used selective, temporary conscription to fill the ranks of its military.
The United States used conscription again briefly during the Civil War. The Union Enrollment Act of 1863 drafted all able-bodied men between twenty and forty-five years of age. The act provoked a hostile public response because it excused from military service those who were able to pay a fee of three hundred dollars. The law incited violent public disturbances, called the Draft Riots, in New York City between July 13 and 16, 1863. One thousand people were injured in the riots.
In 1917, one month after the entry of the United States into WORLD WAR I, Congress passed the Selective Draft Act (40 Stat. 76). The act created a government office to oversee conscription. It also authorized local draft boards to select eligible individuals for conscription. The following year, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of conscription, noting that Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to "raise and support Armies" (Selective