Monday, June 5, 2017

Today In Wyoming's History: June 5: Conscription Arrives

Today In Wyoming's History: June 5:

1917  Conscription starts for World War One.  Or, more accurately, registration for the draft commenced.

This was the first time that the United States had conscripted soldiers, in the sense in which the term is generally used, since the Civil War and it was only the second time in US history that the nation had conscripted.

The measure had been debated and was not without controversy.  Even the name of the process, which would stick for later acts of conscription, "Selective Service", reflected that, as the system was designed around the concept of men being selected by local boards, and it was hoped that it would seem, therefore, less of a pure act of compulsion by the national government.

While it was generally supported, it remained controversial in some quarters.  Having said that, the huge patriotic drive that was engineered by the Wilson Administration to support the war effort had a definite effect  and what was feared might be a deeply unpopular move proved not to be.

It perhaps should be noted, as a historical item of interest, that while this was the second draft in American history, Americans in 1917 were only about sixty or so years past the era of compulsory male militia duty, another type of military compulsion. That duty was universal early in the country's history, but it generally wasn't terribly burdensome for most men (except, perhaps, when the militia was called out), as except during times of emergency, the militia generally mustered once a year and it generally turned into a bit of a party.  Conscription of this type, ie., the World War One draft, definitely wasn't a party.

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