Selective Draft Law Cases (Arver v. United States), 245 U.S. 366; 38 S. Ct. 159; 62 L. Ed. 349 (1918)

Selective Draft Law Cases (Arver v. United States), 245 U.S. 366; 38 S. Ct. 159; 62 L. Ed. 349 (1918)

Facts—On May 18, 1917, Congress provided that all male citizens between the ages of 21 and 30, with certain exceptions, should be subject to military service, and authorized the president to select from them a body of one million men. All persons made liable to service by the act were required to present themselves at a time appointed by the president for registration. The plaintiffs failed to present themselves as required and were prosecuted and convicted.

Question—Does Congress have constitutional authority to draft men to raise military forces?


ReasonsC.J. White (9–0). The power of conscription is included in the constitutional power to raise armies. The power is not limited by the fact that other powers of Congress over state militia are narrower in scope than powers over the regular army. The Court stated that when the Constitution came to be formed, one of the recognized necessities for its adoption was the want of power in Congress to raise an army and the dependence upon the states for their quotas. In supplying the power it was manifestly intended to give Congress all and leave none to the states, since, besides the delegation to Congress of authority to raise armies, the Constitution prohibited the states, without the consent of Congress, from keeping troops in time of peace or engaging in war.

“Finally, as we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation, as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people, can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibtion of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement.”

Leave a Reply