Conscription

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Conscription is the process of coercing men into becoming soldiers by force of law. It was a disorganized process with many injustices until World War I, and it has always been controversial.

Daniel Webster was elected to the House of Representatives in 1812. As a New Englander, he naturally tended to oppose the War of 1812, which was unpopular in his region. In a speech in 1814, he took particular exception to the government`s plan to fill army ranks through conscription:

The people of this country have not established for themselves such a fabric of despotism. They have not purchased at a vast expense of their own treasure and their own blood a Magna Carta to be slaves. 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?

Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard University, wrote in November 1916 that universal military service would be a positive good for the country, in addition to contributing to a proper level of {:military preparedness] in light of conditions in Europe at the time. His points included the observation that "all the able-bodied men in the country would receive a training in the hard work of a soldier, which be of some service to them in any industry in which they might afterward engage."