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This term refers to the compulsory induction of soldiers in wartime to serve outside their home communities, as opposed to the enrollment of militia for local defense. The first Anglo-American draft occurred in the Seven Years' War, when seven of the thirteen colonies (New England, N.Y., Va., S.C.) passed laws to impress men out of the militia for offensive operations. In the Revolution, drafting was universally employed to fill the Continental army's ranks. The War of 1812 and Mexican War were too brief to require conscription.
The CSA Congress passed the first national draft law on 16 April 1862. The US later adopted the Conscription Act (3 March 1863), which made all men of 20–45 years liable for military duty, but allowed inductees to furnish a substitute or pay $300 for the army to use as bounties to attract enlistees. The US law provoked the New York City Civil War draft riots; this draft raised 46,347 conscripts and 200,921 substitutes, 25 percent of Union soldiers raised after its inception.
The Selective Service Act (1917) was ruled constitutional in Arver v. United States. The law registered 23,900,000 men for World War I. It inducted 2,800,000, of whom 16 percent did not report for duty or immediately deserted. The draft provided 53 percent of the army's troops and 45 percent of all military personnel.
The Selective Training and Service Act (1940) instituted the first peacetime draft. In World War II, it registered 49,000,000 men and inducted 10,002,000. It provided 80 percent of the army (including the air corps), and 61 percent of all personnel. The courts imprisoned 11,879 men for draft evasion during the war.
The selective service system expired on 31 March 1947. It was restored by law on 24 June 1948 (to expire on 9 July 1950), and 30,000 men were inducted before the draft was suspended in January 1949. Congress extended conscription for two years when the Korean War began in June 1950. The war's 1,560,000 draftees constituted 55 percent of the army and 27 percent of all the armed forces. The government prosecuted 15,590 men for draft evasion.
Selective service continued without interruption in the 1950s. During 1954–61, 1,530,000 men were drafted for the army, 41 percent of all incoming soldiers. Over 2,000,000 men were conscripted in the Vietnam War era, 23 percent of all military personnel and 45 percent of the army, of whom 136,900 refused to report for duty. The Defense Department stopped the draft on 27 January 1973, and the selective service law expired on 30 June 1973. Draft registration continued until it was ended by executive order in 1975. Jimmy Carter pardoned all Vietnam draft evaders on 21 January 1977. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a law imposing draft registration was signed on 27 June 1980, but without Carter's proposal that women be eligible. The Supreme Court upheld exclusion of women in Rostker v. Goldberg. Ronald Reagan again ended draft registration by executive order.