Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 7 >> Connective Tissue to Cooke >> Conscription


service, war, scheme, army, system, england, military and lord

CONSCRIPTION, the enlisting of men for military service by a compulsory levy, at the pleasure of the government. It is dis tinguished from recrttiting, or voluntary en listment. Conscription was enforced in the states of ancient Greece, most especially in Sparta. The name is derived from the Roman military constitution. Every Roman citizen was obliged to serve as a soldier from his 17th to his 45th year; the consuls announced every year by a herald .or written order that a levy was to be made (milites cogere colligere, scribere .coriscribere); and all citizens capable of bearing arms assembled in the Campus Martius or near the capitol, where the consuls assisted by the legionary tribunes made the levy, choosing as many men as were needed from each tnbe. The renascence of conscrip tion in the form of a scheme of universal serv ice embracing the greater part of the popula tion dates from the French Revolution. The combination of volunteers and conscripts which constituted the army prior to 1792 was replaced by a purely conscriptive scheme. However, as the administration of this scheme was left in the hands of thc local authorities, the army soon became filled with vagabonds and crim inals. After 1796 the revulsion against war led to a considerable opposition to conscription. In 1798 the famous conscription law of Jourdan was enacted, which made all male citizens be tween the ages of 20 and 25 liable to a call to the colors. A most vicious clause in this law, which remained in force until 1870, and may fairly be charged with contribution to the loss of the Franco-Prussian War, was that which permitted the buying of exemption.

The German system of conscription dates from the degradation of Prussia after Jena. The treaty of peace, which forbade the mainte nance of a large standing army, compelled Prussia to turn her army into a vast training school, whereby at a small expense and without violating her treaty agreements a vast reserve was built up from the many quotas that tmder went a brief period of service with the colors. This system is now the basis of the military organization of the whole continent of Europe, and of Japan. It consists in compulsory serv ice with the colors for a short period, a long period in the various reserves and few exemp tions. Switzerland (q.v.) is unique among the Continental nations in replacing the service with the colors by a few weelcs' training each year.

Until the beginning of the European War, England and America were the only two countries which relied exclusively on the voluntary system. In England the voluntary

system was attacked by Lord Roberts, but de fended by Lord Haldane and Sir Ian Hamilton, on the grounds that the volunteer, especially the trained volunteer which the British long period of service furnished, was proportionally so much a better soldier for such remote and difficult wars as those into which Great Britain was likely to enter as to counterbalance his relative fewness in numbers. Meanwhile, Australia had the distinction of being the first English spealcing nation to initiate a limited compulsory military training and service. Until January 1916 England retained the scheme of voluntary service, but with a con tinually increasing moral pressure from un official and official sources on those who did not enlist. In the autumn of 1915 Lord Derby de vised a system whereby it was possible for a .man to enroll himself for military service so that he would be called up when he was needed. Soon afterward certain restrictions were adopted prohibiting the emigration of unmar ried men. These restrictions obviously had in view the ultimate adoption of compulsory serv ice. This was enacted in a bill introduced by Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister, on 4 Jan. 1916. The Derby scheme remained in effect until 2 March, when conscription came into force. The conscription scheme adopted is unique in exempting from armed service (not from all service whatever) those who have con scientious objections to warfare. The sincerity of their objection, however, is subjected to a rigorous examination. Ireland was excluded from the provisions of the act See WAR, EUROPEAN.

Immediately upon entering into the Euro pean War America adopted conscription. (For the details of the scheme adopted, and for the practice of conscription in the War of the Rebellion, see DaArrs). Canada also initiated conscription in 1918, but at the present time (March 1918), it appears that Australia, which had conscription for home service long before the War, is unlikely to adopt conscription for foreign service. It has been put to a vote, and has been rejected. The policy of England, the United States and Canada toward conscription in time of peace is as yet indeterminate. (For the organization of the conscript artnies of the world, see ARMY ; ARMY ORGANIZATION). COII sult Beyerlein, F. A., (Jena oder Sedan' (1903) ; Chevrillon, A., 'England and the War' (London 1917); Hamilton, Sir Ian, (Compul sory Service' (London 1911) ; Lord Roberts, (Fallacies and Facts' (London 1911).