At the time we entered the present war, we had approximately 1oo,ooo men actually in the federal service. We were confronted with the problem of raising and training a large army in a short time. There were in general two possible courses of action open before us. The first, which might seem to be the traditional method, was that of voluntary enlistment. But for I number of years, there had-been a growing sentiment among our people that the system of voluntary enlistment was neither right in principle nor in accord with the best interests of the nation. The plan these people favored was the other alternative; namely, that of the draft. The draft had never before in our history been really adopted in principle. At the time of the Civil War, it is true, a certain number of troops were raised by conscription, but the draft used then was fundamentally different from our present system. To begin with, the principle of universal liability to military service was never adopted. The system of voluntary enlistment was still the chief means of raising troops, and the draft was used solely as a club to encourage enlistment. The Civil War plan too, contained another very pernicious feature, which is expressly excluded from our present program: that was the provision whereby a man drafted, by paying a certain sum of money, could be excused from military service. We were then to raise an army in a way in which we had never raised one before. But in so doing, we were not after all departing radically from our past traditions; on the contrary we were putting in practice as we have never done before in similar circumstances, the basic ideas of democracy on which our government was originally founded and on which it has been maintained.
Alfred A. Gillette,
War Legislation Pertaining to the Army,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol17/iss2/3