Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Conscription Definition:

Compulsory military service.

Related Terms: Conscientious Objector

In the Australian 1983 case of General Practitioners Society in Australia v Commonwealth of Australia, the late Mr. Justice Harry Talbot Gibbs (1917-2005) of the High Court of Australia used these words:

"'The word conscription ... means the compulsory enlistment of men (or women) for military (including naval or air force) service."

Major Mickelwait of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's office, wrote, in his 1940 article:

"Whether we speak of conscription, draft, or selective service we have in mind, in this discussion, the compulsion of service in the land and naval forces, as contrasted with voluntary enlistment therein and it is in regard to the compulsory feature of past laws and of the current proposals that the debates, legal as well as political, are chiefly concerned."

Emerich de Vattel wrote in The Law of Nations:

"Every citizen is bound to serve and defend the State as far as he is able. Society can not be otherwise preserved; and this union for common defense is one of the first objects of all political association. Whoever is able to bear arms must take then up as soon as he is commanded to do so by the one who has the power to make war.

"Since every citizen or subject is obliged to serve the State, the sovereign has the right, when the necessity arises, to conscript whom he pleases."

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