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Conscription is the authority of government to compel people, usually free adult male citizens, to serve in the military. The U.S. Constitution authorized Congress to maintain an army and a navy, and assumed states would maintain militia. The federal government was empowered to assume control of the militia to repel invasions, enforce laws, or suppress insurrections. The federal government relied on voluntary enlistment for the Regular Army and Navy, while the Militia Act of 1792 called for states to enroll most free adult men in geographically organized militia companies for training. In practice, the Militia Act was ignored, and states instead depended on volunteer companies for traditional militia functions or to augment the federal military during wartime. This entry discusses the history of conscription ...

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