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This article is about a league in the United States. The British No Conscription Fellowship was formed in the United Kingdom when World War I was declared.


The No Conscription League in the United States was founded by anarchist Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman in 1917 in response to the draft in World War I. It was enforced by the Selective Service Act of 1917, which granted the federal government the right to raise a national army. It was viewed as a destroyer of the freedom to ethical and political choice granted by the constitution of the United States. The members of this league strongly opposed government enforced conscription; they saw it as a violation of the liberty of American people. This oppression was justified by Woodrow Wilson's Espionage Act, which prohibited any action that interferes with the US military or government affairs. Many were prosecuted under this act, including those in the no conscription league. Those charged were fined a maximum of 10,000 dollars and were sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment.[1]


Emma Goldman and the members of her league published a piece of literature known as the No Conscription League manifesto. This document goes in great detail about the freedoms that we have as Americans, and how the government is oppressing our certain unalienable rights. She urges the nation for support and promotes that we need to protect and fight for our liberty as citizens. This pamphlet went into circulation with over 100,000 printed,[2] which caused fear in the eyes of the US government. The following is the platform on which the league is founded, taken from the manifesto itself, " We oppose conscription because we are internationalists, anti-militarists, and opposed to all wars waged by capitalistic governments. We will fight for what we choose to fight for; we will never fight simply because we are ordered to fight. We believe that the militarization of America is an evil that far outweighs, in its anti-social and anti-libertarian effects, any good that may come from America's participation in the war. We will resist conscription by every means in our power, and we will sustain those who, for similar reasons, refuse to be conscripted."[3]


Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman held a mass no conscription league meeting on June 4, 1917. In addition to Goldman and Berkman, speakers included Louis Baury, "Mother" Yusher, Stella Comyn Ballantine, Leonard D. Abbott, Katia Siebel, and Rose Yuster. After the police asked to see many participants selective service enrollment card. Many people did not have these cards and were detained and taken to jail. There was much fear due to the governmental restrictions such as the Espionage Act of 1917.

Government Responds

Due to the mass number of publications of this manifesto the government retaliated in defense to the people in opposition of the draft. Anti draft meetings were forbidden as well as those speaking out against the draft was to be arrested. In response to the mass meeting listed in the previous category Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were arrested with bail set at 25,000 dollars each. In the PBS time line on Emma Goldman regarding her arrest, “Berkman and Goldman were found guilty of conspiracy against the selective draft law in New York City. They were fined $10,000, sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and immediately transported to federal penitentiaries: Berkman was sent to Atlanta State Penitentiary in Georgia and Goldman was taken to Jefferson City Penitentiary in Missouri”.[4]

See also


  1. Hawkins, James R. "Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States." Free Speech and World War I. Vol. 2. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 285-92. Print.
  2. "FEDERAL AGENTS WATCH ANTI-DRAFT." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 31 May 1917. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.
  3. No Conscription League. No Conscription! New York, 1916. Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE. Web. 22 Nov. 2010.
  4. "American Experience | Emma Goldman | Timeline | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

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