The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: I desire to call to your attention a matter of considerable importance and urgency, arising out of the application of the Draft Act1 to persons who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States. The situation is? briefly set forth in the accompanying memorandum,2 which I have had prepared for your information.

The questions are: (1) Whether we should draft declarants whose countries (both Allied and neutral) have treaties exempting their subjects from military service; (2) Whether we should draft declarants whose countries are allies of Germany, many of whose nominal subjects—for example, Poles and other nationalities,—appear to be desirous to join the army; (3) Whether bills pending in Congress regarding drafting of resident aliens who are not declarants should receive the support of the Administration, in view of the fact that some of the Allies and also several neutral countries have treaties [Page 175] exempting their citizens or subjects from military service. These questions are developed in full in the attached memorandum, which also sets forth the practice of the United States during the Civil War.

The main difficulty to a solution of these questions arises from the fact that, as General Crowder advises the Department, the quota to be drawn from each district under the Draft Act was calculated on the basis of the total population of the district, including citizens and aliens, and not upon the citizen population of the district. As a result, therefore, if the alien population is eliminated from the draft, the number of Americans to be taken from the district to fill the quota would be much greater—in some districts doubled, trebled, or quadrupled—than if the quota had been made up upon the citizen population of the district, or upon the citizen population plus the declarant population less those exempt from military service by treaty.

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing
  1. 40 Stat. 76.
  2. Not printed.