811.2222/2107: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Chile (Shea)

Your December 19, 3 p. m.7 Under the Draft Act of Congress approved May 18 last, all male persons whether citizens or aliens between the ages of 21 and 30 both inclusive, were required to register in the United States in order to ascertain the facts in regard to persons of military age in the United States. Such registration did not constitute the draft of such persons into the military service of the United States or indicate in any manner the intention of the government as to their ultimate military obligations. This Act further provided that conscription in the United States should be based upon liability to military service of all male citizens or male persons not alien enemies who had declared their intention to abandon their former allegiance and to become citizens of the United States. The liability to military service thus established was passed upon by local exemption boards established throughout the country which heard and judicially determined the cases of those who claimed exemption from military service. Appeals from the decisions of these boards were taken to boards of appeal established in the various states. Of all the persons registered in accordance with the provisions of the Act only a small percentage have been called for examination with a view to their conscription, and ample opportunity has been allowed for the establishment before the exemption boards by those called of their right to exemption from the draft. In the process of deciding claims for exemption presented by the local boards it cannot be expected that no errors or mistakes have occurred resulting in the refusal of claims of exemption and consequent subjection to military service of some aliens in the United States. It appears that numbers of aliens have failed to claim exemption and accepted service in the American Army, thereby becoming practically volunteers. The President, as Commander-in-Chief, has stated he will consider the discharge of any aliens who may have been drafted, even though they may have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, if their Governments [Page 182] should request such action in their behalf, and provided that evidence of their alien nationality be furnished. Such action was taken by the President, not because he doubted the right of the United States to claim the service of persons within its jurisdiction, who had endeavored to absolve their allegiance to their own country and indicated their intention to assume allegiance to the United States and take up permanent residence therein, but because of his desire to show a friendly regard for the views of the governments of neutral countries in respect to military service of their nationals abroad.

It is therefore clear that if any aliens have been conscripted this is due to their inability or failure to establish their alien nationality and not to any desire on the part of this Government to force them into the military service of the United States.

So far as Department is advised there is no present intention of Congress to conscript aliens generally.

  1. Not printed.