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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/27/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,352 times Debate No: 84323
Debate Rounds (5)
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In this debate, I will be arguing against conscription. Conscription is mandatory military service, AKA the draft.

Conscription violates the 13th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which states, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." Conscription, by definition, is "involuntary servitude" - that is, labour that is not done willfully. Therefore, conscription is unconstitutional.

I welcome anyone to accept this debate and debate me.


I won't post any arguments or rebuttals on this round, as I feel you didn't elaborate fully on your own arguments, and I would like us both to have an equal opportunity to debate and rebut.

To frame my argument, I will take the stance that thirteen amendment was specifically addressing slavery (not the governments ability to create an army), and the constitution does give the government the right to conscript Americans into the army, well before the thirteenth amendment was ever made. I will further develop my argument in later rounds.

Best of luck to you, Con.
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent has decided not to post any arguments in Round 1 since I didn't post any arguments either, as they want us to have an equal opportunity. Thank you, Pro.

My opponent claims that the 13th Amendment was written to address slavery as opposed to being written to address conscription. However, the 13th Amendment states, and I quote, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." This amendment draws a distinction between slavery and involuntary servitude, since it mentions both slavery and involuntary servitude, implying that they are 2 separate things. If they were one and the same, then mentioning both of them would have been redundant, so they must be different. Therefore, the 13th Amendment addresses not only slavery (that is, being forced to work permanently without pay), but all forms of involuntary servitude (unless it's used as a punishment for a crime).

And now, for some points of my own. Conscription is bad for education, as it may interrupt the education of people who are currently in college. It's bad for the economy, because it costs a lot of money - according to the New York Times (, reviving the draft would cost $1 billion annually. And that article was published in 1988, so the cost would probably be even higher today, due to inflation. And thirdly, conscription is tantamount to slavery, as it involves forcing people to work in life-threatening conditions. Forcing people to work is unjust, as involuntary servitude of any kind (with the sole exception of it being used as punishment for a crime) violates the 13th Amendment.

Best of luck to you as well, Pro.


Sorry for such a late reply. I got lost in all the festivities and almost forgot to rebut.

Argument 1:
Conscription is required to protect the national security of a country

In the constitution of the United States of America, I would like to bring to light a couple of quotes from Article 1 Section 8:

The Congress has the power to:
"Declare War"
"raise and support armies"
"provide and maintain a Navy"
And in Article 4 Section 8:
"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence."

These explicit quotes show that the United States government has the obligation and authority to create a military and use it to protect the national security of a nation. During the Civil War, the supreme court ruled in Kneedler vs Lane that the draft was constitutional. They said, by the provisions above, it is simply a contradiction to NOT allow conscription, because if conscription were deemed unconstitutional, how could a nation follow the constitution and "protect each of them [the states] against Invasion"?

Ultimately, what makes Conscription constitutional is the fact that if it is needed due to a time of war, then a failure to conscript soldiers would result in the potential loss of a war, which would undermine the rights and freedoms of every citizen in the country. Furthermore, it would directly violate the abilities that are granted to the government by the Constitution.

Argument 2:

The Definition of Involuntary Servant:

Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs.

This is different from the SSS, as it is simply an insurance policy in case the man power of the active military is not enough to combat a war. Currently, the draft is not even active, as we are in a time of relative peace, and if the draft ever were to be reactivated, it would only be because we are in a war that extra man power would be needed to win. Draftees will still get military benefits, such as a military salary, housing accommodations, etc. and once the war is over, the men who are drafted are released from the military.

While the draft is a form of legally required involuntary servitude, it does not mean that it is unconstitutional. For example, every US citizen working must pay taxes; that is also a form of legally required involuntary servitude, but it is constitutional for the same reason conscription is. It is stated in the constitution, and it is required for the government to be able to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Argument 3:

Involuntary Servitude was coined to protect Black rights

Butler vs. Perry is another, more recent case, where the ruling in Kneedler vs Lane was upheld. It stated, and I quote:
"The term involuntary servitude, as used in the Thirteenth Amendment, was intended to cover those forms of compulsory labor akin to African slavery which, in practical operation, would tend to produce like results, and not to interdict enforcement of duties owed by individuals to the state.
The great object of the Thirteenth Amendment was liberty under protection of effective government, and not destruction of the latter by depriving it of those essential powers which had always been properly exercised before its adoption."

Rebuttal 1:

Conscription is bad for education and the economy:

As shown previously, this discusses what kinds of people are immune to conscription. Any high school student with satisfactory academic performance is ineligible if they are under the age of 20, and any college student who is called for conscription can postpone it until the end of the semester, and college seniors can postpone it until graduation.

I state that as evidence, but let me be clear: Conscription is very bad for education. I am just showing that the issue of education is addressed in the Conscription process. Just because it is bad for education does not make it unconstitutional, college tuition is also bad for education, but it is still legal and constitutional.

As for the economy issue, I once again do not argue your point, but I find it irrelevant to the topic at hand. Conscription would only be revived during a time of war, which can potentially be FAR more detrimental to the economy if a nation is under-prepared. Secondly, while conscription is expensive, an expanded military calls upon more equipment and products to be mass produced, which actually counteracts the huge expenditure. Don"t forget, it was World War II that ended the Great Depression.

Rebuttal 2:

Conscription is tantamount to slavery:

I think I addressed this rebuttal in some of my earlier arguments, but I will summarize for completeness. While it does involve people to work in life-threatening conditions, the soldiers are paid and given benefits making it completely different from involuntary servitude (in fact, including benefits such as housing, the average army solider makes about $99,000 a year). Although many of these soldiers may not want to be out fighting for their lives, it is a nation"s obligation to defend the homeland and win the war, in order to protect the freedoms of the citizens of a country.
Debate Round No. 2


Don't worry about the late reply, Aurigae54. I set the amount of time each of us has to complete a round to the maximum (3 days) for a reason. Take as long as you need, so long as you respond within the 3 days. :)

My opponent has quoted some phrases from the Constitution, which state that Congress has the power to declare war, raise and support armies, and provide and maintain a navy. My opponent has also quoted a sentence from the Constitution, which states that the USA shall give every state in the Union a Republican form of government and protect each state in the Union from invasion. My opponent has claimed that these parts of the Constitution demonstrate that the federal government of the USA has the authority to form a military and use said military to protect its national security, which means that conscription is constitutional. However, these parts of the Constitution give Congress the right to form militaries, but it does not give Congress the right to force citizens of the United States to join said militaries. If citizens voluntarily joined militaries, then that would be constitutional, as the government would be able to use the military for the sake of national security, but nobody would be forced to join the military. I assure you that some people would voluntarily join the military. People do it today.

My opponent has defined involuntary servitude as "a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs." However, I argue that even if the form of coercion involves the worker's financial needs, it's still involuntary servitude. Servitude means working for someone, and involuntary means mandatory. Therefore, all labour that is done without the consent of the worker is involuntary servitude by definition. Conscription isn't mandated, or even allowed, by the Constitution. The Constitution does allow a military, but only voluntary military service is Constitutional. My opponent has claimed that since an income tax, a form of involuntary servitude, is constitutional since it's stated in the Constitution, conscription is also constitutional, since it's stated in the Constitution. I assume that this income tax which my opponent has mentioned is referring to the 16th Amendment (, which gave us the income tax, but I ask for my opponent to correct me if that's not what they were referring to. Regardless, the only reason that the income tax is constitutional is that it's allowed by the 16th Amendment. If it weren't for the 16th Amendment, then an income tax would be unconstitutional as per the 13th Amendment. Any form of involuntary servitude that's not used as punishment for a crime is unconstitutional unless it's allowed by a constitutional amendment. In this case, an income tax would've been unconstitutional, but the 16th Amendment overrode that.

My opponent has also claimed that the 13th Amendment was written to protect black rights, and therefore doesn't forbid conscription. However, while racial equality was the basis for the 13th Amendment, the 13th Amendment makes no mention of race in its text, so its meaning applies to all involuntary servitude (with the exception of when it's being used as a punishment for a crime).

I did not realize that students called for conscription can postpone it for the sake of education, so I retract the statement that I made about education. I also did not consider the fact that conscription would only be used again in wartime, which could be much more damaging to the economy than conscription, so I also retract the statement that I made about the economy.

While the soldiers are paid, meaning that conscription is not technically slavery, it is still tantamount to it. It might be a nation's obligation to defend the homeland and win the war, but that doesn't mean that the government should force its citizens to assist in that cause.


Con has claimed that conscription is unconstitutional because it violates a person's rights and that a volunteer powered army (as it is today) would be a sufficient, and constitutional army. However, I cited those supreme court cases and those lines from the Constitution to address that issue. What if the volunteer army is NOT sufficient to win a war? In the situtation where conscription would be used (a massive scale war, such as the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam), it is more likely than not that a volunteer powered army is simply not big enough or powerful enough to win at the end of the day. If this is the case, then NOT conscripting would openly violate the Constitutional rights of the government, as the government would NOT be able to protect the states from invasion, because it would NOT be able to raise and support an army and navy adequate to do the job.

Here is a list of war-time powers given to the United States government historically. Almost all of these powers are unconsitutional in a time of peace, but the ultimate goal of the Constitution is to create and empower a government/nation-state, and the biggest threat to any nation state is revolution or invasion. As con has previously agreed, a time of war is the only time conscription would be called into effect, and in that scenario, it would absolutely be constitutional, as the fate of the nation is in danger.

As for taxing, I am also referring to the taxing and spending clause of the constitution. As you said, these are constitutionally given rights to the government, and therefore taxation is constitutional. The same stands for conscription, the government is responsible for 'raising an army/navy' and 'protecting the states from invasion', implicitly giving them the obligation to fund a military (whether or not people agree with their tax money being used that way), it also implicitly gives them the right, in a time of war, to conscript soldiers if there are not enough, and it implicitly gives them the right to protect the nation-state at all costs.

Whether or not the thirteenth amendment mentions race is irrelevant, the amendment was designed vaguely for a reason - so that white Southerners could not find a legal loophole to continue slavery. Conscription, even though it was heavily employed by both the Union and the Confederacy, was never discussed in the making of this amendment. Furthermore, the slavery and forced servitude of blacks was happening in a time of peace. As a war time power, if conscription was truly unconstitutional, it should be specifically addressed and repealed in an amendment, law, or supreme court case. A good example of a war-time power that was retrospectively deemed un-constitutional was the internment of the Japanese in World War II. After the Japanese bombed pearl harbor, Japanese-Americans were taken out of their homes and jobs and locked up, even though they hadn't done anything. Had the Japanese Americans been openly revolting prior to their internment, I would not be surprised if Executive Order 9066 had been deemed Constitutional, but they hadn't done anything at all when the order was issued. On the contrary, Conscription has also been addressed in supreme court cases, and both times that it has, it has been upheld that it IS constitutional, and that denying the government the right to conscript prevents them from fulfilling their constitutional obligations.
Debate Round No. 3


I don't believe that the fact that the Supreme Court ruled that conscription is constitutional means that conscription is constitutional. I believe that they ruled incorrectly. Just because the Supreme Court says that something is constitutional doesn't mean that it actually is constitutional.

Taxation is constitutional because of the taxing and spending clause of the Constitution, as my opponent has correctly noted. But conscription is not a right given to the government. The government has the right to form a military, but it has no right to force the citizens of its country to join that military. I guarantee you that some people capable of fighting would join the military with or without conscription.

Again, while the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of conscription numerous times, that doesn't mean that conscription is constitutional. The Supreme Court is capable of making errors, so just because they say something doesn't mean that we should believe it.


I agree with you that the supreme court making a ruling does not necessarily make it constitutional, but after reading their arguments as to why they made the ruling in the case of conscription, the arguments do follow the constitution. Historically there have been many times a supreme court ruling was poorly argued (out of racism or bigotry) and was overturned years later, but that is not the case here. The arguments refer specifically to segments of the Constitution, and illustrate the logical fallacy of conscription being unconstitutional, as in, how can a nation protect itself if it doesn't have the ability to raise an army to the size it needs? Secondly, they point out that there is no provision in the Constitution saying that this army must be solely comprised by volunteers. The fourteenth amendment was written over a completely different issue, and therefore cannot be used to refute or modify this clause of the Constitution.

During a time of relative peace, such as now, a volunteer military is more than sufficient, and that is why conscription is not in effect. But if the homeland got attacked, such as when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the dynamic completely changes. It becomes the duty of the government to fulfill its Constitutional obligations of protecting the nation, which is explicitly stated in the Constitution:
Article 4 Section 8:
"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence."

If conscription is required in order to do this, then it must be done or else the integrity of the entire nation is endangered.
Debate Round No. 4


A nation doesn't need to force some citizens to join the military in order to raise an army to the size it needs. There are plenty of people who join the military voluntarily.

Conscription is not required to fulfill Article 4 Section 8 of the Constitution - because, as I have previously stated, there are people who would join the military voluntarily.

Best of luck to Pro in this final round.


I"ve enjoyed debating with you Con! Best of luck to you too!

For my concluding argument, I will summarize the arguments that were made throughout this debate, and attempt to convince voters why Pro should win:

Arg 1 " The Thirteenth Amendment addresses slavery, not conscription in a time of war
In round 2, I argue, using Supreme Court evidence, that the Thirteen Amendment was written specifically to prevent the enslavement and forced servitude of blacks. At the time the Thirteenth Amendment was written, conscription had been heavily used in the Civil War by both the Union and Confederacy, so if it had been part of the reason fueling the amendment, it would have been specifically addressed in one of the sections of the amendment, which it was not.

Arg 2 " Conscription is bad for education/economy
In Round 3, Con willingly forfeits these arguments

Arg 3 " Conscription is required to protect the national security of a country
I show Supreme Court evidence and constitutional evidence citing the government"s obligation to protect the nation and the government's right to build and fund an army and navy. Con"s argument is that a volunteer army would be sufficient, but as I stated, in a time of serious war, a bigger army may be needed to protect the national security of a country, and thus it is the government"s constitutional obligation to conscript.

Arg 4 " Conscription is tantamount to slavery/involuntary servitude
While this may be true in a literal way, it is a constitutional form of slavery/involuntary servitude. There are provisions in the Constitution that make it legal, as I have stated before. It is no different than taxation, which is also a form of slavery/involuntary servitude that is constitutional because it is required to protect the national security of the nation and to allow the government to operate. Both taxation and conscription are powers granted to the government by the Constitution.

I feel that I have defended the constitutionality of conscription well! Vote Pro!
Debate Round No. 5
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