The President's proposal of the first legislation for a military draft evoked protests by mothers against the draft and by 1,500 college students in front of the Capitol, while Congress debated the draft.
There were arguments pro and con.
One congressman, joining with a citizens group which had announced that "conscription is not the way to peace," opposed the draft as a program that "is armaments, conscription, war" as part of America's having "created an hysteria" of war. He asked, "What are we arming for?" and then answered: "Everybody knows you are aiming for a repetition" of the last war in which the US was involved. "The day is not far off when these weapons of destruction and this conscript army will be used for an imperialistic war."
A senator referred to "fears of attrack on the United States as preposterous, " and added: "This is the talk by people who fear the bogeyman under their beds."
Another senator chastised the President for trying "to deceive the American people." He went on: "They will know that you are not preparing for peace, for national defense, but that you are preparing for war. With the constant disposition of the administration to emphasize by every proposal and suggestion and to accentuate the fears of the public mind that we are going into war, you might as well bow to the inevitable, you might as well get ready for it, is the thing to which I object."
A third senator agreed by referring to "conscription imposed in time of peace" as "a steppingstone toward the destruction of everything" the American people want.
Another tack was voiced by a senator who pointed to specified big corporations and international bankers as behind the draft movement. And a congressman predicted that the draft burden will fall on the "sons of the poor."
Others argued for the draft.
A senator responded to these arguments by stating that "I would rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." A congressman pointed out that the US could not ignore the recent successful aggression against a relatively small country and the clear indication that the aggressor "had plans laid to replace existing governments" in other areas of the world "with regimes which would furter [its] aims."
A leading congressman said: "It will be with a heavy heart but with honest conviction that I shall vote for the measure. This, my friends, is the way to peace and freedom. We must sacrifice for it. I have five sons. . . . If and when my sons are needed for the defense of their country, I do not want them to go up against experienced soldiers, untrained and unskilled."
The President's wife joined in the debate with a written message. She called the draft "a democratic and intelligent way of training people for defense." And she continued: "There is no question about the fact that it does require people to make a sacrifice, but . . . after all a democracy does require something from the people who live under that form of government. You are quite right that more democracy, not less, is needed in this country, but more unselfish willingness to serve for the good of the people is what we really need -- not a group of democractic citizens who are always asking and never giving."
These demonstrations, debates, and statements on the draft are cited from The New York Times in August and September, 1940;m the President's wife was Eleanor Roosevelt.
Those who then opposed the draft ignored Hitler's pledge to conquer the world and annihilate all Jews; they found irrelevant to American interests Hitler's then recent successful aggression against Belgium and his genocide in Europe, as well as Japan's genocide in China.
Congress almost defeated the draft in 1940. One year later -- fortunately for americans who might otherwise have been living under a Hitler/Tojo terror -- it was extended by a majority of one vote.
Are we going to defeat the draft this time? Or are we going to delay it so that, if a war comes, our men -- and women -- will again be forced to fight unprepared?
To those who are prime immediately to spew forth that it is all right for us to favor the draft since it will be the young -- not we -- who will be drafted: you should know that we have three children, aged 19, 16 and 14, whom we consider the most important and meaningful facet of lives taht have, fortunately , been full of rewarding and enjoyable experiences. It is with very heavy heart that we conceive of the possibility that they might have to fight in a war. But the only alternative -- weakness requiring capitulation to a police state aggressor -- is no alternative.
Perhaps our difference with those who oppose the draft is epitomized by the now famous slogan used several weeks ago by a demonstrator against the draft at Princeton: "There is nothing worth dying for." If there is nothing in your life valuable enough to die for, there is really nothing worth living for. We feel there is much in America worth living for and we want to maintain it for our children and theirs.