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THE MILITARY SERVICE CONVENTIONS BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES
AND ASSOCIATED COUNTRIES
Shortly after the entrance of the United States into the war, the Government of the United States was approached by certain of the allied countries with proposals to enter into military service conventions, for the reciprocal conscription of the citizens or subjects of one country residing in the other. It appeared that similar agreements had been signed as between Great Britain, France, and Italy. After consideration of these agreements, with a view to their application to conditions in the United States, definite proposals were made by the United States in the summer of 1917, to the cobelligerents to enter into reciprocal military service conventions along somewhat different lines. Negotiations proceeded with several countries pari passu, until the winter, when it was deemed advisable to select one convention for immediate conclusion and approval by the Senate, in order that it might serve as a model for similar conventions with other countries. The large number of Local Boards in the United States which would be called upon to draft aliens under such conventions, and the great amount of work which the drafting of aliens would entail upon them, made it imperative that the proposed conventions with the various cobelligerent countries should be as nearly as possible alike. Obviously, there would be more or less confusion if the same 5,500 Local Boards in the United States were to undertake to induct aliens into the American Army in accordance with a different procedure for each of the several countries associated with the United States. As the negotiations with the British Government had progressed furthest, on account of the similarity of laws and methods in the two countries, the proposed convention with Great Britain was selected for immediate conclusion. On June 3, 1918, two conventions were signed with Great Britain, one with respect to the United Kingdom, and the other with respect to Canada. They were approved by the Senate on June 24, and the ratifications were exchanged on July 30th.
Meanwhile, a question had arisen as to the return to the United States, under the Immigration Laws, of certain classes of aliens who had voluntarily enlisted, or who had been drafted in the American forces under the Selective Service Laws, and Congress passed, on June 29, 1918, Joint Resolution No. 255, regarding the readmission
of aliens who had gone abroad to serve in the American forces. This resolution covered, first, resident aliens who had enlisted or had been conscripted for military service in the United States, and second, those who had taken out their first papers prior to April 6, 1917, and who had enlisted for service in the Czecho-Slovak, Polish, or other independent forces attached to the Army of the United States, or of one of its cobelligerents. Such aliens were, speaking generally, to be readmitted into the United States within one year after the termination of the war, notwithstanding certain provisions of the Immigration Laws. It will be observed, however, that the resolution did not include aliens, whether they had taken out their first papers or not, who went abroad to fight in any of the cobelligerent armies proper. Certain of the countries cobelligerent with the United States were unwilling to enter into military service conventions unless their citizens or subjects, who were resident in the United States, and who had gone abroad to serve in the armed forces of their own country and had fought the battles for the common cause, would be allowed readmission into the United States without regard to the Immigration Laws. This position seemed reasonable in view of the fact that the United States agreed under the convention to allow aliens of a convention country a certain period in which to return to their own country for military service in the common interest, but refused, under Joint Resolution No. 255, to readmit them to the United States and to their homes and families after fighting the arch-enemy abroad, and being disabled or wounded in such service. This was the situation until the passage of a Joint Resolution (No. 331), modifying Joint Resolution No. 255 so as to allow the readmission of aliens who go home for military service in their own armies, appeared possible.
When this Resolution seemed assured, negotiations with associated governments proceeded satisfactorily, and conventions were signed with Italy, Greece, and France on August 24, August 30, and September 3, 1918, respectively.
With the conclusion of these conventions, agreements had been reached with the cobelligerent countries who had the greatest number of aliens in the United States, except Russia. Negotiations with Russia had been suspended on account of the fall of the Russian Government. The conclusion of military service conventions with the associated countries, such as Belgium, Serbia, and the South
American belligerents, which had small numbers of citizens or subjects in the United States, was deemed unnecessary for the time being.
As has already been indicated, these conventions were almost identical in terms or effect. In general, they provided that the male citizens or subjects of either contracting country, residing in the other, should, within the periods limited in the convention, enlist or enroll in the forces of their own country, or return to their own country for the purpose of military service, or thereafter be subject to military service and entitled to exemption therefrom, under the laws or regulations in force from time to time in the country in which they remained. In order to have, for administrative purposes, uniform age limits for military service of aliens under all of the conventions, it was provided that the ages for military service in the United States of citizens or subjects of all convention countries should be 20 to 44 years, both inclusive, although these were not the ages for military service in those countries. These ages corresponded approximately to the lowest maximum and the highest minimum military age of the larger belligerent Powers at the time the ages were fixed for the conventions. The age at which American citizens abroad were to be conscripted under the conventions were the ages for the time being prescribed for compulsory military service in the United States. This provision was made elastic in order to take care of any expansion of the military ages in the United States beyond 21 to 30, as subsequently happened.
Under the conventions, the citizens or subjects of the contracting parties within the age limits mentioned were allowed sixty days from the date of the exchange of ratifications in which to enlist or enroll in their own forces, or depart for their own country for the purpose of military service, if they were liable to military service in the country in which they were at the said date. If they were not so liable, then they were allowed thirty days from the date on which liability should accrue in which to enlist, enroll, or depart. Similar periods were allowed after the refusal or expiration of certificates of exemption.
Each government had the right through its diplomatic or other representatives, to issue certificates of exemption from military service to their respective citizens or subjects abroad within the sixty or thirty day periods. Persons holding such certificates were, so long
as the certificates were in force, not liable to military service in the country in which they were.
The foregoing were the main provisions of the conventions. There were minor provisions in respect to facilitating the departure of persons who desired to go home for military service, and in respect to the preservation of nationality notwithstanding military service in a foreign army under the convention.
These conventions were made operative on the date of the exchange of ratifications, and were to remain in force until the expiration of sixty days after either of the contracting parties had given notice of termination to the other. Thereupon the citizens of either country incorporated into the military service of the other under these conventions were to be, as soon as possible, discharged therefrom.
The practical application of these conventions entailed the issuance of regulations in respect to procedure for obtaining certificates of exemption granted by the diplomatic representatives of the contracting parties. For example, in the United States the British Government issued extensive regulations governing the issuance of certificates of exemption by the British Ambassador to British subjects in the military service of the United States. Likewise, the United States prepared regulations for the guidance of the American Ambassador in London in the issuance of certificates of exemption. It was to the interest of the contracting parties not to exempt their citizens or subjects from military service by certificate, unless it was for the good of the common cause to do so. Consequently the regulations of the United States restricted the issuance of certificates of exemption by the American diplomatic representatives in general to Americans abroad who were engaged in an industry or occupation necessary to the prosecution of the war by the United States; who were necessary to the adequate and effective service of the United States abroad; who were officers or seamen employed in the sea service of any citizen or merchant of the United States; who had been honorably discharged from the naval or military service of the United States by reason of wounds or other disability incurred in the present war; and who had during the present war been taken prisoners, captured or interned by the enemy while serving in the forces of the United States or the cobelligerents and had been released or exchanged under parole or other agreement not to perform again military service.
As registration in the United States for military service was regarded as enlistment or enrollment within the meaning of the conventions, it was necessary also to provide regulations for the issuance of evidence of such registration, which would be recognized abroad and exempt such registrants for military service under the convention.
The mere fact that these conventions were being negotiated caused thousands of citizens or subjects of cobelligerent countries to enlist or go home for military service in their own forces before the conventions became effective. The negotiations of these conventions not only made available the man power of the cobelligerents that had refused to return home for military service, but they served also to make it available by means of mutual agreement between the United States and foreign countries rather than by the drastic action of conscription without the consent of the countries concerned. Doubtless, had the latter course been followed it could not have been executed without protest on the part of foreign governments that such action was contrary to the practice of nations and at variance with the treatment which the associated governments engaged in the prosecution of a common war should expect of each other.
LESTER H. WOOLSEY.
BRITISH JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
Many blessings follow in the train of a British army of occupation, but in a land where the very fountains of justice as well as the springs of water have long been polluted or rendered inaccessible, none could be more welcome than the introduction of water and justice in abundance. On June 21, 1918, a splendid system of water supply from distant and ancient springs was inaugurated in Jerusalem. And on June 29th a proclamation was issued re-establishing the judicial system in Ottoman territory under occupation by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Both of these notable achievements were accomplished without blare of trumpets, though deserving of more than passing notice.
Under Turkish misrule the judicial system was fairly simple and admirable in theory. In practice, justice was badly administered, as a rule, by officials who, being inadequately and irregularly paid,