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Proclamation by the Governor of The Compulsory Work Law

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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In the massive mobilization during World War I (1914-1918; U.S. involvement 1917-1918), the state of West Virginia passed the nation's first compulsory work law in May, 1917, just a month after U.S. entry. A number of other states, including Delaware (1917) and Massachusetts (1918), followed with their own compulsory work laws. Similar peacetime laws had been found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1916. Ironically, these laws came as similar laws were created in Russia by the newly dominant Bolshevik (later Soviet) party. All of the U.S. state laws were repealed after the war. In 1930, the United States signed conventions outlawing compulsory labor and the idea of compulsory work in the United States was not reintroduced during World War II. One of the charges laid against the leaders of Nazi Germany during the Nuremberg Trials after the war related to the compulsory labor that regime required of its conquered peoples. Compulsory labor has been banned in most of the world since.


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