Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Following My Conscience

Paul Jacob, the draft, selective service, registration

In 1984, twenty-seven years ago this very day, three FBI agents pushed their way into my North Little Rock, Arkansas, home and placed me under arrest.

My crime? Violating the Military Selective Service Act — that is, absolutely, positively, publicly refusing to register for the military draft. (I’d have resisted civilian service just as ardently.)

Some folks might call it dodging the draft. But not so — I met the draft head on, and in the great spirit of civil disobedience, I resisted.

Of course, there was no actual draft of young men into the military, simply a bureaucratic and regimented preparation for conscription. Seemed like the optimum time to let Uncle Sam know not to plan on me.

Rest assured, had the country been attacked I’d have been there lickety-split. It was not the military or defending the country to which I objected; it was doing it as a conscript — a slave — rather than as a free man.

I expressed my rationale in detail in several of my writings below, from 27 years ago as well as more recently. But my view was and remains neither radical nor alien, tracking, as it does, with what Ronald Reagan said in 1980: “The draft or draft registration destroys the very values our society is committed to defending.”

As is par for the political course, it was Mr. Reagan’s Justice Department that prosecuted me for continuing to stand up for those “values.” U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, today a presidential candidate, testified on my behalf at trial.

At the trial, the prosecutors freely admitted they had every stitch of personal information the government needed the better to spit me out a draft notice should they decide to conscript young Americans. They lacked only my signature on the form.

But that is what they wanted most: my acquiescence. The law said I must “present myself and submit” to registration. I had not submitted to it; I would not — could not in good conscience do so.

At 24 years of age, with wife and an eight-month old daughter, it was certainly a bit disconcerting to begin my adulthood, my career, as a felon. Moreover, to take that risk simply on the principle of the matter, that conscription is un-American, a totalitarian idea, and not because I was actually threatened with being drafted.

Had I wished not to serve, I could have signed up only to refuse to go when the draft notice arrived . . . or I could have quietly refused to register, and faced no threat of being prosecuted. But my goal wasn’t to personally escape the draft. It was to prevent the draft from coming back, to prevent the damage the draft does to our freedom and our country by enabling a foreign policy of acting as the world’s policemen.

Some disagree with the politics of my stand. They have a right to their opinion. But I think that what we ask of everyone should be to do what they believe is right. Not to be a silent spectator, but to speak up and, when necessary, to take action.

In the end, I was convicted and served five and a half months in a Federal Correctional Institution. For better or worse, the “correction” didn’t take.

And never for an instant have I regretted doing what I thought was right.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


further reading:

Why I Refuse to Register, 5/17/1985

Draft the Congress and Leave My Kids Alone, 12/28/2003

Americans Gung-Ho to Draft Congress, 1/4/2004

By: Redactor


  1. Howard Bleicher says:

    I applaud your commitment to following the dictates of your conscience. It is behavior certainly not widely practiced in this quite brutal and corrupt nation which looks upon the planet and it’s resources as it’s personal assets.

  2. Lynn Atherton Bloxham says:

    Dear Paul,
    This commentary brought back too vividly that frightening time. There were people like me, who at that time had not met you, but who were following the ordeal and frightened for you and your family. Then it was repeated in Oklahoma on another issue where you stood your ground firmly! Bravery such as yours is not common. You are a hero to many of us. Thank you.
    The battles you fight with such courage have benefited all of us.
    Lynn Atherton Bloxham

  3. Tom G. Palmer says:

    You are a brave and inspiring man, Paul. Thank you for what you have done for decades for liberty. As the Polish say, “Za naszą i waszą wolność” — For our freedom and yours.

  4. Mark Read Pickens says:

    You’d have no reason to remember me, but we’ve had several conversations. I was a delegate at the 1983 Libertarian Party Convention in New York and the 2008 Denver Convention. I also worked as a petitioner in the Nebraska State spending cap campaign.

    I was a U.S. Army Sergeant who served from 1966 to 1969. In hindsight, I would have preferred to have resisted the draft, but I didn’t become a Libertarian until ten years after being discharged.

    I now realize my “service” actually worked against the interests of my country, whereas your resistance worked for it.

  5. A. Mark Hunt says:

    Thank you.
    We could use a lot more like you.

  6. Paul jacob says:

    Thank you all for your kind words.

  7. Tj says:

    Paul, I knew I liked you. 🙂 I am a Disabled Veteran and would like to say “thank you”. Sorry you did time. Some people do not understand what, “land of the free” means. Freedom simply =’s choice.

  8. F L Huckabee says:

    If this country is not good enough for you to fight for LEAVE IT!!!!!!
    Because you don’t deserve to live here.

    Everyone should sign up for the draft,men and women alike.

    My husband gave this country 25 plus years. And no he was NOT drafted, he joined and served with pride!

  9. Lotta says:

    I literally jumped out of my chair and dacned after reading this!

  10. Therese says:

    Hi Paul,
    I found your picture-next-to-baby-daughter, announcing your 1985 imprisonment for violating the draft. The picture is among furniture and stuff my ex-brother-in-law Brian Wright has stored in my basement over 10 years. Although I knew your sister Kathy when my twin-sister Rose and Brian ‘let’ her a room in their Birmingham Michigan home, over 30 years ago, I can’t remember ever meeting you personally.

    I read your story above and find this paragraph from it very powerful: “…had the country been attacked I’d have been there lickety-split. It was not the military or defending the country to which I objected; it was doing it as a conscript — a slave — rather than as a free man.”

    THAT is all that was ever needed to explain it. That says it all.

    You’re a very principled man, and I’m glad to know you’re still alive, active, and living in this world, which seems to be spinning off its axis, and becoming crowded with politicians, experts, commentators, all of them louder than the next, all of them experts.

    Your acid test in 1985 tested your mettle. Thank you for your courage. What a wonderful legacy for that little baby in the picture you were crouching next to :o)

    Therese Hercher

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