I'm a Free Man Resisting Slavery

The cake had white icing, with red and blue trim. It was decorated with an American flag and a quote from Benjamin Franklin, spelled out in sugary blue letters: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Underneath was written "Welcome Home, Paul."

The cake was part of a celebration at the Little Rock, Arkansas, residence of John and Jane Jacob. Along with about 50 guests, the Jacobs were welcoming home their son, Paul, from federal prison, where he had served a six-month sentence for refusing to register with the Selective Service System for possible military duty in the future. For Paul, the party was a milestone. It marked the end of a years-long personal struggle against registration and the draft-a struggle that erupted into one of the most highly publicized draft-resistance cases since the Vietnam war.

Jacob's battle against compulsory military duty began in 1978 when, as an 18-year-old freshman at Westminster College in Missouri, he formed a campus chapter of the Libertarian Party. Most of the activities of the Westminster libertarians were directed against proposals for national service and a military draft.

In July 1980, President Jimmy Carter, responding to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, instituted draft registration-but stopped short of a draft itself-for all young men born in 1960 Qacob's year of birth). Jacob, who had moved back to Arkansas and become chairman of the Arkansas Libertarian Party, was by now convinced that registration was an individual-rights issue of overriding importance.

"As Carter started registration, it was clear to me that I wasn't going to register," Jacob recalls. It was also clear to him that "the most effective way to beat it, for those of us threatened with the draft, was to resist."

In January 1981, when the law was broadened to require all men to register when they turned 18, Jacob organized a protest demonstration. It was small-just three or four persons standing with placards and leaflets outside a Little Rock post office. But it marked a major turning point in his life.

"There was no thought in my mind that I would publicly state that I wouldn't register," he remembers. But when reporters covering the demonstration asked him if he had registered, he said he had not and would not. He urged others to actively resist, also.

This brought Jacob a good bit of local publicity. It also brought some unwanted attention: in June he received a letter from Selective Service ordering him to register or face prosecution.

Neither option was acceptable to Jacob. Instead, he chose to defy Selective Service and continue his antiregistration activities underground. He left Arkansas on July 4, leaving no forwarding address.

During the next year he traveled around the country, speaking at colleges and antidraft rallies. On September 23, 1982, an Arkansas grand jury indicted him for failure to register. He was now an FBI fugitive-the first underground draft resister since the Vietnam war.

At that time, 10 other young men had been indicted for failure to register. All had publicly declared that they would not comply, and in traditional civil-disobedience fashion they had submitted voluntarily to arrest and trial. Jacob, however, refused to do so.

"I will not assist the government in their attempt to take away my freedom/' he said in a statement released after his indictment.

Later he told an interviewer that "to go to court is to allow the men who have been appointed by the politicians who started the program in the first place to decide whether you are innocent or guilty. [I am] concerned with justice. They are concerned with legality. There is a big difference between the two."

Jacob hoped to encourage wider noncompliance by dramatizing how easy it was to avoid prosecution. If he-an indicted, vocal nonregistrant-could travel around the country with relative impunity, then obviously the several hundred thousand quiet nonregistrants, not one of whom had been indicted, had little to fear.

Unlike the other indicted resisters, most of whom were pacifists, Jacob was quick to say that he would defend the country in case of attack. His opposition to the draft stemmed not from pacifism but from a deep commitment to individual liberty. "I am not a pacifist resisting war," he said shortly after his indictment. "I am a free man resisting slavery."

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