The Founding Fathers on the Constitution's War Power

     Alexander Hamilton:  "The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. . . .  It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and Admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and the raising and regulating of fleets and armies, -- all of which by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature."  (The Federalist, 69, 1788.)
      ". . . .'The Congress shall have the power to declare war'; the plain meaning of which is, that it is the peculiar and exclusive duty of Congress, when the nation is at peace, to change that state into a state of war. . . ." (C. 1801.)

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     Thomas Jefferson:  "We have already given in example one effectual check to the dog of war by transferring the power of letting him loose from the Executive to the Legislative body. . . ."  (Letter to Madison, 1789.)
     "Considering that Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war, I have thought it my duty to await their authority for using force in any degree which could be avoided."  (Message to Congress, 1805.)

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     James Madison:  ". . . The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature . . . the executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war."  (1793.)
     "The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it.  It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature."  (Letter to Jefferson, c. 1798.)

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     William Paterson framer and Supreme Court justice):  ". . . It is the exclusive province of congress to change a state of peace into a state of war." (United States v. Smith, 1806.)

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     George Washington:  "The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure."  (1793.)

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     James Wilson:  (framer and ratifier):  "This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it.  It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large. . . ."  (To the Pennsylvania ratifying convention, 1787.)


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