Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Alexander Hamilton On Presidential War Powers

Alexander Hamilton, perhaps the greatest military administrator that ever lived, wrote about the extent of the President's War Powers. Barack Obama's controversial action in Libya comes to mind. From Hamilton's statement, I cannot see how any covert action could be taken by the President without consent of Congress:
In most of these particulars, the power of the President will resemble equally that of the king of Great Britain and of the governor of New York. The most material points of difference are these:-First. The President will have only the occasional command of such part of the militia of the nation as by legislative provision may be called into the actual service of the Union. The king of Great Britain and the governor of New York have at all times the entire command of all the militia within their several jurisdictions. In this article, therefore, the power of the President would be inferior to that of either the monarch or the governor. Second. The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. 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 to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies-all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.
--Federalist #69 (March 14, 1788)

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