(Nota bene: This was originally published on 21 September, 2014)
Mandeville, LA – UPDATED: The video from this talk has been posted by LPAC, you can view it below.
Here are my audio remarks from the 2014 LPAC convention held at the Hilton. I have enclosed the written version as well, which is in draft form. Thanks to the Campaign For Liberty for offering me this, 6th annual address to LPAC.
FAME & THE FOUNDING FATHERS’ WAR POWER
We are now officially and simultaneously, illegally at war in Iraq and soon Syria. President Obama declared himself exalted mystic ruler of the U.S. Armed forces: “While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective…”
Effective!? Who is he kidding? The NFL’s policy against domestic violence is more effective.
The specific “authorization” that was given to President Obama to aid equip the little Jihadi Urban Achievers actually PROHIBITS the President from waging war, yet Obama has proceeded with his “strategy against ISIS”. This “strategy” requires the U.S. military to conduct acts of war in Syria. At first the Obama administration said they would just bomb ISIS back to Mecca over the Syrian’s objections. Then they moderated that to say The Obama admin’s team was negotiating a deal with Syria to gain permission.
Think about that for a moment. The Obama admin is more concerned about obtaining theSyrian regime’s permission to wage war than it is the American regime’s.
So how did we get to never-ending, full scale war that has basically been in effect since the first Iraq invasion of 1991 from a Constitution system that was drafted specifically to try and prevent?
Why does no one in Congress, save for Ron Paul, even propose, maybe as a joke, to use letters of marque & reprisal and THEN proceed to full scale war AFTER Congress has proved it was a just war and THEN voted to declare it?
In short, the answer is Fame. Francis Bacon the English author described what he called conditores imperiorum. As Bacon put it “Neither can they be secret, and therefore not ef− fectual; but according to the French proverb, Beaucoup de bruit, peu de fruit, Much bruit little fruit. The true marshalling of the degrees of sovereign honor, are these: In the first place are conditores imperiorum, founders of states and common− wealths; such as were Romulus, Cyrus, Caesar, Ottoman, Ismael. “
Plain and simple, it is FAME that drove the Founders to write the Constitution and it is fame that drives President’s to grab more power than they were ever granted. You might wonder if the Founders knew of this vanity and tried to guard against it? As a matter of fact they did.
James Madison, Helvidius #4 wrote: “In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”
Madison wasn’t finished. Writing to Jefferson in 1798 Madison wrote. ‘The Constitution supposes what history demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch most prone to war and most interested in it, therefore the Constitution has with studied care vested that power in the Legislature.’ ”
•In convention the delegates were thinking of Washington when creating the Executive, relying on his reputation to defer grants of power and his humility.
•Delegate Pierce Butler described the Presidency as made for Washington: “Yet after all, My Dear Sir, I am free to acknowledge that His Powers are full great, and greater than I was disposed to make them. Nor, Entre Nous, do I believe they would have been so great had not many of the members cast their eyes towards General Washington as President; and shaped their Ideas of the Powers to be given to a President, by their opinions of his Virtue. So that the Man, who by his Patriotism and Virtue, Contributed largely to the Emancipation of his Country, may be the Innocent means of its being, when He is lay’d low, oppress’d.”
•Butler also made a point about war powers in distinguishing between the English King and the American President: “He has the sole Right of declaring War or making Peace, so that the lives of thousands of His Subjects are at His will.”
It is clear that the Framers of the Constitution put a tremendous amount of thought into war powers. In 1997 Georgetown constitution professor William Michael Treanor sought to prove that the President’s war-making powers did no exist outside of executing war AFTER Congress had initiated it. So how can Congress make war? Well there are two ways one is granting letters of Marque & Reprisal. Since our Congress cannot be bothered with the toil of waging wars and preventing Presidents from waging theirs, the Letters are rarely used. The last time the Congress issued one was in 1941 and it was issued to the Goodyear Blimp Resolute; the blimp was operated as an anti-submarine privateer based out of Los Angeles. As the only US craft to operate under a Letter of Marque since the War of 1812, the Resolute, armed with a rifle and flown by its civilian crew, patrolled the seas for submarines.
So what is a Letter of marque & reprisal?
According to the Oxford Dictionary “the first recorded use of “letters of marque and reprisal” was in an English statute in 1354 during the reign of Edward III. The phrase referred to “a licen[s]e granted by a sovereign to a subject, authorizing him to make reprisals on the subjects of a hostile state for injuries alleged to have been done to him by the enemy’s army.”
The Founders gave Congress the power to “grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal,” they were also using “language … peculiar to international law,” and, again, that language had a precise, and limited, meaning. Sovereigns granted letters of marque and reprisal to individuals allowing them to pursue specific claims against citizens of other countries. These people were thereby authorized to take the property-and sometimes, even seize the persons-of their debtors and those who had wronged them. In wartime, the letters empowered civilians to capture the property of the enemy and her citizens. But the power to grant letters of marque and reprisal was not the power to start war…”
“Professor Charles Lofgren, for example, the word “declare” as used in the Constitution “had a broader meaning than it did in the treatises and international practice. It meant ‘commence.’ “Similarly, the phrase “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” ‘conferred on Congress power over general reprisals outside the context of declared war.’ Most important, the two phrases were meant to be read together. They are the only two specific grants of war-initiating power in the Constitution. Thus, regardless of how they are parsed individually, together they mean that the Founders intended Congress to have the power to initiate all conflict-except when necessary to repel sudden attacks.”
Back to letters of marque and privateers. We’ve all had arguments with DeceptiCONS over Thomas Jefferson’s alleged cavalier disreagrd of the Constitution and allegedly ordering the bombing of the Barbary pirates back into the stone-ages, not true.
I would like to read to you from the page of the Congressional Record of December, 1801, shortly after Jefferson had taken office.
That totally eviscerates the war-hawks version of Jefferson and the Barbary pirates doesn’t it? It also shows that you can deal with “radical Muslims” without invading their countries, destroying their infrastructure, emancipating their women into lesbianism and abortions and killing 1/2 million civilians in the process. While I don’t think Congress is going to begin issuing letters of marque and reprisal or the twentieth century equivalent anytime soon, we can at least begin winning converts to the idea that even IF intervention is warranted, there are more effective and productive ways to accomplish it. The bonus part is, they can all be Constitutional too.