Clause 1. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he...
Clause 1. Commander-in-Chiefship; Presidential Advisers; Pardons
Clause 1. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Office, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
Development of the Concept
Surprisingly little discussion of the Commander-in-Chief clause is found in the Convention or in the ratifying debates. From the evidence available, it appears that the Framers vested the duty in the President because experience in the Continental Congress had disclosed the inexpediency of vesting command in a group and because the lesson of English history was that danger lurked in vesting command in a person separate from the responsible political leaders.
The Limited View.-The purely military aspects of the Commander-in-Chiefship were those that were originally stressed. Hamilton said the office "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."
". . . But in the distribution of political power between the great departments of government, there is such a wide difference between the power conferred on the President of the United States, and the authority and sovereignty which belong to the English crown, that it would be altogether unsafe to reason from any supposed resemblance between them, either as regards conquest in war, or any other subject where the rights and powers of the executive arm of the government are brought into question."
The Prize Cases.-The basis for a broader conception was laid in certain early acts of Congress authorizing the President to employ military force in the execution of the laws.
"The battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma had been fought before the passage of the act of Congress of May 13, 1846, which recognized 'a state of war as existing by the act of the Republic of Mexico.' This act not only provided for the future prosecution of the war, but was itself a vindication and ratification of the Act of the President in accepting the challenge without a previous formal declaration of war by Congress."
"This greatest of civil wars was not gradually developed by popular commotion, tumultuous assemblies, or local unorganized insurrections. However long may have been its previous conception, it nevertheless sprung forth suddenly from the parent brain, a Minerva in the full panoply of war. The President was bound to meet it in the shape it presented itself, without waiting for Congress to baptize it with a name; and no name given to it by him or them could change the fact."
". . . Whether the President in fulfilling his duties, as Commander-in-Chief, in suppressing an insurrection, has met with such armed hostile resistance, and a civil war of such alarming proportions as will compel him to accord to them the character of belligerents, is a question to be decided by him, and this Court must be governed by the decisions and acts of the political department of the Government to which this power was entrusted. 'He must determine what degree of force the crisis demands.' The proclamation of blockade is itself official and conclusive evidence to the Court that a state of war existed which demanded and authorized a recourse to such a measure, under the circumstances peculiar to the case."
Impact of the Prize Cases on World Wars I and II.-In brief, the powers claimable for the President under the Commander-in-Chief clause at a time of wide-spread insurrection were equated with his powers under the clause at a time when the United States is engaged in a formally declared foreign war.
Presidential Theory of the Commander-in-Chiefship in World War II-And Beyond
In his message to Congress of September 7, 1942, in which he demanded that Congress forthwith repeal certain provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act of the previous January 30th,
"I ask the Congress to take this action by the first of October. Inaction on your part by that date will leave me with an inescapable responsibility to the people of this country to see to it that the war effort is no longer imperiled by threat of economic chaos."
"In the event that the Congress should fail to act, and act adequately, I shall accept the responsibility, and I will act."
"At the same time that farm prices are stabilized, wages can and will be stabilized also. This I will do."
"The President has the powers, under the Constitution and under Congressional acts, to take measures necessary to avert a disaster which would interfere with the winning of the war."
"I have given the most thoughtful consideration to meeting this issue without further reference to the Congress. I have determined, however, on this vital matter to consult with the Congress... ."
"The American people can be sure that I will use my powers with a full sense of my responsibility to the Constitution and to my country. The American people can also be sure that I shall not hesitate to use every power vested in me to accomplish the defeat of our enemies in any part of the world where our own safety demands such defeat."
"When the war is won, the powers under which I act automatically revert to the people-to whom they belong."
Presidential War Agencies.-While congressional compliance with the President's demand rendered unnecessary an effort on his part to amend the Price Control Act, there were other matters as to which he repeatedly took action within the normal field of congressional powers, not only during the war, but in some instances prior to it. Thus, in exercising both the powers which he claimed as Commander-in-Chief and those which Congress conferred upon him to meet the emergency, Mr. Roosevelt employed new emergency agencies, created by himself and responsible directly to him, rather than the established departments or existing independent regulatory agencies.
Constitutional Status of Presidential Agencies.-The question of the legal status of the presidential agencies was dealt with judicially but once. This was in the decision of the United States Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia in Employers Group v. National War Labor Board,
Evacuation of the West Coast Japanese.-On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued an executive order, "by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy," providing, as a safeguard against subversion and sabotage, power for his military commanders to designate areas from which "any person" could be excluded or removed and to set up facilities for such persons elsewhere.
It was apparently the original intention of the Administration to rely on the general principle of military necessity and the power of the Commander-in-Chief in wartime as authority for the relocations. But before any action of importance was taken under the order, Congress ratified and adopted it by the Act of March 21, 1942,
Presidential Government of Labor Regulations.-The most important segment of the home front regulated by what were in effect presidential edicts was the field of labor relations. Exactly six months before Pearl Harbor, on June 7, 1941, Mr. Roosevelt, citing his proclamation thirteen days earlier of an unlimited national emergency, issued an Executive Order seizing the North American Aviation Plant at Inglewood, California, where, on account of a strike, production was at a standstill.
Sanctions Implementing Presidential Directives.-To implement his directives as Commander-in-Chief in wartime, and especially those which he issued in governing labor disputes, President Roosevelt often resorted to "sanctions," which may be described as penalties lacking statutory authorization. Ultimately, the President sought to put sanctions in this field on a systematic basis. The order empowered the Director of Economic Stabilization, on receiving a report from the National War Labor Board that someone was not complying with its orders, to issue "directives" to the appropriate department or agency requiring that privileges, benefits, rights, or preferences enjoyed by the noncomplying party be withdrawn.
Sanctions were also occasionally employed by statutory agencies, such as OPA, to supplement the penal provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act of January 30, 1942.
The court refused to do so and was sustained by the Supreme Court in its position. Said Justice Douglas, speaking for the Court: "Without rationing, the fuel tanks of a few would be full; the fuel tanks of many would be empty. Some localities would have plenty; communities less favorably situated would suffer. Allocation or rationing is designed to eliminate such inequalities and to treat all alike who are similarly situated.... But middlemen -wholesalers and retailers-bent on defying the rationing system could raise havoc with it.... These middlemen are the chief if not the only conduits between the source of limited supplies and the consumers. From the viewpoint of a rationing system a middleman who distributes the product in violation and disregard of the prescribed quotas is an inefficient and wasteful conduit.... Certainly we could not say that the President would lack the power under this Act to take away from a wasteful factory and route to an efficient one a previous supply of material needed for the manufacture of articles of war.... From the point of view of the factory owner from whom the materials were diverted the action would be harsh....
But in time of war the national interest cannot wait on individual claims to preference. Yet if the President has the power to channel raw materials into the most efficient industrial units and thus save scarce materials from wastage it is difficult to see why the same principle is not applicable to the distribution of fuel oil."
The Postwar Period.-The end of active hostilities did not terminate either the emergency or the federal-governmental response to it. President Truman proclaimed the termination of hostilities on December 31, 1946,
Congress thereafter enacted a new Housing and Rent Act to continue the controls begun in 1942
But the postwar was a time of reaction against the wartime exercise of power by President Roosevelt, and President Truman was not permitted the same liberties. The Twenty-second Amendment, writing into permanent law the two-term custom, the "Great Debate" about our participation in NATO, the attempt to limit the treaty-making power, and other actions, bespoke the reaction.
Nonetheless, the long period of the Cold War and of active hostilities in Korea and Indochina, in addition to the issue of the use of troops in the absence of congressional authorization, further created conditions for consolidation of powers in the President. In particular, a string of declarations of national emergencies, most, in whole or part, under the Trading with the Enemy Act,
The Cold War and After: Presidential Power To Use Troops Overseas Without Congressional Authorization
Reaction after World War II did not persist, but soon ran its course, and the necessities, real and only perceived, of the United States' role as world power and chief guarantor of the peace operated to expand the powers of the President and to diminish congressional powers in the foreign relations arena. President Truman did not seek congressional authorization before sending troops to Korea, and subsequent Presidents similarly acted on their own in putting troops into many foreign countries, including the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf, and most notably Indochina.
The Historic Use of Force Abroad.-In 1912, the Department of State published a memorandum prepared by its Solicitor which set out to justify the Right to Protect Citizens in Foreign Countries by Landing Forces.
New lists and revised arguments were published to support the actions of President Truman in sending troops to Korea and of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in sending troops first to Vietnam and then to Indochina generally,
The pre-war actions of Presidents Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt advanced in substantial degrees the fact of presidential initiative, although the theory did not begin to catch up with the fact until the "Great Debate" over the commitment of troops by the United States to Europe under the Atlantic Pact. While congressional authorization was obtained, that debate, the debate over the United Nations charter, and the debate over Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, declaring that "armed attack" against one signatory was to be considered as "an attack" against all signatories, provided the occasion for the formulation of a theory of independent presidential power to use the armed forces in the national interest at his discretion.
The Theory of Presidential Power.-The fullest expression of the presidential power proponents has been in defense of the course followed in Indochina. Thus, the Legal Adviser of the State Department, in a widely circulated document, contended: "Under the Constitution, the President, in addition to being Chief Executive, is Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. He holds the prime responsibility for the conduct of United States foreign relations. These duties carry very broad powers, including the power to deploy American forces abroad and commit them to military operations when the President deems such action necessary to maintain the security and defense of the United States... ."
"In 1787 the world was a far larger place, and the framers probably had in mind attacks upon the United States. In the 20th century, the world has grown much smaller. An attack on a country far from our shores can impinge directly on the nation's security. In the SEATO treaty, for example, it is formally declared that an armed attack against Viet Nam would endanger the peace and security of the United States."
"Under our Constitution it is the President who must decide when an armed attack has occurred. He has also the constitutional responsibility for determining what measures of defense are required when the peace and safety of the United States are endangered. If he considers that deployment of U.S. forces to South Viet Nam is required, and that military measures against the source of Communist aggression in North Viet Nam are necessary, he is constitutionally empowered to take those measures."
Opponents of such expanded presidential powers have contended, however, that the authority to initiate war was not divided between the Executive and Congress but was vested exclusively in Congress. The President had the duty and the power to repeal sudden attacks and act in other emergencies, and in his role as Commander-in-Chief he was empowered to direct the armed forces for any purpose specified by Congress.
The Power of Congress to Control the President's Discretion.-Over the President's veto, Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution,
Aside from its use as a rhetorical device, the War Powers Resolution has been of little worth in reordering presidential-congressional relations in the years since its enactment. All Presidents operating under it have expressly or implicitly considered it to be an unconstitutional infringement on presidential powers, and on each occasion of use abroad of United States troops the President in reporting to Congress has done so "consistent[ly] with" the reporting section but not pursuant to the provision.
Although there is recurrent talk within Congress and without with regard to amending the War Powers Resolution to strengthen it, no consensus has emerged, and there is little evidence that there exists within Congress the resolve to exercise the responsibility concomitant with strengthening it.
The President as Commander of the Armed Forces
While the President customarily delegates supreme command of the forces in active service, there is no constitutional reason why he should do so, and he has been known to resolve personally important questions of military policy. Lincoln early in 1862 issued orders for a general advance in the hopes of stimulating McClellan to action; Wilson in 1918 settled the question of an independent American command on the Western Front; Truman in 1945 ordered that the bomb be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The President is the ultimate tribunal for the enforcement of the rules and regulations which Congress adopts for the government of the forces, and which are enforced through courts- martial.
The Commander-in-Chief a Civilian Officer.-Is the Commander-in-Chiefship a military or a civilian office in the contemplation of the Constitution? Unquestionably the latter. An opinion by a New York surrogate deals adequately, though not authoritatively, with the subject: "The President receives his compensation for his services, rendered as Chief Executive of the Nation, not for the individual parts of his duties. No part of his compensation is paid from sums appropriated for the military or naval forces; and it is equally clear under the Constitution that the President's duties as Commander in Chief represent only a part of duties ex officio as Chief Executive [Article II, sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution] and that the latter's office is a civil office. [Article II, section 1 of the Constitution ... .] The President does not enlist in, and he is not inducted or drafted into, the armed forces. Nor, is he subject to court-martial or other military discipline. On the contrary, Article II, section 4 of the Constitution provides that 'The President, [Vice President] and All Civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.' . . . The last two War Presidents, President Wilson and President Roosevelt, both clearly recognized the civilian nature of the President's position as Commander in Chief. President Roosevelt, in his Navy Day Campaign speech at Shibe Park, Philadelphia, on October 27, 1944, pronounced this principle as follows:-'It was due to no accident and no oversight that the framers of our Constitution put the command of our armed forces under civilian authority. It is the duty of the Commander in Chief to appoint the Secretaries of War and Navy and the Chiefs of Staff.' It is also to be noted that the Secretary of War, who is the regularly constituted organ of the President for the administration of the military establishment of the Nation, has been held by the Supreme Court of the United States to be merely a civilian officer, not in military service. (United States v. Burns, 79 U.S. 246 (1871)). On the general principle of civilian supremacy over the military, by virtue of the Constitution, it has recently been said: 'The supremacy of the civil over the military is one of our great heritages.' Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304 , 325 (1945)."
Martial Law and Constitutional Limitations
Two theories of martial law are reflected in decisions of the Supreme Court. The first, which stems from the Petition of Right, 1628, provides that the common law knows no such thing as martial law;
The Civil War being safely over, however, a divided Court, in the elaborately argued Milligan case,
". . . We by no means assert that Congress can establish and apply the laws of war where no war has been declared or exists."
"Where peace exists the laws of peace must prevail. What we do maintain is, that when the nation is involved in war, and some portions of the country are invaded, and all are exposed to invasion, it is within the power of Congress to determine in what States or districts such great and imminent public danger exists as justifies the authorization of military tribunals for the trial of crimes and offenses against the discipline or security of the army or against the public safety."
At the turn of the century, however, the Court appears to have retreated from its stand in Milligan insofar as it held in Moyer v. Peabody
Martial Law in Hawaii.-The question of the constitutional status of martial law was raised again in World War II by the proclamation of Governor Poindexter of Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, suspending the writ of habeas corpus and conferring on the local commanding General of the Army all his own powers as governor and also "all of the powers normally exercised by the judicial officers . . . of this territory . . . during the present emergency and until the danger of invasion is removed." Two days later the Governor's action was approved by President Roosevelt. The regime which the proclamation set up continued with certain abatements until October 24, 1944.
By section 67 of the Organic Act of April 30, 1900,
The Court relied on the majority opinion in Ex parte Milligan. Chief Justice Stone concurred in the result. "I assume also," he said, "that there could be circumstances in which the public safety requires, and the Constitution permits, substitution of trials by military tribunals for trials in the civil courts,"
Articles of War: The Nazi Saboteurs.-In 1942 eight youths, seven Germans and one an American, all of whom had received training in sabotage in Berlin, were brought to this country aboard two German submarines and put ashore, one group on the Florida coast, the other on Long Island, with the idea that they would proceed forthwith to practice their art on American factories, military equipment, and installations. Making their way inland, the saboteurs were soon picked up by the FBI, some in New York, others in Chicago, and turned over to the Provost Marshal of the District of Columbia. On July 2, the President appointed a military commission to try them for violation of the laws of war, to wit: for not wearing fixed emblems to indicate their combatant status. In the midst of the trial, the accused petitioned the Supreme Court and the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for leave to bring habeas corpus proceedings. Their argument embraced the contentions: (1) that the offense charged against them was not known to the laws of the United States; (2) that it was not one arising in the land and naval forces; and (3) that the tribunal trying them had not been constituted in accordance with the requirements of the Articles of War.
The first argument the Court met as follows: The act of Congress in providing for the trial before military tribunals of offenses against the law of war is sufficiently definite, although Congress has not undertaken to codify or mark the precise boundaries of the law of war, or to enumerate or define by statute all the acts which that law condemns. ". . . [T]hose who during time of war pass surreptitiously from enemy territory into . . . [that of the United States], discarding their uniforms upon entry, for the commission of hostile acts involving destruction of life or property, have the status of unlawful combatants punishable as such by military commission."
The decision might well have rested on the ground that the Constitution is without restrictive force in wartime in a situation of this sort. The saboteurs were invaders; their penetration of the boundary of the country, projected from units of a hostile fleet, was essentially a military operation, their capture was a continuation of that operation. Punishment of the saboteurs was therefore within the President's purely martial powers as Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, seven of the petitioners were enemy aliens, and so, strictly speaking, without constitutional status. Even had they been civilians properly domiciled in the United States at the outbreak of the war, they would have been subject under the statutes to restraint and other disciplinary action by the President without appeals to the courts.
Articles of War: World War II Crimes.-As a matter of fact, in General Yamashita's case,
Articles of War: Response to the Attacks of September 11, 2001..-In response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force,
In Rasul v. Bush,
Martial Law and Domestic Disorder.-President Washington himself took command of state militia called into federal service to quell the Whiskey Rebellion, but there were not too many occasions subsequently in which federal troops or state militia called into federal service were required.
The authority in Article II, § 2, cl. 1 to require the written opinion of the heads of executive departments is the meager residue from a persistent effort in the Federal Convention to impose a council on the President.
Pardons and Reprieves
The Legal Nature of a Pardon
In the first case to be decided concerning the pardoning power, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for the Court, said: "As this power had been exercised from time immemorial by the executive of that nation whose language is our language, and to whose judicial institution ours bear a close resemblance; we adopt their principles respecting the operation and effect of a pardon, and look into their books for the rules prescribing the manner in which it is to be used by the person who would avail himself of it. A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed. It is the private, though official act of the executive magistrate, delivered to the individual for whose benefit it is intended, and not communicated officially to the Court.... A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him." Marshall continued to hold that to be noticed judicially this deed must be pleaded, like any private instrument.
In the case of Burdick v. United States,
Scope of the Power
The power embraces all "offences against the United States," except cases of impeachment, and includes the power to remit fines, penalties, and forfeitures, except as to money covered into the Treasury or paid an informer,
Offenses Against the United States; Contempt of Court.- In the first place, contempt of court offenses are not offenses against the United States. In the second place, they are completed offenses.
Effects of a Pardon: Ex parte Garland.-The great leading case is Ex parte Garland,
Justice Miller, speaking for the minority, protested that the act of Congress involved was not penal in character, but merely laid down an appropriate test of fitness to practice law. "The man who, by counterfeiting, by theft, by murder, or by treason, is rendered unfit to exercise the functions of an attorney or counsellor at law, may be saved by the executive pardon from the penitentiary or the gallows, but he is not thereby restored to the qualifications which are essential to admission to the bar."
Limits to the Efficacy of a Pardon.-But Justice Field's latitudinarian view of the effect of a pardon undoubtedly still applies ordinarily where the pardon is issued before conviction. He is also correct in saying that a full pardon restores a convict to his "civil rights," and this is so even though simple completion of the convict's sentence would not have had that effect. One such right is the right to testify in court, and in Boyd v. United States, the Court held that the disability to testify being a consequence, according to principles of the common law, of the judgment of conviction, the pardon obliterated that effect.
Congress and Amnesty
Congress cannot limit the effects of a presidential amnesty. Thus the act of July 12, 1870, making proof of loyalty necessary to recover property abandoned and sold by the Government during the Civil War, notwithstanding any executive proclamation, pardon, amnesty, or other act of condonation or oblivion, was pronounced void. Said Chief Justice Chase for the majority: "[T]he legislature cannot change the effect of such a pardon any more than the executive can change a law. Yet this is attempted by the provision under consideration. The Court is required to receive special pardons as evidence of guilt and to treat them as null and void. It is required to disregard pardons granted by proclamation on condition, though the condition has been fulfilled, and to deny them their legal effect. This certainly impairs the executive authority and directs the Court to be instrumental to that end."
Clause 2. Treaties and Appointment of Officers
Clause 2. He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Court of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The Treaty-Making Power
President and Senate
The plan which the Committee of Detail reported to the Federal Convention on August 6, 1787 provided that "the Senate of the United States shall have power to make treaties, and to appoint Ambassadors, and Judges of the Supreme Court."
Negotiation, a Presidential Monopoly.-Actually, the negotiation of treaties had long since been taken over by the President; the Senate's role in relation to treaties is today essentially legislative in character.
Treaties as Law of the Land
Treaty commitments of the United States are of two kinds. In the language of Chief Justice Marshall in 1829: "A treaty is, in its nature, a contract between two nations, not a legislative act. It does not generally effect, of itself, the object to be accomplished; especially, so far as its operation is intraterritorial; but is carried into execution by the sovereign power of the respective parties to the instrument."
"In the United States, a different principle is established. Our constitution declares a treaty to be the law of the land. It is, consequently, to be regarded in courts of justice as equivalent to an act of the legislature, whenever it operates of itself, without the aid of any legislative provision. But when the terms of the stipulation import a contract-when either of the parties engages to perform a particular act, the treaty addresses itself to the political, not the judicial department; and the legislature must execute the contract, before it can become a rule for the Court."
Origin of the Conception.-How did this distinctive feature of the Constitution come about, by virtue of which the treaty-making authority is enabled to stamp upon its promises the quality of municipal law, thereby rendering them enforceable by the courts without further action? The short answer is that Article VI, paragraph 2, makes treaties the supreme law of the land on the same footing with acts of Congress. The clause was a direct result of one of the major weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. Although the Articles entrusted the treaty-making power to Congress, fulfillment of Congress' promises was dependent on the state legislatures.
Treaties and the States.-As it so happened, the first case in which the Supreme Court dealt with the question of the effect of treaties on state laws involved the same issue that had prompted the drafting of Article VI, paragraph 2. During the Revolutionary War, the Virginia legislature provided that the Common-wealth's paper money, which was depreciating rapidly, was to be legal currency for the payment of debts and to confound creditors who would not accept the currency provided that Virginia citizens could pay into the state treasury debts owed by them to subjects of Great Britain, which money was to be used to prosecute the war, and that the auditor would give the debtor a certificate of payment which would discharge the debtor of all future obligations to the creditor.
In Hopkirk v. Bell,
Certain more recent cases stem from California legislation, most of it directed against Japanese immigrants. A statute which excluded aliens ineligible to American citizenship from owning real estate was upheld in 1923 on the ground that the treaty in question did not secure the rights claimed.
Treaties and Congress.-In the Convention, a proposal to require the adoption of treaties through enactment of a law before they should be binding was rejected.
Leaving aside the question when a treaty is and is not self-executing,
Similarly, with regard to treaties which modify and change commercial tariff arrangements, the practice has been that the House always insisted on and the Senate acquiesced in legislation to carry into effect the provisions of such treaties.
What other treaty provisions need congressional implementation is subject to argument. In a 1907 memorandum approved by the Secretary of State, it is said, in summary of the practice and reasoning from the text of the Constitution, that the limitations on the treaty power which necessitate legislative implementation may "be found in the provisions of the Constitution which expressly confide in Congress or in other branches of the Federal Government the exercise of certain of the delegated powers...."
Congressional Repeal of Treaties.-It is in respect to his contention that, when it is asked to carry a treaty into effect, Congress has the constitutional right, and indeed the duty, to determine the matter according to its own ideas of what is expedient, that Madison has been most completely vindicated by developments. This is seen in the answer which the Court has returned to the question: What happens when a treaty provision and an act of Congress conflict? The answer is, that neither has any intrinsic superiority over the other and that therefore the one of later date will prevail leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant. In short, the treaty commitments of the United States do not diminish Congress' constitutional powers. To be sure, legislative repeal of a treaty as law of the land may amount to a violation of it as an international contract in the judgment of the other party to it. In such case, as the Court has said: "Its infraction becomes the subject of international negotiations and reclamations, so far as the injured party chooses to seek redress, which may in the end be enforced by actual war. It is obvious that with all this the judicial courts have nothing to do and can give no redress."
Treaties Versus Prior Acts of Congress.-The cases are numerous in which the Court has enforced statutory provisions which were recognized by it as superseding prior treaty engagements. Chief Justice Marshall early asserted that the converse would be true as well,
The one instance that may be an exception
When Is a Treaty Self-Executing.-Several references have been made above to a distinction between treaties as self-executing and as merely executory. But what is it about a treaty that makes it the law of the land and which gives a private citizen the right to rely on it in a court of law? As early as 1801, the Supreme Court took notice of a treaty, and finding it applicable to the situation before it, gave judgment for the petitioner based on it.
Second, the nature of the stipulation may require legislative execution. That is, with regard to the issue discussed above, whether the delegated powers of Congress impose any limitation on the treaty power, it may be that a treaty provision will be incapable of execution without legislative action. As one authority says: "Practically this distinction depends upon whether or not the courts and the executive are able to enforce the provision without enabling legislation. Fundamentally it depends upon whether the obligation is imposed on private individuals or on public authorities... ."
"Treaty provisions which define the rights and obligations of private individuals and lay down general principles for the guidance of military, naval or administrative officials in relation thereto are usually considered self-executing. Thus treaty provisions assuring aliens equal civil rights with citizens, defining the limits of national jurisdiction, and prescribing rules of prize, war and neutrality, have been so considered ... ."
"On the other hand certain treaty obligations are addressed solely to public authorities, of which may be mentioned those requiring the payment of money, the cession of territory, the guarantee of territory or independence, the conclusion of subsequent treaties on described subjects, the participation in international organizations, the collection and supplying of information, and direction of postal, telegraphic or other services, the construction of buildings, bridges, lighthouses, etc."
Treaties and the Necessary and Proper Clause.-What power, or powers, does Congress exercise when it enacts legislation for the purpose of carrying treaties of the United States into effect? When the subject matter of the treaty falls within the ambit of Congress' enumerated powers, then it is these powers which it exercises in carrying such treaty into effect. But if the treaty deals with a subject which falls within the national jurisdiction because of its international character, then recourse is had to the necessary and proper clause. Thus, of itself, Congress would have had no power to confer judicial powers upon foreign consuls in the United States, but the treaty-power can do this and has done it repeatedly and Congress has supplemented these treaties by appropriate legislation.
Again, Congress of itself could not provide for the extradition of fugitives from justice, but the treaty-power can and has done so scores of times, and Congress has passed legislation carrying our extradition treaties into effect.
The foremost example of this interpretation is Missouri v. Holland.
Constitutional Limitations on the Treaty Power
A question growing out of the discussion above is whether the treaty power is bounded by constitutional limitations. By the supremacy clause, both statutes and treaties "are declared . . . to be the supreme law of the land, and no superior efficacy is given to either over the other."
Controversy over the Holmes language apparently led Justice Black in Reid v. Covert
Establishment of the general principle, however, is but the beginning; there is no readily agreed-upon standard for determining what the limitations are. The most persistently urged proposition in limitation has been that the treaty power must not invade the reserved powers of the States. In view of the sweeping language of the supremacy clause, it is hardly surprising that this argument has not prevailed.
The doctrine which seems deducible from this case and others is "that in all that properly relates to matters of international rights and obligations, whether these rights and obligations rest upon the general principles of international law or have been conventionally created by specific treaties, the United States possesses all the powers of a constitutionally centralized sovereign State; and, therefore, that when the necessity from the international standpoint arises the treaty power may be exercised, even though thereby the rights ordinarily reserved to the States are invaded."
Dicta in some of the cases lend support to the argument that the treaty power is limited by the delegation of powers among the branches of the National Government
It has also been suggested that the prohibitions against governmental action contained in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights particularly, limit the exercise of the treaty power. No doubt this is true, though again there are no cases which so hold.
One other limitation of sorts may be contained in the language of certain court decisions which seem to say that only matters of "international concern" may be the subject of treaty negotiations.