Monday, October 02, 2006
Abraham Lincoln on Preventive War
Abraham Lincoln, a freshman Congressman, was quite aggressive in criticizing President Polk in 1848 for the initiation of the Mexican War. Back in
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purposes, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade
The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter and places our President where kings have always stood.
Further discussion of this may be found in Geoffrey R. Stone's Perilous Times.