Executive War making power

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    Your class on the US Constitution warns us not to rely on the “Federalist” essays to understand how the people who ratified the constitution understood its meaning.

    I’ve always thought that those essays laid out the explanations used by the “Nationalists” to represent the meaning and rebut the concerns of the actual “Federalists.” I have therefore used Hamilton’s “Federalist 69” and Madison’s notes on the convention to convince people that war making, except to repel an actual or imminent attack on one or several states, was understood to be a power of the Congress, not the executive.

    My only access to the notes on the ratification debates is to spend the $400+ to purchase the books or travel to my county’s central library to perform my research. Since my time is limited, can you pinpoint the locations in the ratification debates where I can locate the information I need to support my claim? If I am incorrect in my thesis, please correct me.

    Thank you,


    THE FEDERALIST is one source of the Federalists’ ratification-era argument, though not the best–for the reasons explained in the lectures. The complete version of ratification materials is THE DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF THE RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION, which –at 26 volumes–costs well over the sum you mentioned.

    I’m afraid I don’t have time to do research projects from subscribers about particular issues of constitutional interpretation. This particular question certainly did come up in the Richmond Ratification Convention, and so is dealt with in my JAMES MADISON AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA.

    Perhaps Dr. McClanahan will offer further detail.


    I discuss this issue in my Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution, pages 62-77, and pages 110-112. There are several quotes there that may help you.

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