Few people today have ever heard of the Ludlow Amendment—a radical proposal that would have required a popular referendum before Congress could declare war and which lost a critical House vote on this date in 1938. The proposal was the closest the United States ever came to formally amending the Constitution’s allocation of war powers, and it would have revised them in exactly the opposite direction in which their interpretation has evolved in practice since the amendment’s defeat.
Matthew Waxman is a law professor at Columbia Law School, where he co-chairs the Program on Law and National Security. He is also co-chair of the Cybersecurity Center at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute, as well as Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He previously served in senior policy positions at the State Department, Defense Department, and National Security Council. After graduating from Yale Law School, he clerked for Judge Joel M. Flaum of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter
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Today is the 195th birthday of the Monroe Doctrine. On December 2, 1823, President James Monroe proclaimed in his Seventh Annual Message to Congress that the United States would oppose any European efforts to colonize or reassert control in the Western Hemisphere:
A review of Michael Beschloss, “Presidents of War” (Crown Books, 2018).
Today is the centennial Armistice Day, remembered as the day the Great War ended. In a military sense it did, but as a matter of U.S. domestic law, it dragged on for three more years.
Today is the anniversary of, by some measures, the U.S. military’s worst battlefield defeat ever. On Nov. 4, 1791, U.S. military forces, under the command of Northwest Territory Governor and U.S. General Arthur St. Clair, were routed by a confederacy of Native American tribes near the Wabash River in present-day Ohio. Although Indian Wars rarely feature much in discussions of constitutional war powers, they were among the most urgent threats facing the new republic. “St.
On September 25, 1794, President George Washington proclaimed that that he was sending state militia forces to subdue what was dubbed the “Whiskey Rebellion.” The following week, Washington became the first and only sitting president to command forces in the field. The episode included some other important firsts—and even though few shots were ultimately fired, it highlights some significant and peculiar ways in which law controlled military power in the early republic.
Review of Craig Forcese, Destroying the Caroline: The Frontier Raid that Reshaped the Right to War (Irwin Law, 2018)
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