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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Saturday, October 20, 2007

    Abraham Lincoln: The Powers of the President to Invade

    A friend sent this some time ago, figuring it was relavent to our current situation. Abraham Lincoln's view of a President's power to invade other nations:

    To WILLIAM H. HERNDON, Esq. February 15, 1848.— LETTER TO WILLIAM H. HERNDON. WASHINGTON, February 15, 1848.

    Dear William :

    Your letter of the 29th January was received last night. Being exclusively a constitutional argument, I wish to submit some reflections upon it in the same spirit of kindness that I know actuates you. Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is that if it shall become necessary to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another country and that whether such necessity exists in any given case the President is the sole judge.

    Before going further consider well whether this is or is not your position. If it is, it is a position that neither the President himself, nor any friend of his, so far as I know, has ever taken. Their only positions are— first, that the soil was ours when the hostilities commenced ; and second, that whether it was rightfully ours or not, Congress had annexed it, and the President for that reason was bound to defend it; both of which are as clearly proved to be false in fact as you can prove that your house is mine. The soil was not ours, and Congress did not annex or attempt to annex it. But to return to your position. 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 purpose, 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 Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him Î You may say to him, " I see no probability of the British invading us "; but he will say to you, " Be silent: I see it, if you don't."

    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 so 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. Write soon again.

    Yours truly, A. LINCOLN. (as a Congressman)


    Anonymous Grady Lee Howard said...

    Notice further that in the Civil War it was the Confederates who invaded the remaining United States first, and not the other way around. The South was invaded only after they attempted to raid Washington and overthrow the legitimate government. Lincoln wisely put his resources in defense of the Capital after early coastal skirmishes, despite the fact he had all the precedence as argued in the letter (exhibit). Confederates and Unionists understood peaceful coexistence to be impossible considering the linked economies. It had to be all one way or the other for either regime to survive intact.
    Any idiot can see that a President with war powers is a tyrant. Bush himself has as much as admitted he has acted as a dictator, and it was so easy, because the wealthy who control business need it that way.

    12:17 PM  

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