XV. Declaration of War

Catechism of the Constitution Book CoverThe Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution from 1828 written by Arthur J. Stansbury. I’m publishing it on Mondays in a series of posts. Because the date of publication was 1828, some content has been changed by later Constitutional amendments. There are no sections in the book, so I’m dividing it into any natural breaks of topics and the posts will vary in length. Any emphases within the text are Stansbury’s.

There’s a clear gap between the way things are, and the way things are supposed to be.

XV. Declaration of War

Q. Has Congress any other power?

A. Yes, it has one most solemn and important power, the power of Declaring War between the United States and any other nation.

Q. When Congress has declared the United States to be at war with any particular country, can any of the citizens of the United States remain at peace with that nation?

A. No; however much they may dislike the war, or love the nation against whom it is declared, all must, when required, aid in it, by their money or their services, and bring it as soon as possible to a successful end. If they attempt to aid the enemy, or forcibly hinder the success of the war, they commit treason.

Q. When the United States have cause of complaint against another nation, and yet do not wish at once to go to war, is there any other measure they can take to compel that nation to do them justice?

A. Yes. Congress may “issue Letters of Marque, and Reprisal.”

Q. What are they?

A. They are certain public letters directed to merchants of the United States, who have been injured, and have been refused redress, permitting them forcibly to take vessels belonging to the offending nation, sufficient to make up the loss ; but this must be done only according to certain Rules, fixed by Congress.

Q. You say Congress may declare War; can they raise Armies; that is, can they hire soldiers to fight fox the country?

A. They can; and pay, clothe, and feed them, at the public expense.

Q. Can they make a law, setting apart money enough at one time, to pay and support the army for more than two years?

A. No, not at one time; lest a wicked Congress might, by keeping up an army, remain in power beyond the time for which they were chosen, and so destroy the liberty of their country.

Q. Why was the time limited to two years?

A. Because every two years a new Congress may be chosen.

Q. Can Congress in like manner, provide and maintain a Navy? that is, buy or build ships of war; and hire, clothe, and feed men to navigate and fight them?

A. Yes; and make Rules to govern both Army and Navy.

In the heading under Charters of Freedom, you will find a copy of the Constitution as well as links to other pertinent primary documents and commentary on the Constitution.

Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Elementary Catechism on the Constitution (Preface)
I. The Necessity of Government and Its Forms
II. The American Revolution
III. The Occasion and Purpose of the Constitution
IV. State and National Laws
V. The House of Representatives
VI. The Senate
VII. Impeachment
VIII. Impeachment of the President & The Rule of Law
IX. Meetings of Congress
X. Members of Congress
XI. The Making of Federal Laws
XII. Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises
XIII. Finance and Commerce
XIV. Courts & International Offences
Book image from The Federalist Papers. Other reading formats of the Elementary Catechism on the Constitution can be found here.


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