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by the President of the United States." John Adams wrote of it in 1815: 5
Mr. Madison's administration has proved great points, long disputed in Europe and America.
1. He has proved that an administration under our present Constitution can declare war.
2. That it can make peace.
The sixth of our foreign wars was that with Spain. Here a special Act of Congress (of April 20, 1898) presented an ultimatum, and was in effect a declaration of war, unless the demand stated should be immediately complied with. Spain did not comply with it, but withdrew her minister at Washington, and on April 25, 1898, a declaration of war was recommended by the President, adopted by Congress, and approved by him. This enacted "that war be, and the same is hereby declared to exist, and has existed since the twenty-first day of April Anno Domini eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, including said day, between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain.”
It will be observed that, in this formal declaration, no causes of grievance against Spain are stated.
Of our six foreign wars, then, preceding those now being waged with Germany and Austria-Hungary, only one, and that the first, was prosecuted under a declaration of war setting forth the causes leading up to it.
An important advance in regulating the relations of nations to each other was made in 1907 by the Convention as to the mode of opening hostilities, which was adopted ad referendum, by the second Hague Conference.
In this (Article I) the contracting Powers recognized that hostilities between them should not commence without a preliminary and unequivocal notice, which should have either the form of a declaration of war, stating the reasons for it (motivée), or that of an ultimatum, with a declaration of war in case of the rejection of the ultimatum. One of the leading participants in the conference has expressed himself thus in regard to the provision for a statement of the reasons for declaring war:
5 Life and Works, X, 167.
It will be noted that the declaration and the ultimatum require a statement of the reason of the war, and it is to be hoped that the difficulty of a perfect justification may exercise a restraining influence upon prospective belligerents. . . . It must be admitted that the convention is very modest, for it leaves the Powers free to declare war at their pleasure, provided only that the pretext be capable of formulation. 6
The United States ratified this convention in 1909; and Article I was to take effect in case of war between two or more of the contracting Powers. Germany having also ratified it during the same year, when the President last spring became satisfied that the United States should enter into war with that empire, or that war substantially existed between them already, he called a special session of Congress to which he communicated his views on April 3, 1917.
As causes of war he mentioned these:
1. Germany's announcement that from and after February 1, 1917, "it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean."
2. Germany's execution of that purpose, involving such a submarine warfare against commerce as is a "warfare against mankind” and all nations, in the course of which American ships have been sunk and American lives taken.
3. The vindication of human right, of which the United States "is only a single champion.”
4. Germany's denial of “the right of neutrals to use arms at all within the areas of the sea which it has proscribed, even in the defense of rights which no modern publicist has ever before questioned their right to defend.”
5. Her intimation that the armed guards carried by American merchantmen would be treated as pirates.
6. The menace to the peace of the world and the freedom of its peoples flowing from “the existence of autocratic governments, backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people.”
6 Scott, The Hague Peace Conferences, I, 519, 522.
7. The impossibility of maintaining “a steadfast concert for peace," except by a partnership of democratic nations, as "no autocratic government could be trusted to keep faith within it, or observe its covenants."
8. The sending by Germany of spies and intriguers into the United States.
9. Our conviction “that in such a government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, can be no assured security for the democratic governments of the world.”
10. Our resolution to fight "for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included; for the rights of nations, great and small, and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience."
- 11. The duty of the United States, as “one of the champions of the rights of mankind,” to make these "as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them," and to make the world "safe for democracy."
12. That Germany is acting through "an irresponsible government which has thrown aside all considerations of humanity and of right, and is running amuck."
13. That the United States will "fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.”
To this message Congress promptly responded by the following resolution of April 6, 1917:
Joint Resolution Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government and people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.
Whereas the Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America; therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the state of war between
the United States and the Imperial German Government which has been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
It will be noticed that the distinction is here observed which was made in the President's message, between the Imperial German Government and the German people, and that, on the other hand, it is stated that the German Government has made war against both the Government and the people of the United States.
It is to be noted, also, that Congress has not specified what were the "repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States” by which war has been “thrust upon the United States.”
It is hardly open to dispute that of the grounds of complaint mentioned by the President in his address, those above numbered 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 12 may be regarded as American grievances, justifying war.
Those numbered 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, and 13, present a somewhat different question. In them German attacks upon the peace of the world, and the freedom of peoples; the evils of autocratic government; the liberation of the peoples of the world, the German peoples included; and the duty of making the world safe for democracy, of securing the rights and liberties of free peoples, and of seeking to set up such a concert between them as will make the whole world free, are set forth as causes for our going to war. The matters which the President here sets up touch us less directly than do the other matters to which he referred. They are questions of world politics, and of worldwide application. Congress did not see fit to put them into its list of grievances, in terms; but it does not invalidate the declaration of war, that the President and Congress have not agreed on precisely the same statements to support it. They have agreed, however, in the result of making, by the action of each, a declaration that war exists.
Such a declaration is analogous to a judgment of a court, held by several judges, which recites certain premises on which it is founded. All the judges may agree on the terms of the judgment, and yet a mi
nority may dissent from the reasons stated by the majority in support of it. Such a difference of opinion does not make the judgment any the less conclusive on the parties. The result is reached unanimously, though by different paths.
In most countries no questions of this character can arise, because a declaration of war has been with them a simple act of the executive power, though it may subsequently require parliamentary ratification. In the United States it is a dual act. It is put in words by Congress: it is then to be put in effect by the President's approval of those words and proclamation of what has been so enacted. A new international status is thus created, authorizing such action as he may deem proper in his capacity of commander-in-chief of the army and navy. In the language of the Supreme Court of the United States:
War can alone be entered into by national authority; it is instituted for national purposes, and directed to national objects. . . . Even in the case of one enemy against another enemy, therefore, there is no color of justification for any hostile act, unless it be authorized by some act of the government giving the public constitutional sanction to it."
The manner in which our seventh foreign war (that with Germany) was declared, in April, 1917, was largely followed when, in December, 1917, our eighth foreign war was declared against Austria-Hungary. The President made an address to Congress, in which, referring to the war between the United States and Germany, he said that he should not go back to relate its causes, but desired to consider its objectives. As to what these were, he continued, he and Congress were “the spokesmen of the American people.” The great and immediate object was "to make conquest of peace by arms." The United States could not regard the German Government as the spokesman of the German people. When that people should say, "through properly accredited representatives," that they would agree to a settlement "based upon justice and the reparation of the wrongs their rulers have done, the United States would regard the war as won.” This country did “not wish in any way to impair or to rearrange the Austro-Hungarian Empire.” Nor was any interference with the internal affairs of Germany intended. The worst that could happen to her people was that if they continued to be
> Talbot v. Janson, 3 Dall., 133, 160.