Stop-Gap Statesmanship: (Congressional) lawyers sending guns and money


Conducted by professors in politics at The King's College, Dr. David Corbin and Dr. Matthew Parks, The Federalist Today is a discussion of modern politics through the lens of the Federalist Papers. Each week, Corbin and Parks examine one of these historic papers, and contrast Federalist beliefs with those of modern Progressives in order to spark discussion on American politics and its current trajectory.

This article was originally published on an external website.

The United States went to war again some time around Constitution Day, looking nothing like the constitutional republic the framers of the Constitution hoped they had created when they attached their names to that document on September 17, 1787.

The reasons for this are perhaps as numerous as the possible starting dates for the war, but all are grounded in a disregard for deliberative government and the rule of law–the essential hallmarks of a republic.

The distribution of the Constitution’s powers and the explanation of that distribution in The Federalist suggest that there are four key steps in a republic going to war:

  • A case for war presented by the president to the Congress and, by extension, the American people;
  • An expression of popular support in the approval of the House of Representatives as the (most) democratic part of the government;
  • Wise deliberation on war ends and means, especially in the Senate, whose structure and powers (like approving treaties) were meant to promote careful and reasonable reflection;
  • Secrecy and dispatch in executing the resolution approved, led by the president, relevant cabinet members, and the military chain of command.

The president is the key figure at the beginning and the end, but in between, the legislative branch is meant to add “reflection” and express “choice,” in the famous words of the first Federalist essay–that is, to make the most solemn decision for the regime in a way consistent with the principles of the regime.

What we’ve seen in the last two weeks is a parody of this process. The president did speak, but he spoke to the American people, not the Congress, whose approval he claimed he did not need. Then the Administration spent two days publicly debating itself over what exactly he didn’t need approval to do–before deciding that “of course” it was war we’ve been talking about all along.

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