Friday, July 6, 2007


In light of the fact that today is the 260th anniversary of the birth of John Paul Jones, I'd like to share part of a letter he wrote to his friend and fellow Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette:

"I am glad that the new Constitution will be, as you tell me, adopted by more than Nine States. I hope however they will alter some parts of it; and particularly that they will divest the president of all Military Rank and command; for though General Washington might be safely trusted with such tempting power as the Chief Command of the Fleet and Army, yet, depend on it, in some other Hands it could not fail to Overset the libertys of America. The President should be only the first Civil Magistrate, let him command the Military with the Pen; but deprive him of the power to draw his Sword and lead them, under some plausible pretext, or under any Circumstances whatever, to cut the throats of a part of his fellow Citizens, and to make him the Tyrant of the rest." [Source: Jefferson papers, Sept. 9, 1788]

It turns out that the Constitution has held up pretty well over the centuries, and most of America's recent problems stem from our subverting or ignoring it. But it also seems to me that our recent forays into Imperialism stem from the President's power to order major military actions without any Congressional or public oversight. How many millions of people have suffered or died because of the "police action" of Vietnam?

One can only speculate on how prudent it was to give the president the power of "Commander-in-Chief." But it seems to me should be more difficult to conduct a war, and that people who have deliberately avoided combat (like Clinton, Bush and Cheney) should not be able to individually and personally order young people to their deaths on missions they would never have performed themselves.

1 comment:

Rodrigo said...
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