International Executive Agreements: Democratic Procedure under the Constitution of the United States

By Wallace McClure | Go to book overview

Chapter 7 THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT AND INTERNATIONAL ACTS

CORDELL HULL remarked, in a recent address, that "the wisdom of the founders of this Nation in deciding, with conspicuous unanimity, to place the conduct of foreign relations in the hands of the Federal Government has stood the test of generations as providing the most effective means that can be devised for assuring the peace, the security, and the independence of our people."1 The Secretary of State was particularly directing his remarks against a proposal to subject the war power, by constitutional amendment, to popular plebiscite; but he restated the constitutional fact, already indicated in these pages,2 that, so far as the conduct of international intercourse is concerned, the whole national power is vested in the federal government.

It may be accounted well that this is so; for nothing could be more antagonistic to the successful operation of this power, whether from the point of view of obligation or of opportunity, than decentralization, even in the slightest degree. It is the first power to gravitate naturally to the central government of even the loosest confederacy and the last safely to be taken from any central government; and even within a central government the force of circumstance inevitably centralizes it still further in the executive to the exclusion of the other branches.

"To make our States one as to all foreign concerns" was placed first on a list of "great desiderata" to be achieved through the Constitution, in a letter from Jefferson to Washington, written while the convention was in session at Philadelphia.3 Half a century later Chief Justice Taney, holding that since extradition

____________________
1
"Our Foreign Policy," address of the Secretary of State at the National Press Club, Washington, March 17, 1938. DSP(1146) 11.
2
Supra, pp. 260-261.
3
Aug. 14, 1787. Quoted by Warren in The Making of the Constitution, p. 451.

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