The Presidency 13

Free course on the presidency. One paragraph per day.

15.          To defend the land, the framers agreed that the President would command the armed forces – with several explicit reservations.  The desire for constraint was perhaps the natural result of widely held fears, historically and within recent memory, that many kings and princes had used their military forces in ways that brought misery, either by demanding heavy taxes and conscription to support a war or by using the military to repress the population.  One of those wars, the French and Indian War, had involved the colonies and had ended only in 1763.  Here are some remarks on the subject of war from the framers:

  • Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.
  • Governments constantly choose between telling lies and fighting wars, with the end result always being the same. One will always lead to the other.”
  • All wars are follies, very expensive and very mischievous ones.
  • George Mason said “that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

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