The Barbary War and Early Precedents in Executive War Power
The proper roles of the President and the Congress in matters of war of peacehave been hotly contested since the founding of the republic. Contemporary scholars and politicians consult the Constitution for answer to the war power question, but the language therein is subject to a great degree of interpretation. This induced vagueness was not an oversight by the Philadelphia Convention, but an effort to provide the President and the Congress with some flexibility. It was - like much of the language in the Constitution - a mark of the document's genius and vexation. Even among the principal political figures of the founding era, there was considerable disagreement about the constitutional limits of executive war power. But where the Founders left uncertainty in the Constitution's language vis-à-vis war power, the first three presidential administrations and their Congressional counterparts provided a great deal of precedent. This thesis will examine early uses of American military power with particular focus on Jefferson's prosecution of the First Barbary War, and will conclude that the contemporary relationship between the Executive and Legislative branch on the issue of war power can be largely attributed to precedents set by the Washington, Adams, and Jefferson administrations.
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