Learning Lincoln On-line
FROM-- SET TWO, CIVIL WAR STUDIES
Topic Fifty: Abraham Lincoln Commander & Chief: Political Issues & Commanding the War
HOW THE CIVIL WAR STARTED
Commander in Chief Powers
The questions of whether and to what extent the President has the authority to use the military absent a Congressional declaration of war have proven to be sources of conflict and debate throughout American history. Some scholars believe the Commander in Chief Clause confers expansive powers on the President, but others argue that if even if that is the case, the Constitution does not define precisely the extent of those powers. These scholars tend to construe the Clause narrowly, asserting that the Founders gave the President the title to preserve civilian supremacy over the military, not to provide additional powers outside of a Congressional authorization or declaration of war.
Official Declarations of War by Congress
The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions, including its first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812. Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II. Since that time it has agreed to resolutions authorizing the use of military force and continues to shape U.S. military policy through appropriations and oversight.
Did the American Civil War Require an Official Declaration of War?
From a northern
perspective, there was no "war" as against a foreign power, so no
declaration was necessary and was to be avoided at all costs since
the simple act of declaring war would necessarily recognize the
independence of the southern states - the very thing they were
fighting to prove wasn't so.