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 Abraham Lincoln Commander & Chief:  Political Issues & Commanding the War


To be used with Lincoln's Command Page

Commander in Chief Powers

Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Commander in Chief clause, states that "[t]he President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."

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.

From the southern perspective, there were two independent nations involved in the conflict, but the CSA, not wanting war, was simply defending CSA turf and would not declare war against a nation, the

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