Where in the US Constitution does it say that Lincoln was granted the legal authority to initiate a military invasion against the southern states ?

Joined
Mar 15, 2018
Re: Lincoln’s decision to initiate war against the southern states.

Is there a clause in the US Constitution that empowered Lincoln with the legal authority to initiate armed hostilities against the states which had voted to pull out of their Union with the northern states ? I realize that the Constitution is very much open to interpretation but you’d think that it would be absolutely crystal clear on this one crucial point.
 
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Joined
Mar 15, 2018
It turns out that the doctrine of federal supremacy was formulated more than a decade after the states had voted to ratify the new constitution. I would interpret this clause to mean that the federal government is supreme, but only in terms of the powers that were delegated to it by the individual states, and that all powers NOT specifically delegated to the federal government fall under the province of the 10th Amendment.
https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/supremacy+clause
 
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GwilymT

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Pittsburgh
The president has the constitutional duty to suppress rebellion (insurrection) as the commander and chief when directed by congress. Full stop.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei#section8

“The Federal Government may call out the militia in case of civil war; its authority to suppress rebellion is found in the power to suppress insurrection and to carry on war.”

https://constitution.congress.gov/browse/essay/artI_S8_C15_1/

As Marse Robert said, secession is nothing but revolution:

“I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labour, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will.”

Col Lee to his son Rooney - it’s pretty clear that Lee felt that unilateral secession was unconstitutional (illegal) and nothing but revolution. Only when Virginia seceded and the die was already cast did he figure his duty was first to his state. Those who try to clothe unilateral secession in some sort of constitutional legitimacy are in disagreement with none other than Robert Edward Lee.

https://leefamilyarchive.org/reference/essays/rachal/index.html
 
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Don Dixon

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You also might want to look at Article III, Section III:

"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation on 19 April 1861 inviting applications for Letters of Marque and Reprisal to be granted by the Confederate government against Federal ships and property. Davis’ proclamation preceded by almost three weeks the Confederate Congress's 6 May formal declaration of war on the United States of America. By what convoluted logic is it inappropriate to respond to a group of traitors/insurrectionists who have seized national government facilities all across the South by force of arms, have seized half of the national government's war reserve stock of arms by force of arms, have declared their intent to pillage your civilian shipping, and have formally declared war on you.

"We have cotton, and slaves, and........arrogance." Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind

Regards,
Don Dixon
 
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NedBaldwin

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Location
California
Re: Lincoln’s decision to initiate war against the southern states.

Is there a clause in the US Constitution that empowered Lincoln with the legal authority to initiate armed hostilities against the states which had voted to pull out of their Union with the northern states ? I realize that the Constitution is very much open to interpretation but you’d think that it would be absolutely crystal clear on this one crucial point.

Article I Section 8 empowers Congress to "provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions". Congress did so by passing laws that gave the President the authority to use the militia and the US army and navy to do those things - "
execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions"

Also Article IV, Section 4 states that "The United States ... shall protect each of them against Invasion" The Confederates invaded other states.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Re: Lincoln’s decision to initiate war against the southern states.

Is there a clause in the US Constitution that empowered Lincoln with the legal authority to initiate armed hostilities against the states which had voted to pull out of their Union with the northern states ? I realize that the Constitution is very much open to interpretation but you’d think that it would be absolutely crystal clear on this one crucial point.
in addition to the point made regarding explicit authority to suppress insurrections, it's an oxymoron to accuse somebody of "initiating" hostilities on April 15 when the first shots were fired by the other side on April 12.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
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Location
California
Re: Lincoln’s decision to initiate war against the southern states.

Is there a clause in the US Constitution that empowered Lincoln with the legal authority to initiate armed hostilities against the states which had voted to pull out of their Union with the northern states ? I realize that the Constitution is very much open to interpretation but you’d think that it would be absolutely crystal clear on this one crucial point.

Being clear is important.
So, to be clear Lincoln never initiated war or armed hostilities against southern states; what he did do was use the armed forces of the US to enforce the law and supress insurrection
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Joined
Dec 1, 2018
It helps in such discussions to begin with a definition of "the Constitution". If we are going to discuss what the Supreme Court says the Constitution is (an assertion of authority that is nowhere to be found in Article III), there is little point in going forward because you can find definitions of "the Constitution" in Supreme Court majority opinions that rationalize almost every assertion of Federal authority. Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789. If we ask the question - did George have the authority to invade a State under the U.S. Constitution, that limits us to the document ratified by eleven of the original 13 states.* If we ask the same question of Lincoln, that allows incorporation of the first 12 Amendments; but the answer is the same. There is nothing in those additions to the Constitution that amends the President's authority under Article II.

Both Washington and Lincoln's authority as Commander-in-Chief comes from the Militia Act of 1795.

Sec. 1. That whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth such number of the militia of the state, or states, most convenient to the place of danger, or scene of action, as he may judge necessary to repel such invasion, and to issue his orders for that purpose, to such officer or officers of the militia, as he shall think proper. And in case of an insurrection in any state, against the government thereof, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, on application of the legislature of such state, br of the executive, (when the legislature cannot be convened,) to call forth such number of the militia of any other state or states, as may be applied for, as he may judge sufficient to suppress such insurrection.
Sec. 2. That whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed, or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the ·marshals
by this act, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, to call forth the militia of such state, or of any other state or states, as may be necessary to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed; and the use of militia so to be called forth may be con tinued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the then next session of Congress.
Sec. 3. That whenever it may be necessary, in the judgment of the President, to use the military force hereby directed to be called forth, the President shall forthwith, by proclamation, command such insurgents to disperse, and retire peace ably to their respective abodes, within a limited time.


*Dates on which Constitution was ratified by the original States:
Delaware: December 7, 1787
Pennsylvania: December 12, 1787
New Jersey: December 18, 1787
Georgia: January 2, 1788
Connecticut: January 9, 1788
Massachusetts: February 6, 1788
Maryland: April 28, 1788
South Carolina: May 23, 1788
New Hampshire: June 21, 1788
Virginia: June 25, 1788
New York: July 26, 1788
North Carolina: November 21, 1789
Rhode Island: May 29, 1790
 

GwilymT

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@LetUsHavePeace Washington led a federal army into Western Pennsylvania to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. He used federal soldiers to impose federal will & taxes on citizens.

Certain citizens in PA thought that they had the right to say that federal law didn’t apply to them and used force to exercise their opinion, Washington and the federal government felt differently.

Certain citizens in the southern states felt that they had the right to say that federal law didn’t apply to them then fired on federal soldiers, Lincoln and the federal government felt differently.

Lincoln was doing exactly what Washington did- just on a larger scale because the illegal rebellion was larger.
 
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Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
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Aug 3, 2019
@LetUsHavePeace Washington led a federal army into Western Pennsylvania to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. He used federal soldiers to impose federal will & taxes on citizens.

Certain citizens in PA thought that they had the right to say that federal law didn’t apply to them and used force to exercise their opinion, Washington and the federal government felt differently.

Certain citizens in the southern states felt that they had the right to say that federal law didn’t apply to them then fired on federal soldiers, Lincoln and the federal government felt differently.

Lincoln was doing exactly what Washington did- just on a larger scale because the illegal rebellion was larger.
The rebels/insurrectionists in the Whiskey Rebellion also claimed that they were acting in complete accordance with the roots of the AWI and its principles - just as the secessionists did in 1861.
 

jackt62

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in addition to the point made regarding explicit authority to suppress insurrections, it's an oxymoron to accuse somebody of "initiating" hostilities on April 15 when the first shots were fired by the other side on April 12.
Even though the shots fired on April 12th are considered to be the initiation of hostilities, I must note that well before Ft. Sumter, the Texan insurrectionists initiated a major rebellious act by their demand for the surrender of US troops and property in Texas. US General David Twiggs commanded the Department of Texas, which at the beginning of 1861 consisted of a large proportion of the regular army troops and a system of forts that guarded the western frontier. Twiggs surrendered his entire command, an act for which he was dismissed from federal service in March 1861 for "treachery." The key thing to consider here is that this event took place during the last months of the Buchanan administration, not Lincoln's. In retrospect, the capitulation in Texas of around 2,500 troops and numerous forts, munitions, etc. was more serious than the fall of Ft. Sumter, with its garrison of about 150 men. So the war and rebellion had already started before Lincoln was inaugurated.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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@LetUsHavePeace Washington led a federal army into Western Pennsylvania to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. He used federal soldiers to impose federal will & taxes on citizens.

Certain citizens in PA thought that they had the right to say that federal law didn’t apply to them and used force to exercise their opinion, Washington and the federal government felt differently.

Certain citizens in the southern states felt that they had the right to say that federal law didn’t apply to them then fired on federal soldiers, Lincoln and the federal government felt differently.

Lincoln was doing exactly what Washington did- just on a larger scale because the illegal rebellion was larger.
If you lived in Allegheny, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania and you disputed the amount that the Federal tax collector claimed that you owed on your still, your only recourse was to travel to Philadelphia to be heard in Federal court. That meant that you had no practical recourse at all. After several citizen conventions and the filing of petitions, the law was finally changed. Under the new revenue act of June 5, 1794, tax disputes would to be heard locally.
For whatever reason the Federal tax authorities still wanted to enforce the outstanding writs of collection that required people to appear in Philadelphia. William Bradford, the Attorney General, would later claim that those were pro forma and that the Attorney General was not going to compel people to travel 300 miles of wilderness to have their day in tax court. William Findley, the Congressman for western Pennsylvania and the author of the excise tax law amendment that allowed cases to be heard locally, would argue that Bradford allowed the outdated writs to be issued because he and Alexander Hamilton were eager to have a confrontation to establish the authority of the new national government. There is no question about the fact that Hamilton began publishing essays under the name of "Tully" in Philadelphia newspapers, denouncing mob violence in western Pennsylvania and advocating military action. Note: Findley is a significant figure whose opinions are entitled to some belief or, at least his contemporaries thought so. He could be known as "the father of the House" of Representatives.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Findley

Wikipedia has an excellent summary of the subsequent events of the rebellion: the Battle of Bower Hill - the event that led to the death of James McFarlane, the reaction of people in Western Pennsylvania to McFarlane's death, Washington's sending of commissioners, etc.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_Rebellion#Resistance

The Whiskey Rebels had no claims of independent sovereignty; they were not elected State or even country representatives. The secessionist States were independent sovereigns and their representatives were elected. I find it very hard to find much of a parallel. As a Grant stalwart, I take the side of the Union; but I find the assertions of absolute Federal supremacy as disturbing as always. I also find the contrast between Washington's conduct and Lincoln's on the matter of commissioners troubling. Instead of sending commissioners, as Washington did, Lincoln refused to consider the possibility.
 

Andersonh1

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@LetUsHavePeace Washington led a federal army into Western Pennsylvania to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. He used federal soldiers to impose federal will & taxes on citizens.

Under the Militia Act of 1792, Washington had to not only provide evidence to a federal judge that the use of the militia was warranted, he had to have the cooperation of Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin. He did not simply "lead an army" into Pennsylvania, he had checks on his power at the Federal and State level, something Lincoln did not even bother with. Note below the President had to be requested by the legislature or the governor to bring in militia, he could not just take it upon himself to do it.

From the 1792 Act:
...and in case of an insurrection in any state, against the government thereof, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, on application of the legislature of such state, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) to call forth such number of the militia of any other state or states, as may be applied for, or as he may judge sufficient to suppress such insurrection.​
In section 2, a judge has to look at the evidence and concur that the conditions necessary to call out the militia have been met.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act, the same being notified to the President of the United States, by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such state to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.​

Washington complied with both requirements of the law. Lincoln knew the Militia Act, he quoted part of it with the "combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings" language in an attempt to make it appear that he was complying with the law.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Even though the shots fired on April 12th are considered to be the initiation of hostilities, I must note that well before Ft. Sumter, the Texan insurrectionists initiated a major rebellious act by their demand for the surrender of US troops and property in Texas. US General David Twiggs commanded the Department of Texas, which at the beginning of 1861 consisted of a large proportion of the regular army troops and a system of forts that guarded the western frontier. Twiggs surrendered his entire command, an act for which he was dismissed from federal service in March 1861 for "treachery." The key thing to consider here is that this event took place during the last months of the Buchanan administration, not Lincoln's. In retrospect, the capitulation in Texas of around 2,500 troops and numerous forts, munitions, etc. was more serious than the fall of Ft. Sumter, with its garrison of about 150 men. So the war and rebellion had already started before Lincoln was inaugurated.
The war had not started in the minds of the public.
 

GwilymT

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Pittsburgh
Under the Militia Act of 1792, Washington had to not only provide evidence to a federal judge that the use of the militia was warranted, he had to have the cooperation of Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin. He did not simply "lead an army" into Pennsylvania, he had checks on his power at the Federal and State level, something Lincoln did not even bother with. Note below the President had to be requested by the legislature or the governor to bring in militia, he could not just take it upon himself to do it.

From the 1792 Act:
...and in case of an insurrection in any state, against the government thereof, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, on application of the legislature of such state, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) to call forth such number of the militia of any other state or states, as may be applied for, or as he may judge sufficient to suppress such insurrection.​
In section 2, a judge has to look at the evidence and concur that the conditions necessary to call out the militia have been met.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act, the same being notified to the President of the United States, by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such state to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.​

Washington complied with both requirements of the law. Lincoln knew the Militia Act, he quoted part of it with the "combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings" language in an attempt to make it appear that he was complying with the law.
Not “appear”, but actually complying. He had a duty to put down the rebellion, that you may wish he failed to do so is immaterial.
 

Andersonh1

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