Creating the United States Constitution

War Powers

Having witnessed the propensity of executives (monarchs) to embroil their nations in foreign wars, the formulators of all American constitutions sought to give the legislatures control over the right to declare war. Having given the federal legislature power over declaring war and appropriating money to support any war-making abilities, delegates felt safe in assigning the role of military commander in chief to the president. This was partly due to the belief that George Washington would be the first president of the United States and the delegates' familiarity with the need to quickly respond on occasions of sudden attack, such as Indian forays on the frontiers. Where did this idea come from? »

Report of the Committee of Style, War Powers section

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.

To raise and support armies: but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years.

To provide and maintain a navy.

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

Report of the Committee of Style, War Powers section

Sect. 2. The 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;