The Congressional Powers: Defense

What else can Congress do? Let’s see…ahh, defense.

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

Obvious, make laws against piracy and punish the offenders. Law of Nations is how nations behave to the other on the ocean outside of their borders.

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

Congress declares WAR, and they haven’t since WWII. That’s why you hear the term illegal war. Now what the hell is a Letter of Marque and Reprisal? It’s a license or commission granted by a state to a private citizen to capture and confiscate the merchant ships of another nation.

Ever hear of a privateer? That’s a pirate working for a country. Or you can use the term mercenary. That’s what a Letter does. And then the  last part is Congress makes the rules for after you capture people and their stuff.

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To form and support a military, but they only had two years to use it. The Founders weren’t a fan of standing armies, fearing that it could be potentially used against American citizens. (That could never hap…wait a minute? Crap, this bill does just that here).

To provide and maintain a Navy;

They did want a Navy protecting our shores. So they didn’t mind a standing (or floating) naval force.

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

Gotta have a code of conduct, and rules of war. Plus how, when and the why of training.

Next week we look at the militia and close out Section 8: The Enumerated Powers.


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