To Declare or Not to Declare, that Is the Question – Part I

In 1970 Edwin Starr raised the question in his hit song, “War, what is it good for?”, and with this sentiment George Washington concurred in his letter to David Humphreys on July 25, 1785:

“My first wish is, to see this plague” [i.e. war] “to Mankind banished from the Earth; & the Sons and daughters of this World employed in more pleasing & innocent amusements than in preparing implements, & exercising them for the destruction of the human race.”

 Alas, today we are far from realizing Washington’s wish as there are tensions and saber-rattling occurring in all corners of the globe.

I realize that it has been two weeks since I sent out my weekly essay, but because of the current situation in the world and the debate over who has the power to commit our country to war, i.e. the meaning of the constitutional power “to declare war”), I wanted to take time to go back and reread the writings/debates of our founders so as to share with you how they viewed this subject.

There are many questions to be answered before addressing the meaning of this phrase as they understood it, and I plan on addressing them in a series of essays over the next few weeks, basic questions such as “Who?”, “Why?” “When?”, “How?” and “What?”.

Answering these questions from the perspective of the founders and the history surrounding this issue will take more than one or even two 400-word essays, so I hope you’ll forgive my omission over the past two weeks and will look forward to this series.

-May 5, 2017