Well, actually, it is Daniel Webster on James Polk’s behavior as the Mexican War drew near. And President Obama didn’t just make military movements to bring on war but actually went to war on his own without Congressional authorization, formal or otherwise. I can’t imagine Webster being as pusillanimous about defending Congress’ powers as our current Senators and Congressmen/women – but he did go on to vote in favor of war appropriations once the war began.
“What is the value of this constitutional provision [granting Congress the sole authority to declare war] if the President on his own authority may make such military movements as must bring on war? If the war power be in Congress, then every thing tending directly ot naturally to bring on war should be referred to the discretion of Congress? [sic]”
The first sentence of this quotation with the editorial addition can be found in Ralph Raico’s (a regular Pileus reader) forward to the Independent Institute’s new reprint of Arthur A. Ekirch’s classic The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition. I added the second sentence of the famous quotation as it appears in the text of the book. Kudos to the I.I. for keeping Ekirch’s work in print!
It is also worth noting that not all politicians were as interested in supporting President Polk and his plan once the war began. As Ekirch notes, “Joshua Giddings, a prominent antislavery Whig Congressman from Ohio, denounced the concept that every American must support a war, even if unjust; and he called for the withdrawal of all American troops from Mexico. In the Senate, Thomas Corwin delivered one of the most famous indictments of the war, questioning the whole philosophy of manifest destiny and the belief that a nation must advance at the expense of its neighbors.”
As the War in Libya (and I refuse to call it anything but what it is) drags on, I wish more of our leaders would question the whole philosophy behind so many of our current interventions and actions around the globe.