The President’s Power in the Field of Foreign Relations

Headnotes: 

The first section of this memorandum canvasses the historical precedents that delineate the President’s prerogatives vis-à-vis Congress in foreign relations. These precedents tend to fall into one of two categories: those reflecting the Hamiltonian view that the President as Chief Executive has sole and unlimited authority to determine the nation’s foreign policy, and those reflecting the Madisonian view that Congress as the law-making body has primary authority to determine the nation’s foreign policy, which the President must take care to enforce.

The second section of this memorandum concludes that the power of the President to repel invasion is unquestioned. It would not be necessary to resolve the conflict between the Hamiltonian and Madisonian views in the event of an invasion, because statutes expressly provide that “whenever the United States shall be invaded or in imminent danger of invasion by any foreign nation,” the President may use the military and naval forces to repel such invasion.

The third section of this memorandum discusses the application of the Neutrality Act of 1937 to the Spanish Civil War and the China-Japan conflict.

Updated July 9, 2014