Article 1, Section 8, Clause 14

Document 3

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 3:§§ 1192--93


§ 1192. The next power of congress is "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces." This is a natural incident to the preceding powers to make war, to raise armies, and to provide and maintain a navy. Its propriety, therefore, scarcely could be, and never has been denied, and need not now be insisted on. The clause was not in the original draft of the constitution; but was added without objection by way of amendment. It was without question borrowed from a corresponding clause in the articles of confederation, where it was with more propriety given, because there was a prohibition of all implied powers. In Great Britain, the king, in his capacity of generalissimo of the whole kingdom, has the sole power of regulating fleets and armies. But parliament has repeatedly interposed; and the regulation of both is now in a considerable measure provided for by acts of parliament. The whole power is far more safe in the hands of congress, than of the executive; since otherwise the most summary and severe punishments might be inflicted at the mere will of the executive.

§ 1193. It is a natural result of the sovereignty over the navy of the United States, that it should be exclusive. Whatever crimes, therefore, are committed on board of public ships of war of the United States, whether they are in port or at sea, they are exclusively cognizable and punishable by the government of the United States. The public ships of sovereigns, wherever they may be, are deemed to be extraterritorial, and enjoy the immunities from the local jurisdiction belonging to their sovereign.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 14, Document 3
The University of Chicago Press

Story, Joseph. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. 3 vols. Boston, 1833.

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