Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3

Document 30

Rufus King, African Slave Trade, Senate

12 Jan. 1818Annals 31:106--7

Without adverting to the several branches of the executive power, for the purpose of distinguishing the cases in which it is exclusively vested in the President, from those in which it is vested in him jointly with the Senate, it will suffice on this occasion to observe that, in respect to foreign affairs, the President has no exclusive binding power, except that of receiving the Ambassadors and other foreign Ministers, which, as it involves the decision of the competence of the power which sends them, may be an act of this character; to the validity of all other definitive proceedings in the management of the foreign affairs, the Constitutional advice and consent of the Senate are indispensable.

In these concerns the Senate are the Constitutional and the only responsible counsellors of the President. And in this capacity the Senate may, and ought to, look into and watch over every branch of the foreign affairs of the nation; they may, therefore, at any time call for full and exact information respecting the foreign affairs, and express their opinion and advice to the President respecting the same, when, and under whatever other circumstances, they may think such advice expedient.

There is a peculiar jealousy manifested in the Constitution concerning the power which shall manage the foreign affairs, and make treaties with foreign nations. Hence the provision which requires the consent of two-thirds of the Senators to confirm any compact with a foreign nation that shall bind the United States; thus putting it in the power of a minority of the Senators, or States to control the President and a majority of the Senate: a check on the Executive power to be found in no other case.

To make a treaty includes all the proceedings by which it is made; and the advice and consent of the Senate being necessary in the making of treaties, must necessarily be so, touching the measures employed in making the same. The Constitution does not say that treaties shall be concluded, but that they shall be made, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate: none therefore can be made without such advice and consent; and the objections against the agency of the Senate in making treaties, or in advising the President to make the same, cannot be sustained, but by giving to the Constitution an interpretation different from its obvious and most salutary meaning.

To support the objection, this gloss must be given to the Constitution, "that the President shall make treaties, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate ratify the same." That this is, or could have been intended to be the interpretation of the Constitution, one observation will disprove. If the President alone has power to make a treaty, and the same be made pursuant to the powers and instructions given to his Minister, its ratification follows as a matter of course, and to refuse the same would be a violation of good faith; to call in the Senate to deliberate, to advise, and to consent to an act which it would be binding on them to approve and ratify, will, it is presumed, be deemed too trivial to satisfy the extraordinary provision of the Constitution, that has been cited.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3, Document 30
The University of Chicago Press

Annals of Congress. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States. "History of Congress." 42 vols. Washington, D.C.: Gales & Seaton, 1834--56.

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