Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3

Document 32

William Rawle, A View of the Constitution of the United States 195--96 1829 (2d ed.)

The power of receiving foreign ambassadors, carries with it among other things, the right of judging in the case of a revolution in a foreign country, whether the new rulers ought to be recognised. The legislature indeed possesses a superior power, and may declare its dissent from the executive recognition or refusal, but until that sense is declared, the act of the executive is binding. The judicial power can take no notice of a new government, till one or the other of those two departments has acted on it. Circumstances may render the decision of great importance to the interests and peace of the country. A precipitate acknowledgement of the independence of part of a foreign nation, separating itself from its former head, may provoke the resentment of the latter: a refusal to do so, may disgust the former, and prevent the attainment of amity and commerce with them, if they succeed. The principles on which the separation takes place must also be taken into consideration, and if they are conformable to those which led to our own independence, and appear likely to be preserved, a strong impulse will arise in favour of a recognition; because it may be for our national interest, which the president is bound pre-eminently to consult, to promote the dissemination and establishment, at least in our own neighbourhood, of those principles which form the strongest foundations of good government.

But the most accurate and authentic information should be procured of the actual state and prospect of success of such newly erected states, for it would not be justifiable in the president to involve the country in difficulties, merely in support of an abstract principle, if there was not a reasonable prospect of perseverance and success on the part of those who have embarked in the enterprise. The caution of President Monroe in sending commissioners to South America, for the purpose of making inquiries on the spot, in preference to a reliance on vague rumours and partial representations, was highly commendable.

The power of congress on this subject cannot be controlled; they may, if they think proper, acknowledge a small and helpless community, though with a certainty of drawing a war upon our country; but greater circumspection is required from the president, who, not having the constitutional power to declare war, ought ever to abstain from a measure likely to produce it.

Among other incidents arising from foreign relations, it may be noticed that congress, which cannot conveniently be always in session, may devolve on the president, duties that at first view seem to belong only to themselves. It has been decided, that a power given to the president to revive an act relating to foreign intercourse, when certain measures, having a described effect should take place on the part of two foreign nations, was perfectly constitutional. The law thus rendered him the responsible judge of that effect.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3, Document 32
The University of Chicago Press

Rawle, William. A View of the Constitution of the United States of America. 2d ed. Philadelphia, 1829. Reprint. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.

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