Brief follow-up to my post on the War of 1812.
The War of 1812 was sometimes known as Mr.Madison’s War because he was President when we declared war on Britain. In those days Congress had to declare war, not so much anymore.
Madison feared giving the executive branch of government too much power just as many today see the dangers of unelected “Czars” accountable to no one and the President and his justice department thumbing their noses at laws they do not like.
Madison also did not like the idea of a strong standing Army or Navy to be misused by a “too strong” executive branch and as a result the US was ill prepared to take on Great Britain even though Britain was stretched thin by fighting Napoleon.
American wartime Presidents are judged on their performance as Commanders-in-Chief. Lincoln and Roosevelt come out pretty good while Madison (War of 1812), Wilson (WW1), Truman (Korea), Johnson (Vietnam) not so good. It’s too early to judge Bush and Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least we can say for Madison and Wilson that they actually were involved in a declared war via Congress. Truman, Johnson, Bush Sr. and Jr. and Obama have not had a declaration of war by Congress and instead fall under the fuzzy heading of “military engagements authorized by Congress. (The American Civil War was not a declared either since the Southern States were not a foreign enemy. The North considered the war an insurrection.)
This is a bigger deal than some might think. We’ve drifted into a mind-set of police-action type military engagements that has the net effect of “not winning.” At the very least this “fuzzies” the goals and purposes of using armed force. The Korean War is a good case in point. We settled for “not winning” and look what we have now-a psycho Stalinist state with nukes. Wonderful.
Second, we’ve also given the executive branch of government too much wiggle-room in allowing an undeclared war. Mr. Madison was right to fear the power of the executive branch. At some point we have to wonder what government by the people, for the people really means if Congress is as powerless as it seems to be.
Mr. Madison’s War was a fiasco and we were lucky that Britain was not in a position to press things too far. But just because Madison was a poor war-time President does non mean he was wrong about everything.
Thanks to my son Justin and friend Paul for more information on the War of 1812.
- War of 1812, An Almost Forgotten War (broeder10.wordpress.com)
- War of 1812’s Role in a Strong Navy (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- War of 1812 bicentennial is a big deal – in Canada (latimes.com)
- Happy Birthday James Madison! (nerdtrips.wordpress.com)