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Re: First Act of War... Lincoln


I would very much appreciate you giving this reference a bit of your time. Please note the reference to the SCOTUS. To the best of your knowledge was there ever any sort of "declaration" by the SCOTUS? I have sent an email to them requesting more info.


“The interval of eighty days between the beginning of the war and the
assembling of Congress gave the President a virtual monopoly of
emergency powers. On April 15, in language reminiscent of Washington’s
at the time of the Whiskey Insurrection, Lincoln declared an
“insurrection” to exist, announced that Federal laws were being opposed
in seven States “by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the
ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the
marshals by the law,” and summoned the militia of the States to the
number of 75,000 to “suppress said combinations.”

By this proceeding the Civil War began without a declaration. This was
natural enough, since the South considered secession a peaceable act,
while according to the Union point of view such secession was null and
required a defensive attitude on the part of the government with a
readiness to strike in retaliation for any act of resistance to the
national authority.

Lincoln took many other war measures. He issued two proclamations of
blockade: the first one dated April 19, 1861, applied to South Carolina,
Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas; the
second, April 27, applied to Virginia and North Carolina [the latter did
not secede until May 20]. It was these proclamations of blockade which
were taken by the Supreme Court as marking the beginning of the war.

[Lincoln] decreed the expansion of the regular army on his own
authority. Whereas the call of April 15 was a summoning of the
militia….a further call of May 3 was for recruits to the regular army
beyond the total then authorized by law. Increasing the regular army is
a congressional function.

“I never met anyone,” said [Ohio Senator] John Sherman, “who claimed
that the President could, by a proclamation, increase the regular army.”
The stir of patriotic activity, however, left no time for deliberation
as to legal authority; and Lincoln did not wait for till the
constitutionality of his action could be settled. “These measures,” he
said in his message of July 4, 1861, “whether strictly legal or not,
were ventured upon, under what appeared to be a popular demand and
public necessity; trusting….that Congress would readily ratify them.”

It was in this spirit that he gave large powers unofficially to citizens
of his own choosing who were to make arrangements for transporting
troops and supplies and otherwise promote the public defense.

Doubting the loyalty of certain persons in government departments, he
directed the Secretary of the Treasury to advance $2,000,000 of public
money without security….to pay the expenses of “military and naval
measures necessary for the defense and support of the government.” Yet
the Constitution provides that “No Money shall be drawn from the
Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

Lincoln himself admitted the irregularity of this proceeding, saying he
was not aware that a dollar of public funds “thus confided without
authority of law to unofficial persons” was lost or wasted. In
Lincoln’s mind the honesty of his act and the emergency which occasioned
it excused its illegality. He issued his first suspension of the habeas
corpus privilege at this time…In a word, the whole machinery of war was
set in motion by the President, with all this meant in terms of Federal
effort, departmental activity, State action and private enterprise.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, J.G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company,
1937, pp. 360-361)

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