Power of Congress to Declare Peace

In the course of the discussion which has been aroused in Congress by the proposal to declare hostilities with Germany at an end by joint resolution, Senator Thomas of Colorado has brought forward evidence showing that on one occasion the Convention which framed the Constitution voted down unanimously a motion to vest Congress with the power to “make peace.” This evidence is good so far as it goes, but it does not support all of Senator Thomas’s deductions from it, nor indeed has he given an altogether complete account of it. The proposal in question was made and rejected by the Convention on August 17, 1787.1 One ground for its rejection was that the making of peace would naturally fall, not to the Executive, as Senator Thomas would have it, but to the treaty-making body, which was, by the plan at that date before the Convention, the Senate alone.2 And the principal argument which was offered against the proposal Senator Thomas ignores altogether. It was the argument made by Ellsworth and repeated by Madison, that! “it should be more easy to get out of war than into it”–the obvious deduction being that the, making of peace ought therefore to be lodged with a less cumbersome body than Congress. The Convention were apparently unacquainted with the “single-track mind” !