When A Legislature Defunded A War

This history deeply influenced the framing of our Constitution:

Charles [I of England] had inherited disagreements with Parliament from his father, but his own actions (particularly engaging in ill-fated wars with France and Spain at the same time) eventually brought about a crisis in 1628-29.

. . . Tensions between the King and Parliament centred around finances, made worse by the costs of war abroad, and by religious suspicions at home. . . . In the first four years of his rule, Charles was faced with the alternative of either obtaining parliamentary funding and having his policies questioned by argumentative Parliaments who linked the issue of supply to remedying their grievances, or conducting a war without subsidies from Parliament.

. . . Charles had to recall Parliament. However, the Short Parliament of April 1640 queried Charles's request for funds for war against the Scots and was dissolved within weeks. . . .

. . . Charles was finally forced to call another Parliament in November 1640. This one, which came to be known as The Long Parliament, . . . moved on to declare ship money and other fines illegal.

The King agreed that Parliament could not be dissolved without its own consent, and the Triennial Act of 1641 meant that no more than three years could elapse between Parliaments.

The Irish uprising of October 1641 raised tensions between the King and Parliament over the command of the Army. . . . Parliament . . . pass[ed] a Militia Bill allowing troops to be raised only under officers approved by Parliament. . . .

Impeachniks will like this part of the history:

On 20 January, Charles was charged with high treason 'against the realm of England'. Charles refused to plead, saying that he did not recognise the legality of the High Court (it had been established by a Commons purged of dissent, and without the House of Lords - nor had the Commons ever acted as a judicature). The King was sentenced to death on 27 January. Three days later, Charles was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.

Subsequently, the Restoration occurred and the King Charles II acceded to a Parliament that wielded the Spending Power. The Restoration Settlement was an organic process but the Parliament's strength was the power of the purse:

The one area that Parliament could have exerted its authority over the king was money. . . . The financial settlement was that Charles would receive £1.2MM a year. The money would come from Crown lands, custom duties and new excise duties on certain commodities. In return Charles had to surrender the Crown’s old feudal rights, such as wardships, and his prerogative powers over taxation. Therefore, Charles could not levy taxes without Parliamentary agreement. . . . In times of war, he had to ask Parliament for additional money. Though the raising of revenue had been the major cause of war between Charles I and Parliament, it was not a major issue between Charles II and Parliament.

The Restoration established that the Parliament could control the war power through the power of the purse. And the Framers of our Constitution explained that our Congress would have a similar power, as well as having the power to declare war:

Federalist 69:

The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the DECLARING of war and to the RAISING and REGULATING of fleets and armies, all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.

Federalist 26:

Let us examine whether there be any comparison, in point of efficacy, between the provision alluded to and that which is contained in the new Constitution, for restraining the appropriations of money for military purposes to the period of two years. . . . The legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter, by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not AT LIBERTY to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence. . . . The provision for the support of a military force will always be a favorable topic for declamation. As often as the question comes forward, the public attention will be roused and attracted to the subject, by the party in opposition; and if the majority should be really disposed to exceed the proper limits, the community will be warned of the danger, and will have an opportunity of taking measures to guard against it. . . .

Federalist 24:

standing armies [need not] be kept up in time of peace; [n]or [is] it vested in the EXECUTIVE the whole power of levying troops, without subjecting his discretion, in any shape, to the control of the legislature. . . . [T]he whole power of raising armies was lodged in the LEGISLATURE, not in the EXECUTIVE; that this legislature was to be a popular body, consisting of the representatives of the people periodically elected; . . . there [is], in respect to this object, an important qualification even of the legislative discretion, in that clause which forbids the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years a precaution which, upon a nearer view of it, will appear to be a great and real security against the keeping up of troops without evident necessity.

Defunding of wars has a long and honorable history in the Anglo-American constitutional tradition. So when the neocons start blathering on about the unitary executive, let's not forget to remind them about Charles I, what the Founders wrote, and what our Constitution says:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or officer thereof.
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  • Display: Sort:
    Defunding reined in one freak Monarch in (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:10:26 PM EST
    history all ready?  Nothing new under the sun.

    Then they "impeached" him (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:14:24 PM EST
    by armed insurrection and beheading.

    I do not think we have to go that far.


    You have a flair for understatement (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:19:00 PM EST
    Understated (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:21:23 PM EST
    That's me.

    Now you want to take all the fun out of it? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:19:26 PM EST
    Heh (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:21:05 PM EST
    What I want is to end the Iraq Debacle.

    Okay, beheading is off the table. (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:21:46 PM EST
    Very charitable (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:23:07 PM EST
    Shh, they might call YOU a traitor (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:24:29 PM EST
    I think you are causing further grievious (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:26:22 PM EST
    harm to the Bush dynasty though.  One little beheading seemed to greatly enhance and improve the King Charles dynasty.

    This is true (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:28:22 PM EST
    There are worse fates than beheading. (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:33:20 PM EST
    Bush had better keep Sen. Tom Coburn well bribed and onside. talex might 'flip' him.

    Heh (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:33:53 PM EST
    Awww, jeeze. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:23:48 PM EST
    Ohh-kay. I'll go along with that this time.

    But if we have to do it again I might not be so easily restrained. ;-)


    Does this make you a beheadnik? (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:36:26 PM EST
    Ok. Sure! ;-) (none / 0) (#22)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:41:36 PM EST
    btw (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:27:56 PM EST
    I know this stuff, citing history, the Federalist Papers and the Constitution, is not as exciting as screaming "impeachment!," coup, and "Bush is a criminal," but I think it matters more.  

    Sure it is. (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:40:05 PM EST
    Defunding him and watching the look on his idiot face is on a par with standing on his throat and hammering a wooden stake through the spot where his heart should be.

    Works for me.


    Indeed (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:41:50 PM EST
    This is what many seem not to understand. Stymying bush through the Constitutional and legal means provided by the Founders would be the most effective rebuke of all.

    It's easier to claim (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:43:06 PM EST
    that Russ Feingold is being blackmailed or bribed.

    Exactly. (none / 0) (#25)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:43:33 PM EST
    They don't get how much satisfaction even just the look on his face would give them.

    Constitutional and legal means (none / 0) (#27)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:50:56 PM EST
    Godda*n piece of paper.



    I'll be that someone who knows Photoshop (none / 0) (#17)
    by andgarden on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:33:44 PM EST
    could make a picture of money in a fence with W looking in. You could use lots of crazy colors and video!

    That is passion (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:34:33 PM EST
    but it is no remedy.

    A better illustration would (none / 0) (#26)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:46:07 PM EST
    be the balcony of Whitehall where the execution took place.  

    Sorry my link doesn't work here.  


    Congress goes on extended break (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:30:54 PM EST
    w/no announced date to return = defunding.  

    Yep (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:33:28 PM EST
    That Would Be A Sight (none / 0) (#36)
    by squeaky on Mon Jul 23, 2007 at 12:02:29 AM EST
    Courtesy of Wiki--does (5.00 / 3) (#28)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 09:57:54 PM EST
    this remind you of anyone?  [Not the "shy and diffident part!]

    Charles I was shy and diffident, but also self-righteous, stubborn, opinionated, determined and confrontational. Charles believed he had no need to compromise or even explain his policies and that he was only answerable to God. He famously said: "Kings are not bound to give an account of their actions but to God alone", "I mean to show what I should speak in actions". Those actions were open to misinterpretation, and there were fears as early as 1626 that he was a potential tyrant. Charles I always maintained that his subjects misunderstood him.[citation needed]

    That is frightening (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 10:07:03 PM EST
    reincarnated and still not learning the essential lessons.  I suppose beheading must be firmly taken off the table or he'll just be reborn and plague some other nation with his unlearned lessons.  A better solution outside of whatever justices we can glean is the social shunning "W" will have to survive as a past president of the United States that nobody invites to anything unless they absolutely must.  No crowds in Europe will follow him down the street unless they have weapons.  His best future photo op will be the opening of the new library in Crawford Texas next to the BP.  So Long Loser.

    He's hoping the library will be at Rice Univ. (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 10:11:47 PM EST
    in Texas but the faculty is adamantly opposing this.  You don't think Hillary Clinton will appoint him and Bill to bring succor to tzunami victims?

    He can always (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 10:18:03 PM EST
    hope. Or beg.

    VP looks seriously worried. (none / 0) (#35)
    by oculus on Mon Jul 23, 2007 at 12:00:47 AM EST
    Check the rapturistic look on Meiers face (none / 0) (#37)
    by Edger on Mon Jul 23, 2007 at 04:35:00 AM EST
    Jeebus! (1.00 / 1) (#32)
    by chemoelectric on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 11:26:02 PM EST
    This is the first time I've seen a defense of one's position by pointing to the English Civil Wars as a salutary example.

    Are you including the part where the regicides are hanged, drawn, and quartered? Including the already dead corpse of Oliver Cromwell, by the way.

    I like a good joke, but this is just silliness. Use some restraint if you want to be taken seriously.

    Your broke the (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 11:33:47 PM EST
    obtuseness meter.

    Because of THAt Parliament's power of the purse was never challenged again and the Founders, to insure such a calamity would never happen again, enshrined those prnciples in our Constitution.

    My gawd, how stupid you get?


    You really annoyed me with that comment (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 11:37:14 PM EST
    If we were to think like you, we wpuld be condemning this:

    The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:


    1.  Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

    2.  The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

    3.  The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

    4.  Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

    5.  Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

    6.  Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

    7.  No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

    8.  The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

    9.  As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.

    10.  No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

    11.  The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

    12.  The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

    13.  A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

    14.  All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

    15.  Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

    16.  A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

    17.  Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

    What a ridiculous comment from you. Really not smart.