Status of a Treaty a Political Question.

It is clear that many questions which arise concerning a treaty are of a political nature and will not be decided by the courts. In the words of Justice Curtis in Taylor v. Morton:422 It is not “a judicial question, whether a treaty with a foreign sovereign has been violated by him; whether the consideration of a particular stipulation in a treaty, has been voluntarily withdrawn by one party, so that it is no longer obligatory on the other; whether the views and acts of a foreign sovereign, manifested through his representative have given just occasion to the political departments of our government to withhold the execution of a promise contained in a treaty, or to act in direct contravention of such promise. . . . These powers have not been confided by the people to the judiciary, which has no suitable means to exercise them; but to the executive and the legislative departments of our government. They belong to diplomacy and legislation, and not to the administration of existing laws and it necessarily follows that if they are denied to Congress and the Executive, in the exercise of their legislative power, they can be found nowhere, in our system of government.” Chief Justice Marshall’s language in Foster v. Neilson423 is to the same effect.

Footnotes

422
23 Fed. Cas. 784 (No. 13,799) (C.C.D. Mass. 1855). [Back to text]
423
27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253, 309 (1829). Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), qualifies this certainty considerably, and Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996 (1979), prolongs the uncertainty. See L. Henkin, supra at 208–16; Restatement, Foreign Relations, § 326. [Back to text]