The Logan Act.

When in 1798 a Philadelphia Quaker named Logan went to Paris on his own to undertake a negotiation with the French Government with a view to averting war between France and the United States, his enterprise stimulated Congress to pass “An Act to Prevent Usurpation of Executive Functions,”660 which, “more honored in the breach than the observance,” still survives on the statute books.661 The year following, John Marshall, then a Member of the House of Representatives, defended President John Adams for delivering a fugitive from justice to Great Britain under the 27th article of the Jay Treaty, instead of leaving the business to the courts. He said: “The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations. Of consequence, the demand of a foreign nation can only be made on him. He possesses the whole Executive power. He holds and directs the force of the nation. Of consequence, any act to be performed by the force of the nation is to be performed through him.”662 Ninety-nine years later, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee took occasion to reiterate Marshall’s doctrine with elaboration.663


This measure is now contained in 18 U.S.C. § 953. [Back to text]
See Memorandum on the History and Scope of the Law Prohibiting Correspondence with a Foreign Government, S. Doc. No. 696, 64th Congress, 2d Sess. (1917). The author was Mr. Charles Warren, then Assistant Attorney General. Further details concerning the observance of the “Logan Act” are given in E. Corwin, supra at 183–84, 430–31. [Back to text]
10 ANNALS OF CONGRESS 596, 613–14 (1800). Marshall’s statement is often cited, e.g., United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304, 318, 319 (1936), as if he were claiming sole or inherent executive power in foreign relations, but Marshall carefully propounded the view that Congress could provide the rules underlying the President’s duty to extradite. When, in 1848, Congress did enact such a statute, the Court sustained it. Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 714 (1893). [Back to text]
S. Doc. No. 56, 54th Congress, 2d Sess. (1897). [Back to text]