ArtII.S3.3.6 The President's Take Care Duties and International Law

Article II, Section 3:

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

The President’s duty to discharge the responsibilities of the United States in international law raises unique foreign relations considerations. One example of a significant exercise of the President’s powers in this context was the closure of the Marconi Wireless Station at Siasconset, Massachusetts, by President Woodrow Wilson—in effort to avoid difficulties with other foreign governments—on the outbreak of the European War in 1914, after the company refused to assure that it would comply with naval censorship regulations. Justifying this drastic invasion of private rights, Attorney General Thomas Gregory said:

The President of the United States is at the head of one of the three great coordinate departments of the Government. He is Commander in Chief of the Army and the Navy. . . . If the President is of the opinion that the relations of this country with foreign nations are, or are likely to be endangered, by action deemed by him inconsistent with a due neutrality, it is his right and duty to protect such relations; and in doing so, in the absence of any statutory restrictions, he may act through such executive office or department as appears best adapted to effectuate the desired end. . . . I do not hesitate, in view of the extraordinary conditions existing, to advise that the President, through the Secretary of the Navy or any appropriate department, close down, or take charge of and operate, the plant . . . should he deem it necessary in securing obedience to his proclamation of neutrality.1

30 Ops. Atty. Gen. 291 (1914). back