Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Summer 2009


American constitutional historians and jurists have debated for decades what to make of the Constitution's relative silence about foreign affairs. The framers said a good deal about one aspect of foreign affairs—war powers. However, there are only a few provisions dealing with diplomacy and foreign affairs more generally, empowering the President to make treaties and name ambassadors, but only with the advice and consent of the Senate. Nonetheless, the lesson of American history and constitutional law, at least since the early twentieth century, is that the President has the preeminent if not exclusive role in shaping and conducting U.S. foreign policy.

As the title of his book suggests, Ramsey's mission is to find a basis in the Constitution's text for the President's foreign affairs powers, and to use that text as a basis for resolving the major issues as to the roles of the President, Congress, federal courts, and the states, in foreign affairs. His tools in accomplishing this mission are a keen, clear, and largely persuasive, legal analysis. However, he does not fully examine the historical meaning of the evidence he uses to explicate the text of the Constitution (e.g., the neutrality proclamation).