Lincoln Inflicts Kingly Oppression
The Founders rightly gave war-making powers only to the representatives of the States which had to supply the troops, in Congress assembled. Lincoln’s predecessor in office, James Buchanan, clearly recognized his dilemma as South Carolina and other States departed the federated Union – he had no authority to make war on anyone without the consent of Congress, and especially against people of his own country. Lincoln demonstrated no such scruples.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Lincoln Inflicts Kingly Oppression:
“Another popular and traditional way in which the dispute

[over war-making powers] has been rendered since 1789 is to try to divine the “original intentions” entertained by the Constitution’s framers. Although the intentions of the members of the Federal Convention were many and mixed, there is general agreement that their primary intention was to avoid placing too much power in the hands of one person. This point was perhaps best captured by Abraham Lincoln in a letter dated 15 February 1848 to his law partner, William H. Herndon:
“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object.
This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they had resolved to so frame the Constitution so that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.”


The great irony of Representative Lincoln’s critique of Commander-in-Chief James Polk’s war against Mexico is that, thirteen years later, after he had become commander-in-chief in his turn, Lincoln would himself inflict this “most oppressive of kingly oppressions” upon the United States. The Civil War is not only America’s largest undeclared war but also its most costly war in terms of casualties suffered.  Lincoln’s letter is also of great interest because James Wilson, a delegate to the Federal Convention from Pennsylvania, had previously used strikingly similar language in the Pennsylvania ratifying convention: “This [new] system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it.  It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large:…from this circumstance we may draw a certain conclusion that nothing but our national interest can draw us into war.”
(The Lost Art of Declaring War, Brien Hallett, University of Illinois Press, 1998, pp. 31-32)