The President as Executor of the Law of Nations

The President as Executor of the Law of Nations

Illustrative of the President’s duty to discharge the responsibilities of the United States in international law with a view to avoiding difficulties with other governments was the action of President Wilson in closing the Marconi Wireless Station at Siasconset, Massachusetts, on the outbreak of the European War in 1914, the company having refused assurance that it would comply with naval censorship regulations. Justifying this drastic invasion of private rights, Attorney General 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.”682

682 30 Ops. Atty. Gen. 291 (1914).

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