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United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp

Citation. 299 U.S. 304, 57 S. Ct. 216, 81 L. Ed. 255, 1936 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Defendant, Curtiss-Wright (Defendant), a weapons manufacturer, was convicted of selling arms to warring nations in South America in violation of an Executive Order that was made pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The non-delegation doctrine does not bar Congress from delegating great authority and discretion to the President of the United States (the President) in the conduct of foreign affairs.


Congress passed a Joint Resolution authorizing the President to ban the sales of arms to countries involved in the border dispute between Bolivia and Paraguay. The President immediately made an Executive Order banning such sales. The Defendant was indicted for conspiracy to sell fifteen machine guns to Bolivia in violation of the Joint Resolution and the Executive Order.


May Congress delegate law-making authority to the President in matters of foreign affairs?


Yes, the President has broad authority to conduct foreign affairs.


There is a fundamental difference in the role of government in foreign affairs and domestic affairs. The federal government has both constitutional and inherent authority to conduct foreign affairs as it sees fit. The President is the United States’ sole representative to foreign nations. In order to achieve the United States’ foreign policy aims, the President is better able than Congress to judge conditions that exist in foreign nations and is afforded substantial discretion and wide latititude in those decisions. The President has confidential information as well as consular, diplomatic and foreign affairs officers to help in his decision.

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