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United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.

Citation. 299 U.S. 304 (1936)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Curtiss Wright was indicted for conspiring to sell fifteen machine guns to Bolivia in violation of a joint resolution.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The President is the voice of the country in foreign affairs.


Congressed passed a joint resolution authorizing the President to stop arms sales to countries involved in the Chaco border dispute. President Roosevelt then immediately issued such an order.

Curtiss Wright was indicted for conspiring to sell fifteen machine guns to Bolivia, which was involved in the Cacho border dispute.


Is the Joint Resolution an unlawful delegation of power to the President?


No. The Joint Resolution is a lawful exercise of federal power.


Thejoint resolution is about a situation entirely external to the United States, and entirely within foreign affairs.

There are fundamental differences between foreign/external and domestic/internal affairs and the branches of government that handle them.

The federal government’s powers of external sovereignty did not depend on the Constitution, but are self-evident. The power of the government to declare war, conclude peace, maintain diplomatic relations, etc. would exist even if the Constitution did not grant them.

The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. In this case it is a delegation of power, plus the presidential powers that already exist.

Thus, this is an appropriate use of federal authority.

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