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United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.

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

The appellees were indicted in 1936 after they were charged for conspiracy to sell in the United States certain arms of war to Bolivia, a country then engaged in armed conflict in the Chaco, in violation of the Joint Resolution of Congress and the provisions of a proclamation by the President of the United States pursuant to authority conferred by the congressional resolution.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

“The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign affairs.”


Congress enacted the Joint Resolution of Congress delegating the President the power to prohibit the sale of arms and munitions of war in the United States to those countries now engaged in armed conflict in the Chaco. President Roosevelt issued a proclamationprohibiting the sale of arms and delegated to the Secretary of State the power to prescribe exceptions and limitations to the joint resolution which his proclamation made effective. Appellees urge that Congress abdicated its essential functions and delegated them to the Executive.


Assuming that the delegation of the power to prescribe the sale of arms to certain countries by Congress to the President is invalid, may it nevertheless be sustained on the ground that its exclusive aim is to afford a remedy for a hurtful condition within foreign country?


Both upon principle and in accordance with precedent, there is sufficient warrant for the broad discretion vested in the President to determine whether the enforcement of the statute will have a beneficial effect upon the reestablishment of peace in the affected countries; whether he shall make proclamation to bring the resolution into operation; and to prescribe limitations and exceptions to which the enforcement of the resolution shall be subject. Thus, Congress validly delegated the power to the President in the present case.


The federal power over external affairs in origin and essential character is different from that over internal affairs, and participation in the exercise of the power is significantly limited. In this vast external realm, with its important, delicate, and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate but he alone negotiates and the Senate cannot intrude and Congress is powerless to invade it. Moreover, the federal government with the powers of external sovereignty does not depend on the affirmative grants of the Constitution. The powers to declare and wage ware, to conclude peace, to make treaties and maintain diplomatic relations with other sovereignty, if they had never been mentioned in the Constitution, would have vested in the federal government as necessary concomitants of nationality.

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