Tuesday afternoon, students and staff gathered at the Center for the Study of War and Society in Hoskins Library to hear a lecture entitled “The Military and the U.S. Constitution.” Retired Capt. Rosemary Mariner of the United States Navy and lecturer in the University of Tennessee history department led the discussion in honor of Constitution Week.
Mariner began the lecture with a snippet from the 1964 film “Seven Days in May”. The film focuses on a group that formed in the military and wanted to overthrow the government.
Mariner used the movie snippet as a teaser for questions presented at the beginning of the lecture: “Why does the Constitution require Congress to fund the Army every two years, but not the Navy?” and “which branch of government writes military rules and regulations?”
“I show this because it is a short answer to the teaser questions that we put out about why the constitution says the things that it does about the military, and the short answer is to prevent something like this from ever happening,” Mariner said.
She first explained the history of how written language is used in the U.S Constitution when talking about the military. The “framers” of the U.S. Constitution drew inspiration from Greek, Roman and English military operations.
She then detailed specific constitutional articles that pertain directly to the military.
When discussing the first question about funding the army every two years, Capt. Mariner said, “It goes back to the compromise between the Nationalists and Anti-Nationals about raising and supporting an army. You have to revisit the issue every two years.”
The funding to provide and maintain a navy is different than an army. The navy is treated differently than the other branches of the military.
“The man on horseback had never come from sea. To overthrow a government you will need a land force,” Mariner said.
Congress writes rules and regulations, but in the Constitution, two powers preside over the military: Congress and the president. Congress declares war and pays for the war, but the president conducts the war.
After the lecture, attendees explained the biggest takeaways from the lecture.
“The constitutional basis for the separation of powers issue has more to do with the constitutional control over the military than what I have thought,” Dr. Bob Hutton said. “For the most part, I thought of the presidential role of being commander-in-chief controlling basically every element of the military other than declarations of war, which are congressional. But here I learned there’s a little bit more to it than that.”
Constitution Week is recognized annually from Sept. 17 to Sept. 23.
Featured Image by Constitutional Convention, obtained through Creative Commons
Edited by Lexie Little