Constitution Post: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 14

The Congress shall have Power To…make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces….

Today’s Constitution post covers the Military Regulations clause, which correlates to the previous two clauses we’ve discussed.  Right after giving Congress the power to “raise and support Armies,” and to “provide and maintain a Navy,” the Constitution gives Congress the power to “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.”  This clause was actually copied from the Articles of Confederation during the Constitutional Convention, and, according to the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, “passed without controversy.”

Congressional Powers

This power fits into the Founders’ definition of the federal government’s jurisdiction.  James Madison said, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.”  He goes on to specifically define the federal government’s powers as “…external objects…war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.”  Since this clause specifically relates to the military, it can be classified under the federal government’s jurisdiction in war.  As a result of the abuse of this power the founding fathers had seen in England, they delegated it to the legislative branch of the federal government, because it is “closest to the people.”

Military Justice 

The Military Regulations clause allows for adjustments to be made that provide uniformity in military law.  According to the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, John Adams “…wrote both Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies (1775) and the American Articles of War (1775).  Following the adoption of the Constitution, the First Congress decided that both of these codes would continue in force.  The American Articles of War, although revised several times, remained the basic code for the United States Army until 1917.  Revisions included changes to punishments; rules governing the appointment of courts-martial; and, during the Civil War, the expansion of military jurisdiction over crimes and persons leading to major contests in the courts of law.”  After some controversy over the severity of the American Article of War, adjustments were made, and, in 1950, the Uniform Code of Military Justice was put into place to ensure justice in the military system.


I hope you’ve learned a little more from today’s Constitution Post!

Although today’s post was shorter than usual, if you’re interested in more information on military law, I would encourage you to read more from the Heritage Guide to the Constitution.


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