Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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Fulton/Westerfield US History Name:________________________

Vietnam- Presidential Powers

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

“Our government has no right to send American boys to their death in any battlefield in the absence of a declaration of war, and Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution vests the prerogative of declaring war in the Congress of the United States. And no war has been declared in Southeast Asia, and until a war is declared, it is unconstitutional to send American boys to their death in South Vietnam, or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. I don't know why we think, just because we're mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right. And that's the American policy in Southeast Asia. It's just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it.

I believe that history will record that we have made a great mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States. . . I believe this resolution to be a historic mistake. I believe that within the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake.”

In 1964, the House of Representatives unanimously approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Johnson full authority to send combat troops into Vietnam despite the reality that Congress had not declared a war. In the Senate, only two senators dissented and refused to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. One of them was Wayne Morse. Read and annotate Morse’s commentary on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution below and use complete sentences to answer the questions that follow

  1. What is Morse’s primary reason for his disagreement with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

  1. How does Morse believe that people in the future will look back on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

  1. Why do you think Morse believes that this is a “mistake”?

War Powers Act
The cartoon below addresses Congress’s decision to pass the War Powers Act in 1973, which limited the President’s ability to send troops into foreign countries without Congress’s approval. The individual holding the newspaper is President Richard Nixon.

"Imagine! Congress trying to curb my right to conduct unconstitutional wars! Why, that unconstitutional!"

  1. Why did Congress feel the need to pass the War Powers Act?

  1. Describe how President Nixon’s reaction to the War Powers Act is portrayed in the cartoon. Why would he be portrayed in this manner?

  1. Does the cartoon support Richard Nixon, or does it criticize him? Explain how you know this.

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