National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1947-1954: We struggle to preserve freedom in a dangerous world

June 2, 1952
Truman says, “Seize the mills.” The Court says “No!”

President Harry S. Truman

“The President has the power to keep the country from going to hell.”
–Harry S. Truman

When the Korean conflict began nearly two years ago, critics complained that President Truman had overstepped his authority as president. Only Congress can declare war, they said. The President had ordered troops into battle without asking Congress.

Congress did come around to supporting Truman’s policy in Korea, but now the limits of presidential power are being tested again.

The President says we face a crisis: a nationwide steel strike that could cripple our military efforts. To avert a strike, he’s ordered the government to seize the mills and keep them running.

Presidents often exercise emergency powers in times of war. But today the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Truman has gone too far.

The Constitution doesn't give the President power to seize private property, even as Commander in Chief. Without authority from Congress, the Court said, his order “cannot stand.”

Read about it in the New York times

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