FEBRUARY 21, 1953
CLEVELAND, Friday—Being in the State of Ohio, I was interested to see a report on Senator John Bricker's statement to the Judiciary Committee in favor of his constitutional amendment. He wants to curtail the authority of the executive part of the government in the field of international agreements. He calls this executive right "a real and imminent danger to the rights of the American people." His amendment would prevent any international treaty or agreement from superseding Federal or state laws.
The Constitution now provides that a treaty, when once it is ratified by the Senate, becomes the supreme law of the land. The safeguard, of course, is the fact that the Senate has to ratify a treaty, and if you look back over our past history you will find the number of treaties negotiated by the executive and ratified by the Senate is comparatively small.
The Senate is extremely careful to make sure that any treaty is constitutional. If it did not take this precaution there would be endless lawsuits going to the Supreme Court for final decision as to whether such treaties were constitutional. It is quite impossible, therefore, for any treaty to undermine the constitutional rights of the American citizen, because the Senate would not ratify such a treaty.
Senator Bricker says: "No such treaty can be effected to entrust the rights of American citizens to the supervision and control of international agencies over which they exercise no control." In these words he is quite evidently trying to nullify our acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations. All members of the U.N. engage themselves to observe what is written in that charter, but we all have equal representation in the U.N., which gives us an opportunity to defend our rights. We have entered into no agreement that impinges on our rights at home. Domestic questions of individual countries are declared to be in the jurisdiction of the member states themselves and not under U.N. control.
Senator Bricker adds that the amendment would prevent the making of executive agreements such as those made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference. A President, of course, acts under powers given by the Congress and, in the case of making a treaty, he acts under powers given by the Constitution.
The Bricker proposal also would forbid "United States participation in world or regional government by treaty or less formal agreement."
I suppose this would mean all our agreements with Central and South America and what we have been doing in NATO.
The Senator attacks most violently the U.N. specialized agency called the International Labor Organization, saying it aims "to become economic overseer of all humanity." This is amusing in view of the fact that in this organization labor, employers and government are all represented, and they go over their agreements with great care. But any conclusion the ILO draws can only be put into effect in a nation that ratifies them, and we have ratified remarkably few of these conventions.
The ILO is trying only to equalize standards throughout the world. And this is a laudable effort, which we who have high standards should certainly stand by, since it will lessen the competition against us in the low-standard areas.