When our Constitution was drafted, the controversial issue was not the separation of powers between Congress and the executive, as Stephen Carter let on {"Going To War Over War Powers," Outlook, Nov. 18}, but the supremacy of the national government over state sovereignty. It is in this context that we should consider the war powers clause as well.

The war powers clause of the Constitution originally stated, "The Legislature of the United States shall have the power to make war." Somehow, "make" was changed to "declare." This compromise in language may have been intended to strike a balance between the federalists, who didn't want state governors "making" wars, and the anti-federalists, who believed state-run militias to be the preferred form of defense. If we are going to war over war powers, the fight will be between two federalist factions.

The Constitution also states it is "the supreme law of the land." This should not be taken to mean it is the sole authority over disputes between equal branches of government but was put there to place state governments under federal guardianship. What the branches of government do with the Constitution has often been a matter of interpretation, tempered by the tenets (and sometimes tyrants) of the times. -- Craig K. Allen