Stephen L. Carter suggested that Congress, in attempting to safeguard its power to declare war, was looking at the wrong clause in the Constitution {"Going To War Over War Powers," Outlook, Nov. 18}. I believe Mr. Carter was the one looking at the wrong clause.

In 1941 my father, the late Judge J. Karr Taylor, prepared a special report for Herbert Hoover on this very subject, because President Roosevelt wanted to send military supplies to England. Mr. Hoover contended that supplies could be routed via a third party without involving the United States in an act of war.

In his report, my father cited Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which says:

"Congress shall have the Power to ... provide for the common Defense."

"To declare War."

"To raise and support Armies."

"To provide and maintain a Navy."

"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions."

"To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia."

Article II provides that "the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States."

My father also reported that members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 did not choose the verb "declare" carelessly. The report of the Committee of Detail (Aug. 17, 1787) gave the power to "make war" to the legislature; James Madison and Elbridge Gerry "moved to insert 'declare' striking out 'make' war; thus leaving to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks."

My father further cited a study in 1928 on the protection of citizens abroad by the armed forces that said "if the action to be taken will not result in war, the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief may be sufficient. On the other hand, if war would be the probable result of the employment of armed forces, Congress must take action. Otherwise, the power conferred upon Congress to declare war is a lifeless and futile thing."

My father's conclusion was that "it was not the intent of the makers of the Constitution to confer upon the President any power to commence a war, and that it was the intention to confer this power solely upon the Congress; that the courts, in such instances as have been considered, have uniformly so declared; that Congress has by no existing law delegated to the President its function of deciding when the United States of its own volition should embark upon a war; that the constitutional practice has been to respect these distinctions."

Recently, the president's National Security Council took upon itself to override the mandate of Congress not to send arms to Central America. This instance showed that Congress' control of the "purse strings," which Mr. Carter talked about as an effective deterrent to war, did not work.

Mr. Carter wrote that Congress can halt a war -- any war -- whenever it pleases. That's like saying that anyone can mend a car after a head-on collision. When it comes to driving this nation into war, I want the legislative branch in the driver's seat, thank you, and the safety belt fastened. SARAH TAYLOR CUTLER Potomac