Johnson's Decision Aided Local Power Cox Argues
President Johnson strengthened local power and local responsibility by his action in Detroit, Archibald Cox, Samuel Williston Professor of Law and former U.S. Solicitor General has written in last Sunday's Boston Globe.
Cox said that Johnson could have sent in troops without a request from Governor Romney. By "finding that the use of troops probably was necessary to protect government property, secure delivery of the mails, promote interstate commerce and execute...the laws of the United States" Johnson, he said, could have acted unilaterally.
But by waiting for Romney's request, Cox wrote, Johnson acted in consonance with "the basic constitutional distribution of power between the nation and the states." This distribution leaves the primary responsibility for preserving order with the states.
Article IV of the Constitution permits the United States to protect a state against domestic violence "upon request of its Legislature or of its governor if the Legislature cannot be convened."
So "by making plain his unwillingness to intervene except upon request of a state which has exhausted its own resources." Cox feels Johnson re-enforced the Constitutional doctrine that the domestic peace-preserving power lies chiefly with the states.
Charges that Johnson had played politics with the timing of his decision to send in troops are baseless though "probably unavoidable in a situation where the governor belong to one political party and the President the other," Cox wrote.
And Romney's request for aid in ending the trouble "should be regarded not as a confession of mistakes or incompetence but as a proper step in the constitutional administration of divided responsibility," Cox said.