1952 April 8

Truman Seizes Steel Mills – Initiates Confrontation Over Presidential Power


In the midst of the Korean War, President Harry Truman seized the steel mills to avert a strike he claimed would hinder the war effort. Truman justified his action on the grounds the president had extraordinary powers over national security issues. The seizure on this day provoked a national controversy over presidential power and eventually a landmark Supreme Court case. The Supreme Court overturned the seizure and rebuked Truman’s claims of presidential power in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, decided on June 2, 1952.

The case still resonates today on the question of presidential power. The most significant part of the Court’s decision is Justice Robert Jackson’s concurring opinion in the case, which outlined a framework for analyzing the constitutional aspects of presidential power.

President Truman: “At midnight the Government will take over the steel plants. Both management and labor will then be working for the Government. And they will have a clear duty to heat up their furnaces again and go on making steel.”

Read Truman’s statement on seizing the steel mills: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=14454&st=&st1=#axzz2ihPowy5t

Read about the case: Maeva Marcus, Truman and the Steel Seizure Case (1977)

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