Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Center on Global Governance


On September 5, 1917, at the height of American participation in the Great War, Charles Evans Hughes famously argued that “the power to wage war is the power to wage war successfully.” This moment and those words were a collision between the onset of “total war,” Lochner-era jurisprudence, and cautious Progressive-era administrative development. This article tells the story of Hughes’s statement – including what he meant at the time and how he wrestled with some difficult questions that flowed from it. The article then concludes with some reasons why the story remains important today.