Lacey Smith

Focus on Freedom: The Preamble (Pt. 7); General Welfare Clause (Pt 2 of 2)

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Last Focus on Freedom post I went over part of the general welfare clause.

I defined each word and encouraged you to evaluate it in context of the rest of the Constitution.

This post focuses on what the Founders had to say.

Here are a few of their quotes on this topic:

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Albert Gallatin

“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

James Madison in a letter to Edmund Pendleton

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.”

James Madison in a letter to James Robertson

“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

Finally, from Federalist No. 41 (also written by Madison, but as part of a then-anonymous group of authors):

Some…have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.”

It is clear when we read the words of our Founders that providing for the general welfare was intended to be limited to the enumerated powers provided in the later sections and articles.

We must understand this and we must recognize every time the government oversteps on our “behalf”.

It is rampant twisting of this clause that has brought us Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and put us in our financial crisis.

It is time to pull back and come to a real understanding of the general welfare, encouraged but not guaranteed by the Constitution.

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