Regarding ‘general welfare’ . . .

  • “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.” —James Madison
Published in: on August 4, 2009 at 7:01 am  Comments (13)  

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  1. Perhaps you ought to read what Alexander Hamilton wrote, in his essay, “Report on Manufactures” to get a real grasp of the founders intent. You might also consider that Madison wanted “general welfare” left out, but was over-ruled by the rest of the Constitional Convention. Sorry, but the Federalists won that round, so it’s misleading to use Madison’s opinion.

    • “I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil.”
      — Ben Franklin

    • You make this too easy to dispute.”I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. [To approve the measure] would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”
      — President Franklin Pierce’s 1854 veto of a measure to help the mentally ill.

  2. Mr. Tuck,

    If “general welfare” was an unfettered grant of federal power, why have Article I Section 8 at all? Why not just leave the powers of the federal government to the discretion of the legislature’s determination of what serves the “general welfare?”

  3. You don’t like Madison’s quote, let’s use Jefferson’s instead:

    “[If] it [were] assumed that the general government has a right to exercise all powers which may be for the ‘general welfare,’ that [would include] all the legitimate powers of government, since no government has a legitimate right to do what is not for the
    welfare of the governed.”

    –Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1792.

    • Just because Madison did not want the words “General Welfare” in the Constitution does not negate his quote. He knew and now we know he was right, that the government would twist the words to what they were not meant.

  4. Concerning the “general welfare” the 14th Amendment gives the federal government the power to tax only for the general welfare listed in Article 1, Section 8 of our constitution. The United States Constitution embraces the ideas of Washington, Madison, and Jefferson which the rest of the Founding Fathers signed on too. Mr. Tuck on his reply is absolutely right. Madison and Jefferson said the States have unlimited powers to make laws concerning the general welfare. In my opinion, creating competition between the states. Democrats in congress hate the United States Constitution and the tenth amendment because it would stop their socialist/communist agenda.

    Jim Albright

  5. The world is but a perpetual see-saw….

    Time is the sovereign physician of our passions….

  6. I guess the 10th amendment means nothing also? “Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society. ”
    — John Adams, Novanglus Letters, 1774

    • All should read:

      1. The last 4 paras of Federalist Paper No. 41 by James Madison.
      2. The definition of “welfare”, as applied to States, given in Webster’s 1828 dictionary of the American Language. This edition has been on line, but has either been removed or the link is not working today.

      I hate to be one of those tacky people who link to their own work, but I do explain the original intent of the “general welfare” clause here:

      To the person who linked to Hamilton’s Report on Manufacturers: Yes, Hamilton said what he said. BUT THAT WAS MOST MANIFESTLY NOT THE ORIGINAL INTENT! The Federalist Papers were always considered the best evidence of the original intent of the Constitution until the progressives took over the federal government.

      My paper proves the original intent.

      • I understand totally about linking our own sites . . . but I visited your site and you are welcome to link, any time.

      • Thank you. I just subscribed to your blog.

  7. “Our tenet ever was that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated, and that, as it was never meant that they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money. ”
    — Thomas Jefferson letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817

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