Historical Insights

  • “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity…. [It] would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.” ~President Franklin Pierce (1804-1869)
  • “I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan to indulge in benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds…. I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution.” ~President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908)
  • “[Monday was] Labor Day, I suppose set by [an] Act of Congress. Everything we do nowadays is either by, or against, Acts of Congress. How Congress knew anything about Labor is beyond us.” ~American humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935)
Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Constitution and Public Charity . . .

  • In a famous incident in 1854, President Franklin Pierce was pilloried for vetoing an extremely popular bill intended to help mentally ill. The act was championed by the renowned 19th century social reformer Dorothea Dix. In the face of heavy criticism, Pierce countered: “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for the public charity.” To approve such spending, argued Pierce, “would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”
Published in: on August 14, 2009 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Role of Government Charity

  • “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.” ~President Grover Cleveland vetoing a bill for charity relief (18 Congressional Record 1875 [1877]
  • “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
  • In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison stood on the floor of the House to object saying, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” ~James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)
  • “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” ~Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817