Constitutional Conundrum #2: To Promote the General Welfare
Perhaps no two words in the Constitution have created more controversy or allowed for more mischief-making than “general” & “welfare.” As is the case with the entire Preamble, the phrase “general welfare” is certainly important but just as certainly does not “define” for future generations what that meant.
Just as when you & your family first told friends you would be taking a “beach vacation,” you left many details to be completed later at a later date. Such was the case with our Founders: They set the stage with the Preamble, but could not have imagined that their opening paragraph would be used to commit or limit the people and their government in any any specific way. In their wisdom, they should have seen it coming - and perhaps some of them did - for wherever there is doubt tyrants always seek a way to to dispel it or redefine it to their advantage.
It is later in Article I, Section 8, that the Founders attempted to define the parameters of the meaning of “promoting the general welfare” ... specifically "... Congress shall have 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."
Even before the Constitution was ratified, a huge rift occurred between Alexander Hamilton on the one side, with Madison and Jefferson on the other. Hamilton insisted that without a broad interpretation, the federal government would be powerless; the Federalists stood firm that too much power is far worse than not enough. They further argued, successfully, that the twenty powers that were enumerated (see below), would not have been necessary had the Constitution intended for expansive powers.
It was only during the New Deal in the 1930’s and in several court decisions in the mid twentieth century that Hamilton’s interpretation became remotely popular. So we put the question to you:
Do you wish for the Federal Government in Washington, DC. to have more power and influence over your life or not; more say in what you can and cannot do, or not? It’s that simple - and that complicated.
At Up With America, we believe that that government which governs least governs best; that that government closest to the people is best qualified and capable of making decisions directly affecting the lives of local citizens. We believe that the “general welfare” of this nation must largely be defined as the protection of the union of states that comprise it - nothing more, nothing less.
Article I, Section 8
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."