Published On: Tue, Oct 19th, 2010

Does the ‘General Welfare’ clause constitute such sweeping powers?

One of the phrases in the U.S. Constitution that has been more misunderstood, misinterpreted, and violated by politicians since the founding of the Republic is found in Article I, Section 8: “to provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States“.

James Madison portrait by John Vanderlyn, dated 1816

This clause has been bastardized by everyone from Alexander Hamilton to Barack Obama. And it was of extreme concern by some of the founders from the beginning, and for good reason.

Hamilton was a proponent of the expansive interpretation of the clause that granted broad spending powers to the Congress. A major advocate of federal powers, Hamilton once said he’d like to see the central government triumph altogether over the state governments and reduce them to entire subordination. Mr. Hamilton you got your wish.

The anti-federalists of course had a much narrower interpretation of the “general welfare” clause.

Many like Patrick Henry were concerned that the clause would eventually transform the government into one of unlimited powers. Good call Mr. Henry.

But he and others were reassured for good reason.

Why would the framers take the time to specifically enumerate the specific powers if the general welfare clause were to supersede them.

James Madison once said “for what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceeding general power?”

It is common to mention a general phrase and follow it with specifics and particulars.

Also by misinterpretating the general welfare clause, it tramples all over the 10th Amendment;

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”.

In other words, other than the  enumerated powers granted to the federal government, the States and preferably more local systems should have power and jurisdiction over thoses issues and spending.

Thomas Jefferson once warned, “The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield”.

Unfortunately many Americans are ignorant or choose to ignore the Constitution. If people knew of these limitations imposed on the federal government, how could they possibly accept what Washington has done?

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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