What is the real meaning of the General welfare clause

☆astac☆~PWCM 2012/08/15 04:35:26
Thomas Jefferson in his opinion on the Bank as follows: “[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.”531 The clause, in short, is not an independent grant of power, but a qualification of the taxing power. Although a broader view has been occasionally asserted,532 Congress has not acted upon it and the Court has had no occasion to adjudicate the point.
Madison contended that the powers of taxation and appropriation of the proposed government should be regarded as merely instrumental to its remaining powers, in other words, as little more than a power of self–support


The general welfare clause has absolutely nothing to do with the confiscation of wealth from one group of individuals and the transferring of it to another. Progressives have completely distorted the meaning of that clause.

This clause only grants congress the power to collect taxes for the promotion of a general state of well-being for the country as a whole provided the money collected will only be spent by congress according to the powers granted to congress.

This clause authorizes congress to collect taxes from various sources to pay off national debts, provide for common defense, and the general welfare.

This clause is the first in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution. The section is titled the powers of congress. Nothing in this clause authorizes congress to spend any money. The rest of the section spells out the areas where congress has the power to spend the taxes whose collection is authorized in clause 1. These items spelled out in the remaining clauses of the section all pertain to paying off debts, providing common defense and general welfare of the nation.

Progressives have completely ignored the definition of the phrase “general welfare” that was universally accepted by the framers of the constitution. They have substituted the 18th century definition of general welfare with a modern definition that is the polar opposite of the original.

From the period well before the writing of the constitution up until the 1930s general welfare as used in the constitution was defined as the overall state of wellbeing of the nation as a whole.

Handing out money to individuals the government has labeled as in need is the modern definition of the word welfare. It wasn’t until the new deal under FDR that the US government began using the justification that the general welfare clause authorizes the US Government to spend money this way.

"They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which might be for the good of the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please... Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straitly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect." --Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on National Bank, 1791. ME 3:148

"It is an established rule of construction where a phrase will bear either of two meanings, to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which would render all the others useless." --Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on National Bank, 1791. ME 3:148

"The general rule, in the construction of instruments, [is] to leave no words merely useless, for which any rational meaning can be found." --Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on the Tonnage Payable, 1791. ME 3:290

"For authority to apply the surplus [of taxes] to objects of improvement, an amendment of the Constitution would have been necessary." --Thomas Jefferson to John W. Eppes, 1813. ME 13:354

"[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. ME 8:397

"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 to Albert Gallatin, 1817. ME 15:133

"Congress are authorized to defend the nation. Ships are necessary for defence; copper is necessary for ships; mines necessary for copper; a company necessary to work mines; and who can doubt this reasoning who has ever played at 'This is the House that Jack built?' Under such a process of filiation of necessities the sweeping clause makes clean work." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1800. ME 10:165

"If, wherever the Constitution assumes a single power out of many which belong to the same subject, we should consider it as assuming the whole, it would vest the General Government with a mass of powers never contemplated. On the contrary, the assumption of particular powers seems an exclusion of all not assumed." --Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell, 1814. ME 14:83

"I hope our courts will never countenance the sweeping pretensions which have been set up under the words 'general defence and public welfare.' These words only express the motives which induced the Convention to give to the ordinary legislature certain specified powers which they enumerate, and which they thought might be trusted to the ordinary legislature, and not to give them the unspecified also; or why any specification? They could not be so awkward in language as to mean, as we say, 'all and some.' And should this construction prevail, all limits to the federal government are done away." --Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1815. ME 14:350

"This phrase,... by a mere grammatical quibble, has countenanced the General Government in a claim of universal power. For in the phrase, 'to lay taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare,' it is a mere question of syntax, whether the two last infinitives are governed by the first or are distinct and coordinate powers; a question unequivocally decided by the exact definition of powers immediately following." --Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1817. ME 15:133

"Although the power to regulate commerce does not give a power to build piers, wharves, open ports, clear the beds of rivers, dig canals, build warehouses, build manufacturing machines, set up manufactories, cultivate the earth, to all of which the power would go if it went to the first, yet a power to provide and maintain a navy is a power to provide receptacles for it, and places to cover and preserve it." --Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1802. ME 10:337

"While we pursue, then, the construction of the Legislature, that the repairing and erecting lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and piers, is authorized as belonging to the regulation of commerce, we must take care not to go ahead of them and strain the meaning of the terms still further to the clearing out the channels of all the rivers, etc., of the United States. The removing a sunken vessel is not the repairing of a pier." --Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1803. ME 10:379

"I suppose an amendment to the Constitution, by consent of the States, necessary [for certain objects of public improvement], because the objects now recommended are not among those enumerated in the Constitution, and to which it permits the public moneys to be applied." --Thomas Jefferson: 6th Annual Message, 1806. ME 3:424

"The interests of commerce place the principal object [i.e., a western exploring expedition] within the constitutional powers and care of Congress, and that it should incidentally advance the geographical knowledge of our own continent, can not but be an additional gratification." --Thomas Jefferson: Confidential Message on Western Exploration, 1803. ME 3:493

Read More: http://constitutionmythbuster.com/2011/05/09/what-...

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  • Transquesta 2012/08/15 05:16:00
    To promote the general welfare means to promote the welfare/wellbeing of ALL. The word general in this context means ALL.

    This clause also doesn't mean 'provide.' The general welfare clause is a 'mission statement.' It reflects the framers' idea of what government is supposed to do in basic or fundamental terms. It is by NO means an authorization or empowerment for the government to PROVIDE anything except, as explained later, for the common defense.
  • les_gvt 2012/08/15 05:11:20 (edited)
    promote the general welfare- do no harm, ensure the nation is taken care of.

    All social programs are the responsibility of the various states, NOT the federal government
  • ☆astac☆~PWCM 2012/08/15 04:36:39
    To lay taxes to pay for those functions that are enumerated in the Constitution. The general welfare clause does not apply to private citizens or corporations.

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