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Thomas Jefferson Clarifies "to provide for the...general welfare"

Dang Congress Critters. The only part of the constitution they pay attention to are the words "to provide for the...general welfare," and they don't even know what it means. You may want to send this to yours:

Limited vs. Universal Powers
"I say... to the opinion of those who consider the grant of the treaty-making power as boundless: If it is, then we have no Constitution. If it has bounds, they can be no others than the definitions of the powers which that instrument gives." --Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Nicholas, 1803. ME 10:419

"The construction applied... to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which delegate to Congress a power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States," and "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof," goes to the destruction of all limits prescribed to [the General Government's] power by the Constitution... Words meant by the instrument to be subsidiary only to the execution of limited powers ought not to be construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. ME 17:385

"To lay taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United States, that is to say, "to lay taxes for the purpose of providing for the general welfare." For the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They 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." --Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on National Bank, 1791. ME 3:147

"Aided by a little sophistry on the words "general welfare," [the federal branch claim] a right to do not only the acts to effect that which are specifically enumerated and permitted, but whatsoever they shall think or pretend will be for the general welfare." --Thomas Jefferson to William Branch Giles, 1825. ME 16:147

"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

http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1020.htm




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This was a Great post!

This was a Great post!

Thanks!!

laws and constitutions

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." --Thomas Jefferson

What you believe to be true, is true to you... "until you change your mind"

"Nothing is more likely than

"Nothing is more likely than that [the] enumeration of powers is defective. This is the ordinary case of all human works. Let us then go on perfecting it by adding by way of amendment to the Constitution those powers which time and trial show are still wanting." --Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Nicholas, 1803

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"...we are face to face with the problem whether ours is a government under a written constitution and the laws made pursuant thereto, or whether it is a government by ambitious and usurping men.'" -- F.Pierce

13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he shall hate the one, and love the other, or else he shall lean to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and riches. - Luke 16

Good Answer.

Good Answer.

BIG BUMP

_________________________________

My liberty-minded home base of thought:

www.ponderthis.net

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Freedom - Peace - Prosperity

There is a Common Law MAXIM which states...

(my own words, I don't have time to look it up)
If there is a question about the meaning of a document one should defer to the the intention of those who wrote the document. SUPREME COURT defer to the FOUNDERS.

The Liberty a society retains is inversely proportional to the number of Lawyers in the Government.

The Liberty a society retains is inversely proportional to the number of Lawyers in the Government.

the preamble explains what the amendments

are meant for. by limiting the government, the general welfare of the people is much better. good way of dissecting it.

very good thank you

i would like to read more dialogue on what our founders intended by article 1 section 8 regarding "regulating commerce"

The Original Meaning of the

The Original Meaning of the Commerce Clause by Randy Barnett

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"...we are face to face with the problem whether ours is a government under a written constitution and the laws made pursuant thereto, or whether it is a government by ambitious and usurping men.'" -- F.Pierce

13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he shall hate the one, and love the other, or else he shall lean to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and riches. - Luke 16

You can add Madison to

You can add Madison to this.

"With respect to the words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of power 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 not contemplated by its creators." - James Madison

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"...we are face to face with the problem whether ours is a government under a written constitution and the laws made pursuant thereto, or whether it is a government by ambitious and usurping men.'" -- F.Pierce

13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he shall hate the one, and love the other, or else he shall lean to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and riches. - Luke 16

Good find.

Good find.

Thomas Jefferson 1796, 1800, 1804; James Madison 1808, 1812; Ron Paul 1988, 2008, 2012; Rand Paul 2016.

This is good thanks.

This is good thanks.

Bailouts to giant banks are

Bailouts to giant banks are not in the general welfare.

They are specific welfare for corrupt CEOs and stockholders.

All laws must be in the general welfare and be specifically delegated from the states to the federal government via the Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson 1796, 1800, 1804; James Madison 1808, 1812; Ron Paul 1988, 2008, 2012; Rand Paul 2016.