In the preamble to the U.S. Constitution it says “promote the general Welfare” and in Article I Section 8 Part 1 it says “The Congress shall have the Power to …. provide for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States;”. These references and any others of like kind are generally referred to as the “Welfare Clause” and give the federal government the authority to protect the people and their welfare. What exactly did the people who wrote the Constitution mean by the phrase “general Welfare”? A few quotes will suffice to get us started.
Let us start with the author of the Constitution James Madison:
“With respect to the two words “general Welfare” I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers 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 was not contemplated by its creators. If the words obtained so readily a place in the “Articles of Confederation” and received so little notice in their admission into the present Constitution, and retained for so long a time a silent place in both, the fairest explanation is, that the words, in the alternative of meaning nothing or meaning everything, had the former taken for granted.” (Translation: If you have not been given the power to do something, you cannot use “general Welfare” as a justification for doing it. This is not the intention of these words.)
“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.” (Translation: Just because you feel sorry for someone, the federal government has no authority to help him).
“The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of government.” (Translation: Just because you feel sorry for someone, the federal government has no authority to help him).
“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one … ” (Translation: Once you start spending money willy-nilly to promote the general welfare you have destroyed the entire concept of limited government.)
“As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” (Translation: When the government gets too big you will lose your freedom.)
“There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” (Translation: Eighty years of gradual socialism is just as dangerous as any sudden usurpation.)
“The powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.” (Translation: Reread Article 1 Section 8 and the Tenth Amendment if you haven’t grasped it yet.)
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” (Translation: None needed.)
A few more from the author of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson:
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare but only those specifically enumerated.”
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
“The greatest [calamity] which could befall [us would be] submission to a government of unlimited powers.”
“Whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”
“When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
“I see, … And with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic; and that, too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power… It is but too evident that the three ruling branches of [the Federal government] are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities, of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic.” (it sounds like the socialists were trying to get started around 1825.)
The Welfare Clause is the most abused part of the United States Constitution. The forces of socialism claim it gives them the authority to pass any type of law they want to help people; this claim is false. They then cite certain Supreme Court rulings to buttress their claim; those rulings were invalid since the courts may not contradict the Constitution.
The people who wrote our founding documents were consistent in their writings about the Welfare Clause. They said you could not use the Welfare Clause as an excuse to exceed the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution. The destruction of the meaning of the Welfare Clause (coupled with the destruction of the meaning of the Commerce Clause) was the key to the destruction of the concept of limited government and the subsequent rise of socialism.