James Madison on the “General Welfare”

I thought it would be good to bring James Madisons own words when describing how the General welfare clause in articleI section8 was to be construed, and dismissing fears of constructions such as we have today.

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Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the 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,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.

Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms “to raise money for the general welfare.”

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Liberty for Security: A Reasonable Trade-Off?

It seems with each new day in modern America, we learn of some new threat to our safety and our future. But we often take comfort in knowing that there is a plan. Those we have elected to watch out for the common good surely already have the situation under control. They are just letting us know about the threats so that when we notice that a bit of our liberty has been constrained, we will understand why. They remind us that they need the resources and authority to handle the threat so that we can be safe and so that our future can be secured. Most of us think that a bit of liberty for more security is a reasonable trade off and few have questioned it, until recently.

Now, people are beginning to ask hard questions:

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