What does it mean to be a Constitution of enumerated powers?

First, we need to understand the definition of the word. More importantly, we need to look it up in a dictionary from the founding era so we get the same meaning as that generation understood the word. Try looking up the word “welfare” in a Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and compare it to the same word in a Webster’s 2015 dictionary. You’ll see how the definitions drastically change over time.

The definition of enumerated in Webster’s 1828 dictionary reads as follows:

“Counted or told, number by number; reckoned or mentioned by distinct particulars”

The gist is this, enumerated means something is listed. So, when the founders said the Constitution is one of enumerated Powers, it means every power the federal government has is listed in the Constitution.

If the government is trying to exercise a power, all we have to do is look in the Constitution to see if it is “on the list.” if it is not on the list, the federal government cannot do it!

Each of the three branches powers are enumerated or listed as follows. Article 1 lists the legislative branch’s powers, Article 2 lists the executive branch’s powers and Article 3 lists the judicial branch’s powers.

Additional powers of Congress can be found in Articles 3 and 5, and Amendments 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 23, 24 and 26.

The men who wrote the Constitution had just thrown off the yoke of a tyrannical king; they wanted nothing more to do with prerogative power. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary prerogative means:

“A royal prerogative is that special pre-eminence which a king has over all other persons”

They wanted a government with no prerogative power, a government where each branch’s powers are clearly enumerated or listed so it would be easy to see when anyone branch overstepped its Constitutional authority. A government based on the rule of law, not man.

You have to know the Constitution to do this.

That is the purpose of Building Blocks For Liberty (BBFL), a 501c3 organization dedicated to educating the public about the U.S. Constitution. BBFL’s Constitution Boot Camp training is apolitical and teaches the key concepts and ideas about the founding fathers, natural law, a republic versus democracy, the three branches of government, enumerated powers and much more. Unlike other Constitution training, BBFL’s classes are presented in one day. BBFL uses one of two teaching methods. The first is an instructor-led PowerPoint class. The second is a video method that uses a flash drive. Class leaders simply plug into a USB port and click on play. Participant’s next use our textbook, The Handbook For We The People, to complete their basic Constitutional education. At the end of the class, participants will be equipped with the tools and the knowledge to read and understand the U.S. Constitution for themselves. For more information, visit BBFL’s website HERE.

Jim Lewis
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