"With respect to the 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."
James Madison
(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
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Reader comments about this quote:
It is plain to see Congress has gone well beyond their powers.
 -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
    combine that with the quote yesterday from the Alabama Constitution and the immoral, and unlawful edicts of current government are exposed.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 1
    I have always thought Madison's words "general welfare" was a terribly vague flaw in the Constitution because, as Madison himself recognized, it is so open to abuse. Of course those words appear only in the preamble and, as such, are only an introductory explanation of the Constitution which follows. There are no governmental requirements in the preamble. The body of the Constitution as written is how we are going to achieve the general welfare, not some collection of unconstitutional laws based on a stretched and deformed interpretation of interstate commerce.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
    A great mind. The interpretation of that part of the constitution is a creative excuse. I doubt that the abusers really believe their own interpretation. James Madison along with Jefferson were two of the best minds forming our country. They were what we would call Libertarians today. They were great with philosophy but not as great as presidents.
     -- warren, olathe     
     -- dragonswizardz      
    Whoo boy... I wonder what Madison would say if he were alive today!
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    Unfortunately "general Welfare" also appears in the first paragraph of Article 1 section 8 also. However, it is ludicrous to think you would start a list of specific powers, of a limited government, with a clause saying "the government can do anything it wants." What would be the purpose of a list of specific powers. The Constitution is very clear when read in context; only self-agrandizing bureaucrats and politicians could make the twisted interpretations they have. TR drew first blood and FDR gave the Constitution a mortal wound. It has been dying of democrats and democracy ever since.
     -- helorat, Milton     
    Ditto on Article I, Section 8. The sorry excuse of the CARDOZO "stacked" court in the 1930s abandoned 147 years of this interpretation for a mere speculation as to the limits of the clause by SC Justice Joseph Story. This expanded the view of the clause to spending authority while completely ignoring the 9th and 10th amendment arguments (reserved rights to the people). Together w/the abuse of the 16th amendment, the now national, unconstitutional government now legislates under the auspice that it can take all of the money out of a state via taxes in order to coerce the respective states into compliance with unconstitutional and yes, tyranical, edicts.
     -- Michael Gilroy, Nashville     
    BTW...Another Madison quote: "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." This was from the 1st session of the 3rd Congress when Madison led votes against granting assistance to French refugees from the Haitian revolution. So...it goes to prove that he did actually vote in line with the interpretation... as did most legislators until the early to mid 1900s.
     -- Michael Gilroy, Nashville     
    Article 1 Section 8 refers to the general welfare of the United States of America (the nation) not We The People (individuals). Madison was quite clear about this in his writings. It goes along with providing for the national defense... key world 'national'. It did not speak of individual defense such as a police state.
     -- Bob, Rossford, Ohio     
    We need a Constitutional Amendment, call it the Madison Amendment, that redefines the "General Welfare" and the "Interstate Commerce" clause to the founders' original intent!
     -- Bryan, Tustin     
    I think we need to constitutionally broaden the meaning of treason to include the crimes against America as perpetrated by Obama, Pelosi and Reid. The founders would surely provide the rope.
     -- Colin, Lyme, CT     
  • 1
     -- Anonymous      
    I believe Madison always knew what he was writting and saying. It is a shame how some decided to interpret his words. He ( and no one can) could not know how others would use those words. As for a Madison Amendment, we shouldn't change the proccess (Consitution) we should change the people(congress).
     -- Kevin Sheehan, Windber, PA     
    Politicians have done every conceivable idiotic thing under the guise of doing it for the "general welfare". Mostly done to promote the welfare of the politician.
     -- jim k, Austin,Tx     
  • 1
    Actually the term "general Welfare" is not just in the Preamble. You have to read the rest of the Constitution. Article 1 Section 8 first paragraph says, "Congress shall have power to...provide for the common Defence and the general Welfare of the United States..." This is the section that spells out the enumerated Powers of Congress. The term "general Welfare" was not talking about Government Entitlement Programs that we today call Welfare. It was the Government's responsibilty to provide for an atmosphere that would allow for economic growth through compitition and free markets. It was a protector of the rights we already had secured. It was a protector of individual's ideas through copyrite and patent laws, etc. It was a guard against unfair trade and commerce practices. In other words, it encouraged a man to be able to farm, own a business, and provide for his family without interference from the Government or large Corporations that could run him out of the market. For a person today to say or interpret the meaning inside the scope of, "The Constitution is a living and breathing document..." is to ignore strict construction (the founders intent) and to change its meaning to make excuses for the Government's excessive spending habits as a provider of people's living from cradle to grave.
     -- Stephen (Sky) King, Mt Enterprise, Tx     
  • 1
    I do believe that Madison was speaking of the preamble in article 1 secton 8. "I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them." The only power connected to "general welfare" are those 19 limits on congress
     -- Philip Lester, austin     
    WWG1WGA to MAGA to KAG 
    It seems the message is getting out there loud and clear. The founding fathers always kept rope around for the swing set. As some in congress now agree openly, some should be strung up !
     -- Ronw13, Oregon     
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