What James Madison Might Well Tell Congress Today

by P.A. Madison on August 9th, 2006

James Madison Jr., House of Representatives, February 1792:

I, sir, have always conceived–I believe those who proposed the Constitution conceived, and it is still more fully known, and more material to observe that those who ratified the Constitution conceived–that this is not an indefinite Government, deriving its power from the general terms prefixed to the specified powers, but a limited Government tied down to the specified powers which explain and define the general terms. The gentlemen who contend for a contrary doctrine are surely not aware of the consequences which flow from it, and which they must either admit or give up their doctrine.

It will follow, in the first place, that if the terms be taken in the broad sense they maintain the particular powers afterwards so carefully and distinctly enumerated would be without any meaning, and must go for nothing. It would be absurd to say, first, that Congress may do what they please, and then that they may do this or that particular thing; after giving Congress power to raise money, and apply it to all purposes which they may pronounce necessary to the general welfare, it would be absurd, to say the least, to super add a power to raise armies, to provide fleets, &c. In fact, the meaning of the general terms in question must either be sought in the subsequent enumeration which limits and details them, or they convert the Government from one limited, as hitherto supposed, to the enumerated powers, into a Government without any limits at all.

I shall be reminded, perhaps, that according to the terms of the Constitution, the Judicial Power is to extend to certain cases only not to all cases. But this circumstance can have no effect in the argument, it being presupposed by the gentlemen that the specification of certain objects does not limit the import of general terms. Taking these terms as an abstract and indefinite grant of power, they comprise all the objects of Legislative regulation as well such as fall under the Judiciary article in the Constitution, as these falling immediately under the Legislative article; and if the partial enumeration of objects in the Legislative article does not, as these gentlemen contend limit the general power, neither will it be limited by the partial enumeration of objects in the Judiciary article.

There are consequences, sir, still more extensive, which, as they follow clearly from the doctrine combated, must either be admitted, or the doctrine must be given up. If Congress can apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may establish teachers in every State, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public Treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads, other than post roads. In short, everything, from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called if Congress pleased provisions for the general welfare.


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  1. Nice site. Thank you.

    Up till last night this writer was of the opinion that all we had to do was;

    1. Get on our knees and pray.

    2. enact a constitutional amendment to clarify article 1 section 8.

    But after reading “THE FALL OF THE REPUBLIC”– the long 144 minute version and checking out all of the redacted data given [all found to be verifiable ] –on YouTube– this writer finds himself in a deep funk.

    We it would appear are dead meat. The xi=== it would seem has gobbled us up.

    I guess their next victim will be the nation state of Israel.

    America is too young to die.

    Get out of bed momma and break out your drum and fife.

    Let us light up the sky with the truth.

    This year may very well the last chance.

    GOD BLESS YOU.

    JOHN W. BUGLER

    BUGLE.ORG

  2. It is interesting to note that Justice Roberts in his opinion BUTLER V. US 1936 made note of the dept. of agriculture lawyers[ among whom among many was a chap who went by the name of Alger Hiss]–that we should take Hamilton’s view as to the true intent of the founders concerning the general welfare clause. [article 1– section 8]

    While Hamilton did take the wide latitude position in his report on manufactures in 1993 one should read federalist 83 and there we see him taking Madison’s view.

    How can this be you ask. well remember the federalist papers were anonymous until some time in the early 1800’s and Hamilton did not have to worry about what would appear as inconsistent.

    Hamilton wanted a new form of government and he did all he could to make it happen.

    The constitution was not to his choosing. if fact he advocated lifetime tenure for presidents.

    He was not very active at the convention because his state[ NY ] had ordered that all three delegates had to act as one or not at all. Lancing and Yateshis co- delegates packed it in early on and reported back to NY explaining to the governor that the convention was a run away and was violating its original stated purpose to meet to add amendments onto the articles of confederation. this left Hamilton without any authority as a delegate.

    But because Washington saw him as the son he never had and because he had a lot to do with the convention coming together in the first place nobody seemed to mind his hanging around. he popped in and out from time to time but was not allowed to vote.

    Interesting however is the fact that he was allowed to be appointed a member of the last committee formed at the convention. that committee was the committee on style and revision. it consisted of James Madison Alexander

    Hamilton Samuel Johnson Rufus King and Governors Morris.

    Morris did most of the redaction but Hamilton was on a committee he had no authority to be on because technically he was no longer a delegate.

    That being said –were it not for Hamilton this writer doubts New York would have ratified the constitution.

    But as said earlier in federalist 83 he supports clandestinely the correct interpretation the general welfare clause.

    All wide latitudinalists fail to make mention of federalist 83.

    One has to wonder why.

    In federalist 83 Hamilton wrote follows.

    THE PLAN OF THE CONVENTION DECLARES THAT THE POWER OF CONGRESS, OR IN OTHER WORDS OF THE NATIONAL LEGISLATURE, SHALL EXTEND TO CERTAIN LEGISLATIVE CASES. THIS SPECIFICATION OF PARTICULARS EVIDENTLY EXCLUDES ALL PRETENSION OF A GENERAL LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY, BECAUSE AN AFFIRMATIVE GRANT OF SPECIAL POWERS WOULD BE ABSURD AS WELL AS USELESS IF A GENERAL AUTHORITY WAS INTENDED.

    THE ROOSEVELT ADMINISTRATION THRU THE DEPT OF AGRICULTURE IN THEIR PRESENTATION FOR THIS POWER MADE THE STATEMENT ” WE ACCEPT THE HAMILTON ‘S POSITION”

    REALLY. WELL HOW ABOUT WHAT MR HAMILTON WROTE IN FEDERALIST 83.

    Either they never read it or worse they lied.

    Hamilton knew that the printer was sworn to secrecy as to the authors by number.

    So he felt free to state that the general welfare clause was a grant of power in his report on manufacturers in 1793.

    There you go.

    Here we go down a slippery slope to oblivion if we do not return to original intent.

    The new York times on Sunday 14 march tells us that those of us who believe in original intent are “uneducated”

    Really- well it would seem that Mr Roosevelt fits that category with regards the federalist papers.

    If we do not enact an amendment to straighten this out then all i can say is this.

    We can dance–we can parade–we can pray- we can elect a republican congress the way we did in 1994–forget about it.

    The temptation is too great.

    We must return to original intent on enumerated powers or we will perish.

    GOD BLESS YOU

    JOHN W. BUGLER

    BUGLER.ORG

  3. Please go to Bugler.org and read paper titled “THE GENERAL WELFARE CLAUSE.”

    Madison in a letter to Henry Lee wrote concerning the GeneralWelfare Clause. SAME YEAR 1792.

    IF NOT ONLY THE MEANS BUT THE OBJECTS ARE UNLIMITED, THE PARCHMENT [THE CONSTITUTION] SHOULD BE THROWN INTO THE FIRE AT ONCE.

    REF. BRANT,IRVING, “THE FOURTH PRESIDENT-A LIFE OF JAMES MADISON {EYRE AND SPOTTISWOODE [PUBLISHERS] LTD. LONDON 1970.

  4. Today, Madison would likely look at the US House and their districts of 700,000 each and note:

    “THE remaining charge against the House of Representatives, which I am to examine, is grounded on a supposition that the number of members will not be augmented from time to time, as the progress of population may demand. It has been admitted, that this objection, if well supported, would have great weight.” Federalist 58

  5. Brian Holms says:

    Talking like that today would give Patrick Leahy and his fellow leftests a coronary.

    Pretty creepy to consider today the father of the Constitution would never be confirmed to the supreme court because of his “extremist” views.

  6. Should have said 4500 not 45000.DHB

  7. Reprinted @ http://rxpaul.townhall.com/g/06ceadf…a-280f72c81e3c. That’s now the No. 4 (of 45000 site on Townhall, not known for rigourous constitutionalism. Your work is top notch

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