President Monroe’s Response to Obamacare

by P.A. Madison on March 23rd, 2010

Excerpts from President Monroe’s Special Message on Internal Improvements, May 4, 1822:

If, then, the right to raise and appropriate the public money is not restricted to the expenditures under the other specific grants, according to a strict construction of their powers respectively, is there no limitation to it?

Have Congress a right to raise and appropriate the public money to any and to every purpose, according to their will and pleasure? They certainly have not. The government of the United States is a limited government, instituted for great national purposes, and for those only. Other interests are committed to the states, whose duty it is to provide for them.

Each government should look to the great and essential purposes for which it was instituted, and confine itself to those purposes. A state government will rarely, if ever, apply money to national purposes, without making it a charge to the nation. The people of the state would not permit it. Nor will Congress be apt to apply money in aid of the state administrations, for purposes strictly local, in which the nation at large has no interest, although the states should desire it.

The people of the other states would condemn it. They would declare that Congress had no right to tax them for such a purpose, and dismiss, at the next election, such of their representatives as had voted for the measure, especially if it should be severely felt. I do not think that in offices of this kind there is much danger of the two governments mistaking their interests or their duties. I rather expect that they would soon have a clear and distinct understanding of them, and move on in great harmony. . . .

My idea is, that Congress have an unlimited power to raise money, and that in its appropriation, they have a discretionary power, restricted only by the duty to appropriate it to purposes of common defence, and of general, not local, national, not state, benefit.

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5 Responses | Leave a Comment
  1. Rich Stewart says:

    I may be too late to assist with source information for this but the text of this letter to Congress can be found at the site. The url that will take you directly to the text of the letter is

    As for the original written source document I’m not certain where that can be found but my guess is that it is archived somewhere in Virginia along with other James Madison source documents. I don’t doubt the completeness and accuracy of the text as presented at the site.

    Jefferson in a letter to Albert Gallitin June 16, 1817 following Madison’s veto summed it up as follows:

    “Whereas, our tenet ever was”¦ that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers”

    As he further stated in the letter it was a grammatical quibble… never intended to allow the Federal govt anything beyond the enumerated powers… Congress to collect tax in support of a project related to an enumerated power but could not invent a power out of thin air.

    Letter at Online Library of Liberty


  2. Bart Stupid says:

    See here.

  3. Jeff Perren says:

    Understood, and thank you for responding. What I meant was, is it found in a speech or newspaper editorial he published, a Presidential address, a book, or what?

    The only place I found it was in a biography of him and Madison by John Quincy Adams, but I haven’t yet dug deep enough into that book to see where J.Q. Adams found it (and the way it’s presented it’s easy to confuse it with having been said by Adams). So, I was hoping for a linkable source.

    Not a major problem; I just thought if you had something handy it would be useful to have.

    Thank you again for posting it, as well as for your other fine work on this blog.


    Jeff Perren

  4. JimAZtec says:

    It was Monroe’s special message on the constitutionality of spending money on internal improvements within states. Some argue the constitution granted to congress the right, others said it didn’t and a new amendment to the constitution would be required to grant the power. Oh course not many states were going to grant the power through an amendment and this left it to others to try and invent the power out of the existing constitution. Monroe didn’t buy it!

  5. Jeff Perren says:

    Superb quote, thanks. Do you know the original source of this?

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