Question: Where does one find the General Welfare clause?
A recent gun-grabber bill now being processed in the House of Representatives is H.R.6575 Protecting Americans from Gun Violence Act of 2022.
The title sounds good. Who would want to be a victim, a target, of gun violence?
It is not gun violence that frightens me. It is a violation of the Rule of Law that truly troubles me. This bill is one of those violations.
Pursuant to clause 7 of Rule XII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
following statement is to be submitted on each bill regarding the specific powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the accompanying bill or joint resolution.
“Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following” the specific article, section, and clause that affirms the bill in question is in pursuance of the Constitution, as per Article VI, second clause:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Now, look closely at the Constitutional Authority Statement on H.R.6575.
The bill points to the “general welfare clause” said to be found in Article I, Section 8, the first clause. Next, read the full text of this clause:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Reading the full clause and examining the context of the clause, you quickly understand the subject of the clause is the power of taxation in order to finance all the powers of Congress subsequent to the first clause.
Section 8 of Article I lists the constitutional powers of the legislative branch of government. The first clause of this section is a taxation clause, and nothing more.
There is no general welfare clause to be found anywhere within the text of the U.S. Constitution. The word ‘welfare’ appears twice within the Constitution, first in the preamble, the second in Article I, Section 8, clause 1.
H.R.6575 was written contrary to the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court Opinions
The Bill of Rights provides the only disposition of powers to regulate privately owned firearms.
The Second Amendment clearly and unmistakably says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.“
The Tenth Amendment clearly and unmistakably says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.“
Supreme Court opinions agree with the opinion of this writer.
- DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL. v. HELLER, June 26, 2008
“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected
with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
NEW YORK STATE RIFLE & PISTOL ASSOCIATION, INC., ET AL. v. BRUEN, SUPERINTENDENT OF NEW YORK STATE POLICE, ET AL.“In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570 (2008), and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742 (2010), we recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense. We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
Knowledge is Power.
I amend this post with my response to a comment from a thoughtful reader. Because my posts are converted into podcasts, my goal is to limit them to 3 minutes of reading time.
My reply to a reader comment – 7/26/2022
Thank you for reading and for your reference to Helvering v. Davis.
Article I, Section 8, clause 1
“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”
The subject of this first clause of the section is the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.
James Madison, one of the primary authors of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist #83:
“This specification of particulars evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority; because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless, if a general authority was intended.”
Concerning context, I point to the conjoining of the clauses in Article I, Section 8. The clauses are not separate paragraphs but the subtopics of one statement defining the limited powers of the federal government. Semicolons link the clauses.
The last clause, “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” ends with a period.
The first and the last clauses bracket the section. The obvious intent of “general Welfare of the United States” is the necessary and proper acts for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers”.
Innumerable bills have become laws alleging constitutional authority based on a non-existent “general welfare authority”.
Two examples: The House passed a “Respect for Marriage Act” this week that repeals the “Defense of Marriage Act”.
Search as you may Article I, Section 8, and you will find absolutely no federal power to regulate marriages. Or homosexuality. Or firearms. Or education. Or energy. Or the environment.
Supreme Court opinions are not constitutional laws when they opine for or against a plaintiff or a respondent on matters beyond the powers listed in Article I, Section 8.
Over 233 years there have been many unconstitutional opinions emanating from the Supreme Court. The U.S. Congress manages a list of the reversals of Supreme Court opinions. https://constitution.congress.gov/resources/decisions-overruled/
I add, the powers listed in Article I, Section 8 empower the federal government; the Bill of Rights serves to protect us from the federal government when it exceeds the boundaries of those listed powers.
End of Response to a Comment
For further study on the unconstitutionality of a supposed ‘general welfare clause’, I refer the reader to the University of Kansas Law Review, a paper written by Robert G. Natelson titled The General Welfare Clause and the Public Trust: An Essay in Original Understanding