“Whenever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”
– Thomas Jefferson: Kentucky Resolutions, 1798
Listen to some of these words from our elected Federal leaders. I don’t know if they convey ignorance or arrogance, or which is worse, you decide:
Congressman Pete Stark: There are no limits to Federal Power
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi: Responding to a ‘serious’ question regarding the Constitutionality of the Health Care Bill
Congressman John Conyers: “Good and Welfare” clause
Let us help Mr. Conyers out, there is no such clause.
What he was more than likely referring to is the “General Welfare” clause and perhaps the “other” clauses he was referring to were the “Commerce Clause” or perhaps the “Elastic Clause”.
Regarding the General Welfare, Commerce and Elastic (necessary and proper) clause, perhaps we should consult a few of the primary authors of the US Constitution.
“If Congress can employ 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 appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress… Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.”
– James Madison, Letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792 Madison 1865, I, page 546
“It is very certain that [the commerce clause] grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government.”
– James Madison, Letter to Cabell, February 13, 1829
The Elastic Clause:
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.”
– James Madison, Federalist Papers #45
The Constitution provides enumerated and “implied” powers to the Federal government, these make up the granted powers of the US Constitution. The primary enumerated powers are specifically defined in Article 1, Section 8. Coincidentally, they are also the powers of the congress, neither the President, nor Judicial branch can “exercise” these powers. The specific powers of the Executive and Judicial branches are listed at the bottom of this article. Learn more: How does the Constitution work?
Enumerated Powers of the Legislative Branch (Article 1, Section 8 )
- lay and collect taxes (sections 2 and 8 )
- borrow money on the credit of the United States (Debate to strike “and emit Bills”)
- regulate commerce: interstate, foreign and among Indian tribes
- establish uniform rules of naturalization (immigration) and bankruptcy
- coin money, regulate the value thereof
- punish for counterfeit of official US currency
- est. post office and post roads
- est. rules for rights to patents/copyrights
- constitute tribunals
- punish piracies and felonies of the high seas
- declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal
- raise and support armies, appropriations of money no longer than 2 years
- provide and maintain navy
- make rules to govern land and naval forces
- call forth state militia to execute laws of union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions
- organize, arm, discipline the state militia (modern national guard…sort of)
- establish DC not to exceed 10 sq. miles, likewise be authority over all places purchased with consent of state legislature for forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards and other ‘needful buildings’
- make all laws necessary for carrying out these powers
Implied powers are those powers which are allowed to the federal government to carry out the specifically enumerated powers. For instance, congress has the implied power to allow for funding of telephone and information networks for the use of government to carry out its enumerated powers. ie. they have the implied power to buy a telephone for GOVERNMENT USE.
This isn’t a GOP or DNC problem, they both have been violating the Constitution. Demand they stop!
Current unconstitutional initiatives (Short List):
- Federal Health Care Bill (Obama Care)
- Social Security
- Federal Welfare
- Federal subsidies to farms, Amtrak and other industry
- The Federal Reserve (only congress has the power to coin and regulate the US dollar)
- Federal Drug War
- All Wars after WWII (none of which had formal declarations of war issued by congress)
- The SEC, FDA, DOE, DEA, ATF, FCC, etc.
- Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
- Bailouts of GM, AIG, etc
- Federal regulation of “Arms”
- Cap and Trade (pending)
Referring to the 10th amendment, the States have the power over all of these, except coining money and declaring war.
“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.”
– 10th Amendment, US Constitution
What powers are prohibited to the States?
Article 1, Section 10 – Powers prohibited of States
No State shall:
- enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;
- grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal;
- coin Money;
- emit Bills of Credit;
- make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;
- pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress:
- lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.
- lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
What Can We Do About it?
We have constantly moved away from our de-centralist roots toward a central/national government. How can we expect for there to be domestic tranquility when we are all casting our lots at the federal government? We have 300+ million people coming from 50 states with varying cultures, principles, values and ideals. The Constitution provides us with a structure whereby we can govern ourselves according to the differing ideals of the people among the various states.
However, we have to follow the Constitution! Forget about all of the frivolous hot button issues that keep us fighting over unauthorized federal power. If we expect a “solution” to our problems, it will come by decentralizing authority and bringing these issues home to the States and closer to the people. You want to live in a State that provides retirement insurance, health care, welfare, etc? Great, do it. Knock yourself out. But respect my right to live in a State that rejects these programs and leaves its People to otherwise live according to their own direction so long as they do not infringe upon the natural rights of others.
Our Constitutional Republic, although not perfect, offers solutions to our problems. We simply need to follow it. Ultimately, it is up to us to enforce it using the power of the State governments, but we have to know it first.
Learn about Nullification: A peaceful approach to fighting Federal Tyranny.
“On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
– Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. ME 15:449
“Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.” [Emphasis Added]
– James Madison, Federalist Papers #39
“Where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.”
– Thomas Jefferson: Kentucky Resolutions, 1798
“The true barriers of our liberty are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that of which our Revolution and present government found us possessed.”
–Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811
“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations; but, on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which, in republics, have, more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes.”
– James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention to ratify the Federal Constitution, June 6, 1788
Executive Powers (Article 2):
- Execute Federal Laws
- Serve as commander in Chief
- Commission U.S. military officers.
- Conduct foreign affairs
- Grant reprieves and pardons to Federal Offenders
- Veto Bills
- Convene and/or adjourn sessions of Congress under extraordinary circumstances.
- Make treaties (Subject to Senate confirmation)
- Temporarily fill vacancies that may occur during the recess of the Senate.
- Appoint Supreme Court justices and other Federal judges (Subject to Senate confirmation)
- Report to Congress on the State of the Nation.
- Recommend measures for the Congress to consider.
Judicial Powers (Article 3)
The power of the Federal Judiciary is limited to judging:
- All cases arising under the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties
- All cases affecting ambassadors; other public ministries, and consuls
- All cases of Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;
- Controversies to which the U.S. is a party; and
- Controversies between two or more states, a state and the citizen of another states citizens of different states and citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states.