Thomas Jefferson on the General Welfare Clause

23 Nov 2012 /
Thomas Jefferson

[Thomas Jefferson] then considered the general phrase of the Constitution that identified the purpose of the taxing power as “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” Congress, he said, was to levy taxes only for these purposes, not for any purpose they pleased. “In like manner they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.” To interpret this provision in any other way would reduce the Constitution to “a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the U.S. and as they would be the sole judges of good or evil, it would also be a power to do whatever evil they pleased.”

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