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The General Welfare Clause and State Sovereignty

December 6, 2009

The misapplication of the U.S. Constitution's General Welfare Clause is, along with the Interstate Commerce Clause, among the greatest threats to Missouri's sovereignty and that of her people.

The infamous U.S. Supreme Court case, Steward Machine Company v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548 (1937), paved the way for the unprecedented federal expansion of power that plagues every state to this day by turning the meaning of the General Welfare clause on its head.  (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steward_Machine_Company_v._Davis)

It's ironic that Missouri's only president (besides David Rice Atchison) acclaimed that decision.  In a speech to the Missouri Bar, Harry Truman started by saying,
"I do not consider myself adequately equipped to make a full and complete discussion of the Constitution, but I have been interested in it for many a long day. You can read it every day, and a hundred times besides, and you will always find something you haven’t seen in it before. You know, it took the Supreme Court of the United States 150 years to find the word “welfare” in the Constitution. And if it takes the Supreme Court that long to discover something in it, what chance does the average man have?"
(See: http://www.mobar.org/3dc6e137-9490-42fa-8fee-a0c631b5d15c.aspx)
One might assume he was poking fun at the ridiculous 1937 court decision, but he went on to say, "You can read about the Constitution, and you can study it in books, but the Constitution is not merely words. The Constitution’s a living force – and it is a growing thing."    Apparently, Mr. Truman thought the Constitution is supposed to be "a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please", as Thomas Jefferson warned about an unrestrained judiciary.

Truman's boss, FDR, was responsible for the Steward decision. Prior to that decision, the court had narrowly found eight out of ten of his "solutions" to the Great Depression unconstitutionalHe then hatched an ingenious plan to grease the skids for his big government agenda.  He coerced the Court into a reversal of policy by threatening to use the large Democrat majority to pack the court with 6 new justices of his choosing by legislatively increasing the court to 15 members.  (Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937.)  Justice Owen Roberts, who had been siding with the conservative majority "discovered the word welfare" in the Constitution and in what is now known as "the switch in time that saved nine" made the fifth judge Roosevelt needed.  The decision paved the way for FDR's New Deal.

Of course, a proper application of the general welfare clause CONSTRAINS, not looses, the federal government! 
The Founders were fed up with the special treatment rendered to the King's favorites under hundreds of years of mercantilism - they wanted government to treat everyone equally and only execute its enumerated powers in ways that were of general application and benefit to everyone.

We need to educate our friends, neighbors, and legislators about how the constitution has been re-written by the courts if we are to expect them to help reclaim it for We The People.  They need to know that for the first 150 years the courts understood the Welfare Clause to limit the federal government and a reversal of that interpretation only occurred as a result of extortion by Franklin Roosevelt.

By Ron Calzone, director
Missouri First, Inc.


Constitution of these United States of America

Jame Madison on the General Welfare clause.

"But may it not be asked with infinitely more propriety, and without the possibility of a satisfactory answer, why, if the terms were meant to embrace not only all the powers particularly expressed, but the indefinite power which has been claimed under them, the intention was not so declared? why, on that supposition, so much critical labour was employed in enumerating the particular powers, and in defining and limiting their extent?" -- James Madison

"The obvious conclusion to which we are brought is, that these terms, copied from the Articles of Confederation, were regarded in the new as in the old instrument, merely as general terms, explained and limited by the subjoined specifications, and therefore requiring no critical attention or studied precaution." -- James Madison

Missouri Constitution

Art. 1 Sec. 1. "That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole."

Art. 1 Sec. "That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry; that all persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law; that to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design."