Ever felt like government is prying a little too much into your personal life? Well, you're not alone. Our latest episode dives into the constitutional roots of this very issue. We discuss the specific powers and boundaries of Congress, revealing the founding fathers' intentions behind the text of the U.S. Constitution. A personal story about an invasive census experience brings the discussion to life, underscoring the enduring debate over privacy and government reach. And if you've ever wondered about the balance of power between the states and federal government, our 'buckets' analogy will clarify the separation envisioned by the architects of our nation.
What did the term 'general welfare' originally mean to the framers of the Constitution? In this episode, we pull back the curtain on this pivotal clause with insight into the minds of James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, and James Wilson. We address the pressing issue of national debt and the intention behind promptly settling debts—an intention seemingly lost in current fiscal policies. As we challenge the fluid interpretation of the Constitution, we also shed light on the process of amendments and how they can preserve the vision of the founding fathers. Join us for a thought-provoking debate and discover resources from WallBuilders that delve into the influential figures of American and Christian history.
In this installment of our Constitution Alive series, we scrutinize the term 'general welfare' as it is seen today, through the discerning eyes of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Their perspectives on federal power resonate through time, questioning modern spending practices that stray from the founders' original intent. With a focus on maintaining strict boundaries for federal authority, we emphasize the importance of a 'bucket with a lid on it' approach—a principle fiercely defended from the Constitutional Convention to the adoption of the Bill of Rights. We invite you to immerse yourself in the wisdom of the past with original documents from the WallBuilders Library and insights from the iconic Independence Hall, all woven into a narrative that is as educational as it is captivating.
Welcome to WallBuilders. Today we are picking up right where we left off yesterday. We've been covering section four out of Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green and in that series we're covering the entire Constitution, every article, every amendment, and this particular section that we're covering out of Constitution Alive is about the Congress. Now where we started yesterday, we're going to try to get as much covered today as we can and then we'll get the conclusion tomorrow. But let's just pick up right where we left off. Here's Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. How many people are in the house? Not you know, "ow many bathrooms do you have? Do you have trouble taking a shower?" I mean, have you seen the questions that arrive? That's ridiculous. I got on the on the, on the bad list, I guess. I don't know. I guess because I have my own business. I got on this list where they were asking it was about a hundred questions, not the thirteen question one -that's already too invasive. The hundred question one. I mean, they want to know the names of my children. They want to know how much money I made, how many hours a day I worked, all this stuff. I got so frustrated I said I'm telling you how many people house, that's it. This guy guy was great, our citizen workers are great people they're Americans that just want to help get the thing right. But this guy would park outside. We live on on what I call the family compound, all right, we got uncles and aunts and grandparents. We all live together on this, we live out in the country, in in Texas. We got a gate at the front, we got fifty caliber guns, well, not really. Anyway, so this guy would wait outside the gate. When one of my you know relatives would come through the gate to go to their house, he'd sneak through the gate and he'd be waiting on my porch and ask me all these questions. I said, man, I'll pay the fine, whatever the fine is, for not answering all those questions. Just tell me where to write the check. Oh, I'm going to tell you how many people live in my house. Anyway, I know I probably just wasted five minutes because nobody else cares about this, but this is a pet peeve issue for me. I just really want them to just do what they're constitutionally supposed to do, not ask all these questions. Just find out how many people live there. A portion of the members of Congress throughout the states and stop getting so busy into everybody's business. So that's the enumeration. It's right there in Article One. There Article One, Section Two, if you ever want to look a little closer into it. But let's dive into these, these very specific powers of of Congress. And if you go to the the end of Article One, there are three sections there that we can focus on. It's the Section Eight, Nine and Ten and it's the do's for Congress and Eight, it's the don'ts for Congress and Nine, and then it's the don'ts for the states and ten. And that actually confused me for a little bit when I started looking at it and, and I'll be honest with you, I used to be confused by the Tenth Amendment. I know, don't admit that, right, but I was. I I'm not a grammar guy, I'm a math guy, all right. So grammar confused me. Take a look at the Tenth Amendment with me just for a second. This was always, this language threw me for a loop. Part of it was very obvious. But I also think the Tenth Amendment is the best place to describe enumerated powers. And if you'll forgive my examples again, I'm going to go back to the buckets, page 42 in the Constitution in the original language in page 43 in the Constitution made easy these buckets of power that the Constitution sets up. Okay. The Tenth Amendment describes the three buckets. We have one bucket that are the powers that we, the people, have loaned to the federal government. Now that bucket, friends, it has a lid on it.Tim Barton:
Hey, this is Tim Barton, with WallBuilders, and, as you've had the opportunity to listen to WallBuilders Live, you've probably heard the welcome information about our nation, about our spiritual heritage, about the religious liberties, about all the things that makes America exceptional. And you might be thinking, as incredible as this information is, I wish there was a way that I could get one of the WallBuilders guys to come to my area and share with my group whether it be a church, whether it be a Christian school or public school or some political event or activity. If you're interested in having a WallBuilders speaker come to your area, you can get on our website at www. wallbuilders. com and there's a tab for scheduling, and if you'll click on that tab, you'll notice there's a list of information from speakers' bios to events that are already going on, and there's a section where you can request an event to bring this information about who we are, where we came from, our religious liberties and freedoms. Go to the WallBuilder's website and bring a speaker to your area.David Barton:
This is David Barton with another moment from America's history. the key to a self governing nation is self governing people and the key to personal self government is to live by the standards in God's Word. If someone cannot control himself by those standards, then our constitution, certainly, will be unable to restrain him. Understanding this, John Adams declared, "We have no government armed with "Power capable of continuing with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Greed, ambition, revenge or seduction would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. John Adams believed that successful government rested not upon our great Constitution, but rather upon moral and religious people.Speaker:
For more information on God's hand in American history, contact WallBuilders at 1-800-8-REBUILD.Rick Green:
Congress cannot add power to itself, it only comes from us. So we created power for the federal government and we put a lid on it. We put specific enumerated powers in there. And then the 10th Amendment describes the other two buckets. Here's what they are. So first you have your bucket where we've got, you know, loan power to government. It says the 'power is not delegated to the United States by the Constitution.' So it's referring first to those powers delegated to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states are reserved to the states, respectfully, or to the people.' So we have the bucket for the federal government, those prohibited by it to the states, and then those reserved to the people or the states. It's that middle phrase that confused me. Okay, I know it probably makes perfect sense to everybody else in the country, but for me, nor prohibited by it to the states. Huh, what is nor prohibited by it to the states mean? If they had said nor prohibited by the Constitution to the states, I might have understood. But here's where I finally figured it out, when I went and looked at Section 10, article 1, section 10, the don'ts for Congress, and I went ding, ding, ding, I get it. Okay. So in the 10th Amendment, when it talked about things being prohibited for the states, that's what Article 1, section 10 is, some don'ts for Congress, I mean for the states, some things that we're going to take away from the states. And if you think about it, some of these just make sense. You don't want the states negotiating treaties with foreign nations. You've got 50 different treaties with foreign nations. We want only the federal government to do that. So there's a list of things in Article 1, section 10, the states are no longer allowed to do. And so we have our bucket of powers given to the federal government, our bucket of powers taken away from the states, nor prohibited by it to the states. That's that bucket and that's, of course, things that will be in the bucket for the federal government. Everything else, it says, are reserved to the states, respectfully, or to the people. So if we didn't give that power to the government through our Constitution, through our representatives, if we didn't take it away from the states, man, everything else is ours, everything else is left to the people and to the states, and that means that that lid is supposed to be secure and tight and the only way you open that lid and put a new power in Congress's bucket is if we amend this document. Article 5 is the only way to do it. That's why the 18th Amendment opened the lid, put a new power in, and then later, with the 21st, we cracked that lid open, pulled some of that back and then closed the lid again. Our problem today is that Congress has opened the lid on its own and is adding all kinds of powers and new departments and everything else that's not an Article 1, section 8, and we, the people, are the ones that are gonna have to put that lid back on, I would suggest taking some of those powers back before putting the lid on, but it's our job to get them back in their proper place, and so that's why we're gonna look at what they're supposed to be doing. Article 1, section 8, these are the enumerated powers of Congress. If it's not in here, they're not supposed to be doing it. If it's not in here, it's unconstitutional for them to be doing it. We have unconstitutional powers being executed by our federal government right now. They were never given the authority in the first place to do it, so we've got to reign them in. The only way we can reign them in is if we know what the proper powers are first. So let's look in that bucket and see what those powers are 18 enumerated powers that the federal government has First and right off the bat. As much as I don't like, the Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes. All right, so they can, and of course you've got to have the ability to do that. They can lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises. Why? To pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. And here's a fundamental question what does Congress have the power to tax for? What do they have the power to spend money on? This question was debated early by these guys, obviously when they did the Constitution, and even within the first few decades when people tried to start opening that lid and adding some powers for the federal government, others that had been part of the debate said, "whoa, time out. I was there. You're not supposed to do that unless you amend the Constitution. So let's take a look at this phrase we already mentioned; general welfare, Now general welfare today means, "I could pass anything in Congress I want because I'm helping the general welfare, I'm providing for the welfare of the people, and that tends to be the actions coming out of Washington DC. What did these guys say was supposed to mean? Take a look there on your screen. When you look at the language in Article 1, section 8, general welfare does not just suddenly appear by itself. There's no individual sentence that says, "oh, federal Congress does anything that's for the general welfare of the people." It's in the context of this longer phrase that says what, "To pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. Interesting to me; when I started reading the debates of what they actually said and did here, when I started reading their commentaries. Let's take Madison, for instance. I mean, James Madison is the father of the Constitution. If there's an expert that can tell us what happened in this room, Madison is probably the now Gouverneur Morris spoke more at the convention. James Wilson spoke the second most, Morris 173 times, Wilson 168 times. I mean they were very influential over the document. But Madison, I think, has earned that place of being the father of the Constitution, the guy that everybody goes to as the expert. Madison tells us that during all those debates general welfare wasn't even discussed. Until the very end it was a non-issue. It was in the Articles of Confederation, talking about the states, the general welfare of the states, and throughout the convention they ignored it. In fact, they had ignored something else throughout the convention they hadn't talked about the debts of the Confederacy and how they were going to deal with that. And so, right at the end, in a conversation dealing with the debts and how you pay for the debts, the phrase general welfare got inserted into the Senate. And here's where the conversation was going. They were saying look, what's a proper tax for the federal government, what's a proper thing to spend money on? Well, obviously, if you go to war, you've got to pay for that war and it's the job of the nation, the federal government, to protect the system, the general welfare of the system, by fighting any foreign enemy. And almost always when you fight a war, you're going to run up some debt, you're going to have to borrow money to fight that war. And so what these guys said was if you did that and you ran up a debt, then as soon as that war was over, you should cut, tighten the belt, do whatever it takes to pay that debt off. And so many of the guys who sat in this room, either for the Constitution or the Declaration, gave us great quotes about the fact that if you carry debt over to the next generation, it's theft. You're stealing from the next generation. If you borrow more in your generation than you can pay off, you have stolen from your children and your grandchildren. So get that stuff paid off. And so, in the context of that mindset, these guys said, "it's a proper function of the federal government to defend the nation. And then it's a proper function of the federal government to have taxes that they can raise the money to pay off those debts that were necessary to defend the nation." That was the context of this phrase. I find it quite interesting that they wanted you to be able to raise taxes to pay the debts so that today could protect the general welfare, and today, we run up the taxes and run up the debt to supposedly take care of the general welfare. We are really taking care of individual welfare, not general welfare. We're destroying the general welfare for somebody's individual welfare. We're running up the taxes and we're not even paying the debt. So we've got trillion dollar debts that are hurting the general welfare instead of doing what these guys did. Now here's the problem, we talked earlier about original intent and phraseology, even Madison himself talking about how, if you change the phraseology or the meaning of the phraseology to modern times, that would change the Constitution itself. Here's a better description. Well, actually, let me give you Hamilton first, general welfare means different things to different people today. What we need to know is what did it mean to these guys? Because what they meant by it is the meaning the Constitution today should still have, and I actually should address this whole idea of the Constitution alive. All right, we want to bring the Constitution alive. That doesn't mean we believe in this living, breathing document theory that a lot of people have out there. That's really the two different views of the Constitution. We have guys that say, oh, it's a living, breathing document, which means it needs to change with the times and change with the people. And I have to change it because I'm on the Supreme Court. So if five of the nine justices on the Supreme Court decide to change something in the Constitution, well, it's alive and we can do that. No, no, no. Constitution alive means that this document is still alive, it is still applicable today to our lives, and if we don't like what's in here, we can amend it. I believe that these guys put a document in place and a system of freedom in place that stands the test of time and when it needs to be tweaked, we do that through Article 5. But anyway, this idea of the Constitution being alive, us bringing it to life, is not the same as what some of the left-wing members of the court call the living Constitution.Tim Barton:
Hi friends, this is Tim Barton of Wall Builders. This is a time when most Americans don't know much about American history or even heroes of the faith, and I know oftentimes for parents we're trying to find good content for our kids to read and if you remember back to the Bible, the book of Hebrews, it has the faith hall of fame, where they outlined the leaders of faith that had gone before them. Well, this is something that, as Americans, we really want to go back and outline some of these heroes, not just of American history, but heroes of Christianity and our faith as well. I want to let you know about some biographical sketches we have available on our website. One is called the Courageous Leaders Collection and this collection includes people like Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, George Washington Carver and the others, for Susanna Wesley, even the Wright Brothers. There's a second collection called Heroes of History. In this collection you'll read about people like Benjamin Franklin or Christopher Columbus, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Harriet Tubman. Friends, the list goes on and on. This is a great collection for your young person to have and read and it's a providential view of American and Christian history. This is available at wallbuilders. com that's www. wallbuilders. com.Rick Green:
Back to what Hamilton said about general welfare, because we want to judge general welfare based on these guys, not what our congressman says today, or what the court might say today, or what some professor says or what I say. It's what these guys said that matters. So here's what Hamilton said about general welfare. He said, "he welfare of the community of states is the only legitimate end for which money can be raised from the community." So if you go back to the phrase that we were just reading, let's jump back over there to article one, section eight, page 12 and 13. So 13, if you're looking at the Constitution, made easy, 12 if you're looking at the original. So to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. So he's saying the only thing that the federal government can raise money for is for a general purpose. So here's what he goes on to say. So if it's going to be raised from the community, the only legitimate end for which money can be raised from the community, Congress can be considered as only under one restriction, which does not apply to other governments they cannot rightfully apply the money they raise to any purpose merely or purely local. The constitutional test of a right application must always be whether it's for a purpose of general meaning, this is for the whole system or local nature." So if congress spends money, that's for the whole system, then he's saying, even Hamilton, who later becomes kind of the liberal, if you will, of the founding fathers he tries to expand the power of congress. He's saying that when they raise money the only proper function would be for a general purpose for everybody, not for a local purpose. So the bridge to nowhere or a general purpose, would be the interstate system for the nation to allow the free flow of commerce that you can make an argument for is a general purpose. But for a bridge to 24 people that costs however many hundreds of millions of dollars that thing costs, obviously that's a local nature and Hamilton would say that's not a proper use of this phrase, "General welfare here's Madison's description. I love this. This has brought it so into focus for me to understand the difference between general welfare, the way people define it today, and general welfare the way the guys have sat in this room, the way they define it. Here's Madison, he said, "Consider for a moment the immeasurable difference between the Constitution, limited in its powers.." now that's what they did the bucket with the lid on it, if you will, "onstitution, limited in its powers to the enumerated objects and expounded", or if you would, or expounded as it would be, by the import claim for the phraseology in question." Now the letter he's writing here is in a debate over the question of general welfare and he's saying if you define it as the bucket with the lid on it, if you define it the way these guys define it as limited in its powers to the enumerated objects or expounded as it would be, as they wanted general welfare to mean, he said, man. the difference I mean, he probably didn't say man, I don't think that Madison talked like that, but anyway, the difference is equivalent to two Constitutions. We have two totally different things here, of characters essentially contrasted with each other the one possessing powers confined to certain specific areas or cases, the bucket with the lid on it. The other extended to all cases whatsoever. That's two totally different Constitutions. And then he asked the question of whether or not these guys in this room would have ever gone for this expanded to any cases whatsoever. Look at how he puts it. He said, "can less be said than that it is impossible that such a constitution as the latter." This expanded to be anything would have been recommended to the states by all the members of that body whose names were subscribed to the instrument, the men that sat in this room in 1787.,". He's saying it is impossible that these guys would have signed that constitution and he would know he was here. He was one of them. "Is it incredible that such a power would have been unnoticed and unopposed in the federal convention?" This is the constitutional convention that took place here. And then he takes it even further than that. Not only would these guys have never gone for this expanded government into anything, not only were these guys adamant about the bucket having a lid on it. He goes back home to the states for the ratification listen to this, "in the state conventions which contended for and proposed restrictive and explanatory amendments." and he's talking, of course, about the Bill of Rights, right, because those state conventions are where all those ideas emanated from. They debated them and they talked about those great debates between Madison and Patrick, Henry in Virginia and all the other debates. He said, even in those state conventions where they came up with the amendments that would ultimately go into the Constitution, he's saying those guys would have never dreamed general welfare would mean what people wanted to mean today. And then he said in the Congress of 1789, so think about the progression here. You got what happened in this room. Okay, so we got the constitutional convention itself. He said never, no way, would those guys have gone for general welfare. They wanted enumerated, limited powers, lid on the bucket. Congress I mean the state conventions that ratified what happened in here, and all those state conventions, they would have never gone for general welfare. I mean in that they wanted the lid on the bucket. And then in Congress, the first Congress of 1789 that adopts the 10 amendments that came from those states, they would have never gone for general welfare. He's saying in all three cases he says a power to impose unlimited taxes for unlimited purposes could never have escaped those public bodies, all three of them, this room and the others as well. Now listen to his summation because I think it's great. He says. "the constitution is a limited one, possessing no power not actually given." Now, even a country boy from Dripping Springs can understand that. "No power not actually given. There is no power in the Constitution that is not actually given. So the bucket we gave on these powers. We put a lid on it. We cannot let them add power to that. Why? Why did those guys sit in this room and for months, debate the smallest? I mean, look, they listed every little thing they wanted the federal government. Turn the page there and look at that Post offices and post roads. They even took the time to list that they could build roads. Now, friends, it was the middle of the summer in Philadelphia. It was hot, they had the windows shut off, the doors closed, didn't want anybody to listen to what they were doing. They were wearing those you know 15 layers of clothes they wore back then. These guys were sweating it out, let me tell you, and here they are in that heat sweating it out and they're willing to take the time to list every little thing that Congress could do. Why, why would they do that? I'm asking, why would they do that? Limited government and a distrust what's the rest of that quote, say, carrying on the face of it, a distrust of power. These guys didn't trust power any more than you and I do. They understood the nature of man, the depravity of man, that if you give power to somebody, Jeremiah 17: 9 says the heart is evil, no man can know it. These guys said that's why they wanted separation of power, because the heart is evil, no man can know it. So we don't want to put too much power in anybody's hands and in fact, we wanted to define very carefully what that power was and put every little thing in writing. Everything in the bucket is in writing right here. That's why they did it for us, friends. Have you noticed the vacuum of leadership in America? We're looking around for leaders of principle to step up, and too often no one is there. God is raising up a generation of young leaders with a passion for impacting the world around them. They're crying out for the mentorship and leadership training they need. Patriot Academy was created to meet that need. Patriot Academy graduates now serve in state capitals around America, in the halls of Congress, in business, in the film industry, in the pulpit, in every area of the culture. They're leading effectively and impacting the world around them. Patriot Academy is now expanding across the nation, and now is your chance to experience this life-changing week that trains champions to change the world. Visit www. patriotacademy. com for dates and locations. Our core program is still for young leaders 16 to 25 years old, but we also now have a citizen track for adults. So visit the website today to learn more. Help us fill the void of leadership in America. Join us in training champions to change the world at www. patriotacademy. com.David Barton:
This is David Barton, with another moment from America's history. The teachings of God's Word are the best friend civil government has, because these teachings deal with the heart. Only by dealing with the heart can crime be prevented, for, as Jesus explained in Matthew 5, all crime comes from the heart. Understanding this, Daniel Webster, the great defender of the Constitution, once declared the cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licensuriness. It inspires respect for law and order and gives strength to the whole social fabric. Whatever makes men good Christians makes them good citizens." Indeed, it is not the good Christians whom the police arrest for armed robbery, gang activity or other such crimes. Understanding this, the founding fathers encouraged religious instruction For, as Daniel Webster so accurately noted, good Christians make good citizens.Speaker:
For more information on God's hand in American history, contact Wall Builders at 1-800-8-REBUILD.Rick Green:
Enumerated powers. We've lost that concept in America. We've got to teach the rising generation to be free, and the way we do that is we give them the details, we show them exactly what the Constitution gave the federal government the power to do. Now we're not going to have time to go through every one of those powers, but there's a couple of examples I want to run through here. Now, General Welfare, by the way; have you noticed that's kind of become a loophole? That's become a loophole so big you can drive a Mack truck through it. I mean, that has become a phrase you hear over and over and over again from members of Congress that they have the power to do something because of general welfare. You know there's some other loopholes. What would you guess out of the Constitution are some other phrases that have become loopholes for the federal government to get around those limits? What would you say is- "Necessary and proper, necessary and proper cause, exactly right. There's one more, what's another big one? "Public ood", public good, absolutely. Then there's one that actually that healthcare, they tried to cram healthcare through. What's that one? "Interstate trade, interstate trade, but we call it the Commerce Clause. Now let's say it all together Commerce clause. That's right. Okay, so the commerce clause isn't it? So you got necessary and proper clause for good. The general welfare, the commerce clause, I mean. These have become loopholes that they shove anything into instead of sticking with the bucket. So the best way for us as citizens to close the loophole is to go back to those words in the Constitution and say, well, what did they really mean? We already did general welfare. What did they mean by commerce clause? What did they mean by necessary and proper? What did those things really mean? All right, friends, we're out of time for today. You've been listening to Constitutional Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. Today was the second in a three part series. Tomorrow we'll get the conclusion. This is that entire program that we did, both in Independence Hall, where the Constitution was framed, and also in the WallBuilders Library, pulling those original documents off the shelf teaching you about what the founding fathers originally intended for the Constitution. And in this particular series this week, this three part series, we're covering section four out of Constitutional Live, which has to do with the Congress and those enumerated powers. So be sure to in tomorrow we'll get the conclusion of this three part series on Constitutional Alive. You've been listening to WallBuilders.