General Welfare

Curtis W. Caine, MD
Article Type: 
The Constitution - Plain and Simple
Fall 1997
Volume Number: 
Issue Number: 

If I were to tell you there is a constitutional subject that is expressed in a countless number of words; that is argued endlessly; that a myriad of books have been written about; that legions of court cases have been filed over and many judicial decrees have been issued upon; that many laws have been enacted to implement; that endless regulations have been promulgated under its purview; that trillions of dollars have been expended under its authority; but on which there is still no unanimity --- what would you believe I was referring to?

If I further revealed that the subject has but two words to label it, and that these words appear only twice in the source text of all of the above --- just what could possibly evoke all of this activity?


Legalists, politicians, activists call the duo a "clause." For all the myth, mirth, tomfoolery, mischief, and manipulation that have descended therefrom, it is as substantive as Santa "Claus(e)" (pun intended), and just as bogus. The simple, clear, finite, defined concept has been "interpreted" to mean the rainbow of intellectual pipe dreams and ludicrous socialist-engineering ruminations fancifully proclaimed by judicial edict to be fact.

Webster's Dictionary asserts that a "clause" is: "a short sentence"; "a word group"; "a distinct article or proviso, etc.," that is predicated. Additionally, Webster defines that a "phrase" (derived from the Greek) is: "a brief expression or catchword"; "a grammatically related group of words that form a sense unit, etc.," that is also predicated. Thus, both a "clause" and a "phrase" are predicated (id est, the meaning of which is predetermined by its antecedent), and the predication is in the context. So, clauses and phrases do not stand alone. Their meaning depends on the context in which they are found.

There is a wide chasm between a definition and an interpretation. When a U.S. official is in a meeting of dignitaries of foreign nations, he has a "translator" at his elbow who is fluent in the other languages as well as in English. He whispers the exact translation of what is being said in the other language. This person is often incorrectly called an "interpreter." If he is an "interpreter" and not a "translator," our official could be misled, as has often happened this century by intent. A translation is a word for word transliteration from one language to another. A definition is what a dictionary prints. An interpretation is the interpreter's personal opinion of the matter.

Hence the phrase we often hear when our opinion disagrees with that of another is: "Oh, well, that's your interpretation," when there is the possibility that neither of our "interpretations" is what was actually said or written or existed. A case in point of interpretation is the ancient Indian fable about the blind men that came upon the elephant.

The heading above gave me away. Of course I am speaking of the two words "general" and "welfare" that appear but twice in the Constitution of the Union of These American States.

Webster says "general" means "not specific," "opposed to particular."

He further defines "welfare" as what the French root words are: wel (well) + fare (to go); thus, "state of faring well." So "general welfare" is the "general state of things going well," or "general condition of well-being." This is a far cry from what the words "general welfare" have been intentionally twisted (interpreted) to mean. This contortion has been necessary because the true meaning of the words is the exact opposite of what we have been told they mean by those intent to free themselves of the restrictions the words place on them. Such machinations are all around us for the same purpose (e.g., evil things being repetitively labeled good, etc.).

The first appearance in the U.S. Constitution of the phrase "general welfare," raised to the prominence given to a clause, is in the Preamble:

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Remember, the Constitution contains the ByLaws of the Republic. The word "promote" is clear and unequivocal in the Preamble. Those who wish to pervert the phrase "general welfare" avoid mentioning its recitation in the Preamble like the plague because it is prefixed there by the word "promote," and they do not want to just benignly promote anything. They want a hook on which to hang their desire to "provide." Government "providing" is power, control, and money to those who wangle themselves into the position of doing the "providing" (at someone else's expense, of course). And, although they do not recognize it as such, it is subjugation, dependency, and virtual slavery for those doing the taking.

Welfare --- General vs Specific

The crux of the matter is in the second recitation of the phrase-made-into-a-clause in Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 1:

The Congress (and only the Congress, not the courts or the bureaus) shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises (to get money), to pay (a directive --- pay it, and now) the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;

Art. I, Sec. 8, Par. 1 grammatic-ally should read: "The created Congress is delegated by the creator States the power to collect specified monies that are to be used to (1) pay off the debts of the Union (not Japan, or Mexico, or Germany, or Los Angeles, or Chase Bank, or the S&Ls); (2) to provide for the common Defence of the States in the Union (not Japan, or Germany, or Israel); and (3) to provide for the general Welfare of the States of the Union (that were at that time in the process of forming that union by the adoption of this Constitution).

As defined by Webster above, "general" is "not specific." And "welfare" is "a state of well being." So, Congress was delegated to provide for an atmosphere of general well being for the States to function in. Most intently, the central government was forbidden to reincarnate any one of the 27 abuses, injuries, and usurpations listed against the Crown in the Declaration of Independence (The Charter) that had provoked the Colonies to separate from Great Britain.(1) The Congress (which also oversees the other two branches of the central government) was (as ordered by Art. I, Sec. 8, Par. 18 and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments) to exercise only those powers specifically delegated to it --- and otherwise leave the States and the people alone. Nowhere enumerated in the delegated powers is there any authority to operate in areas that have been usurped under the perverse color-of-law of the "general welfare clause" or of the "interstate commerce clause" (but the latter is another subject). This is what James Madison the architect of the Constitution wrote about the subject:

For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity....(2)

Note that in both enumerations (the Preamble and Art. I, Sec. 8, Par. 1) the word is "general" welfare, not "specific" welfare. The use of that one word "general," alone clinches the argument. It should not be necessary to explore the matter any further to understand that a specific, tangible dollar to a specific, tangible, flesh and blood "client" is foreign to the generic, benign, nebulous, conceptual nature of "general welfare," and is thus forbidden.

We have, in a previous column,3 explored and demolished the proposition that citizens of these United States are due the perqs of entitlements since same are, for good reason, forbidden twice in the ByLaws of this Republic (the Constitution in Art. I, Sec. 9, Par. 8 and Sec. 10, Par. 1).

Food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, and such other entitlements, etc. are specific welfare (not general) and are for individual people (not for the welfare of the States) and thus, are precisely and expressly forbidden. So, both the type of welfare and to whom it is currently doled are violative of the general welfare clause of Art. I, Sec. 8, Par. 1. Again, this is how then U.S. Representative James Madison replied to Alexander Hamilton when the latter as Secretary of the Treasury sought to use "federal" monies for local or specific welfare rather than promote the general welfare:

If Congress can apply 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 take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads, other than post roads. In short, everything from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of policy, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.(4)

And, in a letter to Edmund Pendleton dated January 21, 1792, Madison affirmed that "if Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions."(5)

Thomas Jefferson also denied that the "general welfare clause" authorized the federal government to pass measures that benefit specific individuals or special interest groups or localities (pork barrel). He wrote: "a distinctive substantive power, to do any act which might tend to the general welfare, is to render all the enumerations useless, and to make their power unlimited."(6)

The Law of the Land

We professionals in medicine depend (and have been schooled to depend) on "the literature." This is good in that we are spared the chore of having individually to repeatedly reinvent the wheel. We can build on the foundation constructed before us. But we all know that "the literature" is not sacrosanct and infallible. All too frequently, what we read in "the literature" has been written with a specific political ax to grind. It was "the literature" that decreed, for example, that the earth was flat and those heretic enough to say otherwise, better repent or had their heads put on the block. So, at the outset, the premier issue of the Medical Sentinel,(7) it was proposed that to preclude the unhappy, tragic circumstance of us being misled regarding the U.S. Constitution, we would use as our manual on the Constitution the Constitution itself. For, you see, neither a Philadelphia lawyer, nor the textbook of law at a university, or case law precedent, or even the U.S. Supreme Court is the final word on the Constitution. The Constitution is itself the final word on the Constitution. The Constitution says what the Constitution explicitly says.

To keep things in their proper perspective, it is necessary for us to repeatedly make reference to the organization table, to wit:

God, the Creator, is sovereign over all and He created and endowed us with certain prerogatives that as delineated in His Word are inalienable.

Men created each State and gave each its delegated prerogatives as delineated in the State Constitution of each State.

The States created the Union and gave it its delegated prerogatives as prescribed and circumscribed in the U.S. Constitution.

So, just as God is to judge the actions of His creatures --- us --- to see if we meet the requirements He has set, we are to judge the actions of our creature --- our State --- to see if it meets the State Constitutional requirements we have set.

Each State is to judge the actions of its creature --- the Union --- to see if it meets the U.S. Constitutional requirements the States set.

In all of this, God alone has been steadfast and faithful. We, our States, and the Fed have not. Each entity below God has (by action or inaction) judged the correctness of its own actions in its own arbitrary eyes, resulting in a biased perversion of the requirements placed on each creature by its creator one notch above it. Hence the contemporary lawless tyranny of a government gone amok and listing for ever-increasing power.

In the present context this means that (although each branch of the Fed is to check on the other two to make sure they are obeying the Constitution) the final judgement of the constitutionality of the Fed's actions is to rest with, not the Supreme Court of the United States --- an internal and therefore partial organ in which the Fed judges itself --- but with the creators of the Fed, the dominant States. The States are to judge the constitutionality of a Federal act.

The Union was formed to defend and enforce its sovereign status amongst the nations of the world. The States are to defend and enforce the sovereign status of themselves in the Republic they created and, in so doing, keep the Union "on the straight and narrow." But before we can keep the Union on the straight and narrow, we must return it to the straight and narrow --- the Constitution.

Let me be so bold as to suggest that you utilize every occasion to tell your patients, friends, neighbors, colleagues, state and federal legislators, etc., the above plain facts and insist that the remedy to the ills of America does not rest on a balanced budget amendment, or a prayer amendment, or tort reform, or a war on crime, or a war on drugs, or what have you, but by returning to the Constitution.

There is no better time to express yourself than right now. Pick up the phone and contact your U.S. Congressional Senator and Representative through the Capitol Switchboard at 1-800-962-3524, give the operator the name of the Senator or Representative, and point out to him that the Constitution gives the Congress no authority to be in the fields of health, welfare, power, banking, insurance, legal services, agriculture, education, etc. Yet, these unConstitutional (illegal) functions comprise 80% of the Fed's activities.

The intended good of all of these (without any of their inherent drawbacks) will be accomplished in one fell swoop by putting the U.S. Constitution back into full force and effect.


1. Caine CW. Why the Declaration was written and the Constitution adopted. Medical Sentinel 1996;1(2):25-26.
2. Madison J, Jay J, Hamilton A. The Federalist Papers #41. Bergenfield, New York, New American Library, 1961, p. 263.
3. Caine CW. Perquisites. Medical Sentinel 1996;1(3):23-24.
4. Madison J. Speech to the First U.S. Congress. Cited by JF McManus in The New American 1995;11(1):26-27.
5. Madison J. Cited by RW Lee in Collectivist Clichés in The New American 1992;8(14):26.
6. Jefferson T. Cited by RW Lee, loc. cit.
7. Caine CW. U.S. Constitution 101. Medical Sentinel 1996;1(1):29-30.

Dr. Caine is an anesthesiologist in Jackson, Mississippi, and a member of the Editorial Board of the Medical Sentinel. His e-mail address is

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1997;2(4):144-146. Copyright © 1997 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

(This column on the Constitution appears in the Medical Sentinel to remind us that it is the unConstitutional (and thus illegal) activities in medicine and all other facets of our lives that have trampled on and outlawed our God-endowed freedom and liberty.)

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