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.
A power to lay taxes for any purposes whatsoever is a general power; a power to lay taxes for certain specified purposes is a limited power. A power to lay taxes for the common defence and general welfare of the United States is not in common sense a general power. It is limited to those objects. It cannot constitutionally transcend them. If the defence proposed by a tax be not the common defence of the United States, if the welfare be not general, but special, or local, as contradistinguished from national, it is not within the scope of the constitution. If the tax be not proposed for the common defence, or general welfare, but for other objects, wholly extraneous, (as for instance, for propagating Mahometanism among the Turks, or giving aids and subsidies to a foreign nation, to build palaces for its kings, or erect monuments to its heroes,) it would be wholly indefensible upon constitutional principles. The power, then, is, under such circumstances, necessarily a qualified power.
Eminent men and able men of great experience and wisdom are blaming the people for looking more and more to the Federal Government to meet their wants and to exercise governmental control over them, and this to the destruction of local self government, the rights of the States, and the rights of the people, all which are the basic factors of our social, economic, and constitutional life.
Might I humbly question whether the people are primarily to blame for this?
Nearly two thousand years ago, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Master miraculously fed 5,000 people. They immediately wished to make Him king. One who could feed them without their working for it, ought to be made their sovereign. This would solve for them the all important problem of earthly existence. Perceiving their thoughts and to avoid being dragged forth as the seeming head of a rebellion, the Master dismissed them and Himself fled their presence, going "up into a mountain apart to pray." That night He crossed over to the other side of the sea , and the multitude learning of it, took ship and also crossed over, and came to Him again. They gathered about Him, deceitfully worshipping, declaring: "Of a truth thou art the Son of God." But He discerning their thought and purpose, reproved them saying: "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled."
He then preached the great sermon on the bread of life, and the sacred record declares: "From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him."
He was useless to them, except as the gratuitous provider of their bread and meat.
So do multitudes.
If our Congressmen would stop the march of the people to Washington for their government and their substance, they should cease distributing the loaves and fishes from the steps of the Treasury Building across the road from the White House. You Congressmen have the absolute power to stop it; have you the courage? If it is not done, you, not the people, must take on the censure.
There is one principle as old as human government, indeed as old as human relations: He who holds the purse strings, rules the house, the nation, the world.
If Congressmen wish to restore local self-government, and the rights of the States and of the people, let them send back to the States, to the local communities, to the Churches, and to the children of indigent parents, where it belongs, the duty of caring for their own sick and decrepit and aged, their own unfortunate and underprivileged. Then the march on Washington will cease and the countermarch back home will be a Marathon.
I am not forgetting that this may cost a good many Congressmen considerable inconvenience and more abuse, it may cost some of their them official lives. But they are planning and legislating for the conduct of a war which will cost hundreds of thousands of the actual lives of our best manhood; might they not make an infinitely less sacrifice of their own official lives for the common good and for our free institutions? And I tell you, our free institutions are far more threatened by our domestic usurpations than by the outcome of this war. If you Congressmen would save this nation and its free institutions, cease to appropriate the national funds to meet local wants and problems of welfare.
[O]ur tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only landmark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money.
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