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3391. GENERAL WELFARE CLAUSE, Interpretation.—

To lay taxes to provide for
the general welfare of the United States, that
is to say, “to lay taxes for the purpose of
providing for the general welfare”. For
the laying of taxes is the power, and the
general welfare the purpose for which the
power is to be exercised. They are not to
lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they
but only to pay the debts or provide
for the welfare of the Union.
In like
manner, they are not to do anything they
to provide for the general welfare, but
only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider
the latter phrase, not as describing the
purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct
and independent power to do any act they
please, which might be for the good of the
Union, would render all the preceding and
subsequent enumerations of power completely
useless. It would reduce the whole instrument
to a single phrase, that of instituting
a Congress with power to do whatever would
be for the good of the United States; and as
they would be the sole judges of the good or
evil, it would be also a power to do whatever
evil they please. It is an established rule of
construction where a phrase will bear either
of two meanings, to give it that which will
allow some meaning to the other parts of the
instrument, and not that which would render
all the others useless. Certainly no such
universal power was meant to be given them.
It was intended to lace them up strictly
within the enumerated powers, and those
without which, as means, these powers could
not be carried into effect.—
National Bank Opinion. Washington ed. vii, 557. Ford ed., v, 286.