Hamilton: the False Federalist

To call such as Hamilton a true Federalist is to ignore the fact that just a few years after writing the FEDERALIST PAPERS, he repudiated most of what he had written.

Just for example, in FEDERALIST NO. 83 he wrote: “[T]he power of Congress . . . shall extend to certain enumerated cases. This specification of particulars evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd, as well as useless, if a general authority was intended.” FEDERALIST NO. 83 @ http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa83.htm.

Then in In Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures” (Dec. 5, 1791), three years after the FEDERALIST, he said just the opposite of what he had said in the FEDERALIST:

MR. HAMILTON: “A Question has been made concerning the constitutional right of the Government of the United States to apply this species of encouragement, but there is certainly no good foundation for such a question. The National Legislature has express authority ‘To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare’ with no other qualifications than that “all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States, that no capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless in proportion to numbers ascertained by a census or enumeration taken on the principles prescribed in the Constitution, and that “no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.” These three qualifications excepted, the power to raise money is plenary, and indefinite; and the objects to which it may be appropriated are no less comprehensive, than the payment of the public debts and the providing for the common defence and “general welfare.” The terms “general welfare” were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a Nation would have been left without a provision.

The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the Union, to appropriate its revenues shou’d have been restricted within narrower limits than the “general welfare” and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition.

It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce, upon the objects, which concern the general welfare, and for which under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper. And there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever concerns the general Interests of learning of Agriculture of Manufactures and of Commerce are within the sphere of the national Councils as far as regards an application of Money.”

But what he said in the FEDERALIST is what stands, for that was the document used to persuade the states to ratify. And so soon to repudiate his FEDERALIST assurances was a fraud of substantial proportions.

The upshot of the Hamilton fraud was a 1936 U.S. Supreme Court  holding that general welfare is a power in addition to those specifically enumerated–that changed the form of our government forever:  “[T]he power of Congress”, the court held, “to authorize expenditures of public moneys for public purposes is not limited by the direct [i.e., specific] grants of legislative power found in the Constitution”[i]—thereby flatly repudiating the FEDERALIST Hamilton, Madison, and Story, as well as the plain sense of the text itself. Oddly the court relied on Mr. Hamilton’s post-FEDERALIST 1791 statement above instead of the 1787-88 representations he made in the FEDERALIST. The decision led to the explosion of the powers of government.

For more on that, please see THE GENERAL WELFARE CLAUSE: How a Constitutional Restraint Was Transformed Into a Constitutional Power. http://wp.me/sD41z-7


[i] U.S. v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1, 66 (1936) @ http://supreme.justia.com/us/297/1/case.html.

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Published in: on March 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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