“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare’, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.” “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.” “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined . . . to be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce." "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
-- James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, fourth U.S. President
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
-- Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. President
“Mr. Speaker: I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it. We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.”
-- Congressman Davy Crockett
“I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity.”
-- President Franklin Pierce
"Unprincipled modern American politicians have made the phrase 'the general welfare' mean the exact opposite of what it actually means. And by changing the meaning of these two simple words they have wrought what amounts to a coup d'etat against the Constitution of the United States. Instead of our representatives dispassionately, objectively, looking to the interests of the whole body of the people as they ought, while securing the unalienable rights of the individual, they now turn a blind eye to the alienation of the God-given rights to life, liberty and property, while robbing the Treasury and their constituents to spend money they are not legitimately authorized to spend on favored individuals and groups, for the aggrandizement of their own political power."
-- Tom Hoefling, October 26, 2012
"If Congress can employ 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 appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America."
-- James Madison, Speech on the Cod Fishery Bill, Feb. 7, 1792