-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, 1816
"To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father's has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, 1816
“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
"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, 1801
"They are not to do anything they please 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 may be good for 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...Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on a National Bank, 1791
"[I]n questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution..."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions, 1798
"It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the Virginia Query 19, 1781
"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the great body of our country. Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom and harmony."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1801
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
-- Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, quoted by Thomas Jefferson in Commonplace Book
"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, 1802
"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Ludlow, 1824