Notes on Congress’ Enumerated Powers

Title: Notes and quotes from The Enumerated Powers of Congress by Publius Huldah
Summary: The Constitution grants the U.S. Congress few and strictly defined powers. The Federalist Papers, the 1828 Dictionary and the 10th Amendment confirm this. But those wishing for increased federal government power have and continue to use three clauses in the Constitution to, so far successfully — and lawlessly — usurp its original intent and create an illegitimate federal government. First is the “general welfare clause” now erroneously inferred to include “public relief.” Second is the “interstate commerce clause”, perverted to give Congress power to pass laws on any subject which affects interstate commerce rather than from the original intent of only prohibiting it from imposing tolls and tariffs. Third is the “necessary and proper clause”, intended to merely allow Congress to pass laws for the execution of its enumerated powers but later misinterpreted to allow it power over anything it decided to be “necessary and proper.”

Enumerated Powers of Congress (online here)

A Primer in Constitutional Law By Publius Huldah

The enumerated powers are here:

Article I: §4 clause 1, §6, §8, §9 clauses 1 and 2, §10 clauses 2 and 3

Article III: §3, cl. 2

Article IV: §1

Article V

Amendments: 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, 26th

These powers fall into these and only these categories:

  1. International commerce and war;

  2. Domestically, the establishment of an uniform commercial system: weights & measures, patents & copyrights, a monetary system based on gold & silver, bankruptcy law, a [limited] power over interstate commerce, and mail delivery. Congress also has the power to establish lower federal courts and make rules for naturalization.

  3. Protection of civil and voting rights.

All other powers are retained by the States or the People.

Congress can get away with passing laws beyond its enumerated powers only when citizens allow it.

Proper oversight (began? accelerated?) its decline under FDR, who threatened to pack the Court by adding (more) anti-Constitution judges.

Since then, law schools have falsely taught that these three clauses permit Congress to do whatever it wants:

  1. the “general welfare” clause

  2. the “interstate commerce” clause

  3. the “necessary and proper” clause

1. the “General Welfare Clause”

Art. 1, §8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…

The actual meaning of the word:

WELFARE, n. [well and fare, a good faring; G.]
1. Exemption from misfortune, sickness, calamity or evil; the
enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life; prosperity;
happiness; applied to persons.
2. Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applied to states. Webster’s, 1828

Not the “public relief” definition added by the American Heritage Dictionary in 1969.

James Madison addresses this precise issue in Federalist No. 41 (last 4 paras). He points out that the first paragraph of Art. I, §8 employs “general terms” which are “immediately” followed by the “enumeration of particular powers” which “explain and qualify”, by a “recital of particulars”, the general terms.

OUR FOUNDERS UNDERSTOOD that the “general Welfare”, i.e., the enjoyment of peace & prosperity, and the enjoyment of the ordinary blessings of society & civil government, was possible only with a civil government which was strictly limited & restricted in what it was given power to do!

2. the “Interstate Commerce Clause”

Art. I, §8, cl. 3:

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes…

This does not give Congress power to pass laws on any subject which affects interstate commerce.

Hamilton and Madison in Federalist 22 (4th para) and 42 (11th & 12th para) explain: It is to prohibit the States from imposing tolls and tariffs on articles of import and export – merchandize – as they are transported through the States for purposes of buying and selling.

3. the “Necessary and Proper Clause”

Art. I, §8, last clause:

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Alexander Hamilton clarifies:

  • the clause merely gives to Congress a right to pass all laws necessary & proper to execute its declared powers (Federalist No. 29, 4th para)
  • a power to do something must be a power to pass all laws necessary & proper for the execution of that power (Federalist No. 33, 4th para)
  • “the constitutional operation of the intended government would be precisely the same if [this clause] were entirely obliterated as if [it] were repeated in every article” (Federalist No. 33, 2nd para)
  • thus the clause is “perfectly harmless”, a tautology or redundancy. (Federalist No. 33, 4th para)

Madison concurred in Federalist No. 44, 10th-17th paras.

In other words, the clause simply permits the execution of powers already declared and granted. Hamilton & Madison are clear that no additional substantive powers are granted by this clause.

The Enumerated powers are Congress’ only powers

Reminders and reassurances:

10th Amendment

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Remember, WE are “The People.”

Repeated insistence in the Federalists

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people….[emphasis added] Federalist No. 45 (9th para)

…the proposed government cannot be deemed a national one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects. Federalist No. 39 (14th para)

…the general [federal] government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects. Federalist No. 14 (8th para)



In all its recent legislation, Congress ratchets up its concerted pattern of lawless usurpations. The executive branch and the federal courts approve it. Such is the essence of tyranny. They are “ruling” without our consent, and hence the federal government is now illegitimate. PH

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