Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 19, 2012

in Law, Myths and Fallacies

… is from page 663 of Little, Brown’s Fifth “Bigelow” edition (1891) of Justice Joseph Story‘s storied 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States:

The constitution was, from its very origin, contemplated to be the frame of a national government, of special and enumerated powers, and not of general and unlimited powers.  This is apparent, as will be presently seen, from the history of the proceedings of the convention, which framed it; and it has formed the admitted basis of all legislative and judicial reasoning upon it, ever since it was put into operation, by all, who have been its open friends and advocates, as well as by all, who have been its enemies and opponents.  If the clause, “to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States,” is construed to be an independent and substantive grant of power, it not only renders wholly unimportant and unnecessary the subsequent enumeration of specific powers; but it plainly extends far beyond them, and creates a general authority in congress to pass all laws, which they may deem for the common defence or general welfare.  Under such circumstances, the constitution would practically create an unlimited national government.  The enumerated powers would tend to embarrassment and confusion; since they would only give rise to doubts, as to the true extent of the general power, or of the enumerated powers.

In my copy of the Bigelow edition, the above quotation is Sec. 909, but in this on-line version from the University of Chicago it’s Section 906.  I don’t know what the story is on this discrepancy.

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