Monthly Archives June 2014

On “General Welfare”

One of the rare, positive effects that has come out of Congress recently is the introduction into the Rules of the House of Representatives the requirement to cite “as specifically as practicable (sic) the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill…” (113th Congress, House Rules, Rule XII, paragraph 7c).

Sounds great, right?  Well, unfortunately these days, when an equally rare Constitutional challenge is leveled against legislation making its way through Congress, more often than not, the knee-jerk response is that the “general welfare” clause gives them carte blanche authority to spend our tax money on social welfare programs.

To those who have not had the opportunity to closely study our founding documents and the primary sources of information from which we discern their original intent, this may sound legitimate–overly vague–but legitimate.

So, let’s dig into these original documents, debates, and correspondence which helped frame and clarify them.

President James Madison

President James Madison

First, we should see what the Constitution has to say about the “general welfare” of the United States.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  (Preamble to the U.S. Constitution / Emphasis added)


“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;” (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8; Emphasis added)

Aside from the definition of the word “welfare” from Webster’s Dictionary in 1828 which defines it as “ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applied to states,” there are several primary sources to which we can turn to understand the intent of these phrases.

The first set of sources we will consider are The Federalist Papers which were written after the Convention to articulate to the public why the proposed Constitution was the right replacement to the Articles of Confederation.

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers

A key factor we must consider when studying the Constitution is that the document was written with the average man in mind–not for lawyers, judges, academics, etc.  James Madison, considered the primary author of the Constitution, confirmed this for us in The Federalist Papers.

“It will be of little avail to the people… if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood;” (The Federalist No. 62)

Madison (and other framers) feared that the language and volume of our laws, beginning with the Constitution, could soon spiral out of control.  To keep it in check, we would need to ensure that all of our legislators were not replaced at the same time in order to keep some institutional knowledge, and that the laws were written plainly for the common man to understand minimizing the need to re-write or amend them for clarity.  This tells us that the framers carefully crafted the wording of the Constitution to keep it free from hidden, double, vague, or ambiguous meanings.

Bearing in mind the simple language with which the framers intended to write the Constitution, we should also review the debates of the framers during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  Fortunately for us, several of the framers (including Madison) kept notes about the proceedings at the Convention from which we can glean even further insight into the original intent of the various clauses of the document.  A terrific source for this purpose is the Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3) which chronicles from several perspectives the debates, findings, and conclusions of the various committees at the convention.  This is an invaluable treasure for those seeking the original intent of the framers.

Welfare — ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applied to states.

-Webster’s Dictionary 1828

The first we learn about the phrase “general welfare” is from Edmund Randolph of the Virginia delegation.  On May 29th, 1787, Mr. Randolph introduced what is now referred to as the Virginia Plan or Randolph Resolutions.  The very first resolution advocates that the “articles of Confederation ought to be so corrected & enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution; namely ‘common defence, security of liberty and general welfare'”.  Notice the phrase “corrected & enlarged”–keep this phrase in mind and we will revisit it shortly.

In fact Article III of the Articles of Confederation read, “the said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare.”  So as we can plainly see, the phrase was borrowed from our first attempt at constituting our nation.

Convention of 1787

Through the rest of the proceedings of the Convention, anytime the clause containing “general welfare” is brought up (August 11th and August 25th, 1787), it is in the context of paying the debts owed from the Revolutionary War that were secured to “provide for the common defense and general welfare” of the newly formed nation.  Also notice when the phrase is used in Article I, Section 8 (see above), it immediately follows the phrase “pay the debts”.

In fact, as Madison described in his letter to Andrew Stevenson on November 17, 1830 (which can be viewed in the Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Vol. 3, page 483), there was no need to refer to any future debts for those were already accounted for in the powers granted to Congress in Section 8.  The only reason to include this phrase was to satisfy debts for “common defense and general welfare” prior to the new Constitution.

The final source we will look at is the correspondence of the primary author of the Constitution.  Specifically we will look at the letter James Madison wrote to Andrew Stevenson in which he conveyed his intent and understanding of the incorporation of the phrase.

In addition to the argument presented above, Madison goes on to argue that the “general welfare” phrase could not be construed as unlimited and indefinite.  If so, then how could it be “enlarged” as Edmund Randolph proposes on May 29th (remember his resolution from above?).  A corollary to that argument is that there would not have been a need to enumerate such specific powers if the intent was to allow for unlimited scope of the phrase.

Finally, in the same letter, Madison argues that “it exceeds the possibility of belief, that the known advocates in the Convention for a jealous grant & cautious definition of federal powers, should have silently permitted the introduction of words or phrases in a sense rendering fruitless the restrictions & definitions elaborated by them”

Moreover, in the dozens of proposals by way of the Convention in 1787, the subsequent debates between the colonies prior to ratification in 1789, and the many proposed amendments to limit the power of the new federal government prior to 1791, it defies logic that this phrase would have escaped notice–especially from those who were still fearful of an out-of-control centralized government similar to the one for which they sacrificed their lives and treasures to separate from in the first place!

While this is just one of many phrases of the Constitution that has been warped and twisted for political purposes in recent years, what we should also take away from this study is that all it takes is a careful examination of the original documents to help us understand, return to, and ultimately defend the values and principles laid out by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution.

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The Myth Surrounding Separation of Church and State

“That violates the ‘separation of church and state’!”

How often do you hear this phrase screamed across the airwaves in a news program or a heated debate about the role of religion in our government?

Do you ever give it a second thought?

Do you know where the phrase originated?

If you said, “The Constitution” or “the 1st Amendment”, you’re wrong!  This phrase does not appear once in any of our founding documents–even though, the proponents of a “separation of church and state” would have you believe just that, or that it was a founding principle of this nation.

Let’s explore the history of this phrase and look at the words of the Founders and our government documents that will arm you with the true history of Christianity in our government’s history.

The place where most people mistakenly think this phrase originates is from the 1st Amendment, so let’s start there.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (Emphasis added)

Do you see anything missing?  That’s right: our mysterious phrase!

So where did it come from?

The first known occurrence of the phrase “separation between Church and State” came from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association on 1 January 1802.

In the letter, President Jefferson was responding to concerns from the association seeking an assurance of their “[r]eligious [l]iberty.”  They go on to describe that their state charter was built upon the establishment of religion first and foremost (Puritanism) and that they had been forced to rely on the state to grant them the “privilege” of worshiping rather than enjoying it as an “inalienable right”.

Notice that the concern was not the influence of religion upon government, but the other way around.

President Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson

In his response, President Jefferson, replied to this specific concern and assured the Baptists that the establishment and free-exercise clauses of the 1st amendment build a “wall of separation between [c]hurch & [s]tate” so as to protect the Baptists from an intrusive government establishing the official religion for their state as well as interfering with their right to worship as they please.

So, as you can see, history tells a much different story than what we hear in the mainstream media; and for that matter much different than our own Supreme Court has tried to establish through one of their opinions.

This is only one example of the mainstream media propagating a lie often enough that even well-educated Americans have begun to buy into their agenda.  Be sure to do your own research before simply accepting what your favorite radio or TV personality tells you—be it from the left or the right!

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Pledging Allegiance

The other day, my 9 year old son came into my office and asked me if I knew the “Pledge of Allegiance”.

Of course, he was really prompting me to ask him so he could recite it to me–and how proud I was that he did!  These are the times I love the most about being a father.  What a great opportunity to talk with my son about what the “Pledge of Allegiance” means.

This got me thinking about how many of us just recite the Pledge without really thinking about it’s meaning, and more importantly what it means to pledge our allegiance.

So, let’s first review the history of the pledge.

The original pledge was published on 8 September 1892 in a publication called “Youth’s Companion” which was largely a Christian periodical.  The author was Francis Bellamy.  In it’s first iteration, the language was generic because the pledge was intended for citizens of any nation to use.  But by 1942, Congress had formally adopted the pledge (June 22, 1942, ch. 435, §7, 56 Stat. 380) and by 1954, the pledge had been changed by Congress to it’s current form to reflect its use in the United States and to incorporate our Christian heritage in order to make a bold and public stance against the growing threat of Communism.

NOTE: This is one of the many instances where our Christian heritage is recognized by our own government.  This is not to be confused with endorsement of one denomination of the Christian faith.  Be sure to subscribe to the blog to read more about this in future posts.

ALLEGIANCE, noun – the duty of fidelity to a king, government or state

–American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828

So, as it stands, and in accordance with 4 USC, Section 4 ,the Pledge reads as follows (hopefully this is not new to anyone) :

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Let’s break it down:


FIDELITY, noun – Faithfulness; careful and exact observance of duty, or performance of obligations.

–American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828

“I pledge allegiance…”– I promise careful and exact observance of my duty and performance of my obligations as a citizen…

“…to the Flag of the Unites States of America…” – to the symbol of the United States of America…

“…, and to the Republic for which it stands…” – and more specifically, to the Republic for which that flag is a symbol.  This Republic is not an individual or faction, but is represented by the Constitution of the United States.


INDIVISIBLE, adjective – That cannot be divided, separated or broken; not separable into parts.

–American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828

“…, one Nation under God…” – This Republic is one nation under God’s authority.  NOTE: once again, we are recognizing our dependence on our God’s providence and mercy, not promoting any denomination of Christianity.


“…indivisible…” – While we are made up of the several states, we are formed into one union under our Constitution’s protection.

“…with liberty and justice for all.” – Under our Constitution, every citizen is guaranteed the liberties established therein and justice shall be applied equally to each of us.

This is what we are pledging allegiance to each time we recite these words.  So next time someone begins the Pledge, even if you are across the room, building, field, or whatever, stand at attention and render the salute with a genuine understanding of what you are saying.

We live in the greatest country on the earth and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll recognize that if it is supported properly, we get much more out of our Constitution than we individually pledge with these words.





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A Republic If You Can Keep It!

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

These were the words Dr. Benjamin Franklin replied on the final day of deliberations at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when asked about the type of government the delegates had created. Franklin was clearly alluding to the fact that a republic does not stand on its own; rather, it can only be maintained by an involved and informed citizenry. Only recently, more than two centuries later, does the largely apathetic population of the United States recognize the magnitude of Dr. Franklin’s sage words.

Our republic is failing. Among the symptoms are frequent Constitutional violations, over-spending, open hostility to the Christian faith, activist judges, unenforced borders, a wildly intrusive federal government, and an underlying and radical progressive agenda by those hostile to our Constitutional Republic. In a healthy republic, these symptoms would only flare up briefly, to be attacked quickly and aggressively by the citizenry through their constitutionally elected representatives. However, the United States today is far from a healthy republic.

In a healthy republic, citizens would inform themselves about how their government should operate. They would read their founding documents—not just reading the words, but reading for understanding. Citizens would study their nation’s history—not just reading from textbooks, but reading from original sources written during the historical period. They would do this to ensure they were getting a factual representation and not someone’s personal revision of history. Yet, today, very little time is given to studying our founding documents, and the history we know is largely based on the textbooks we read in school or the documentaries we watch on television.

In a healthy republic, citizens have a very skeptical view of their government and take an active interest in politics because it is the only non-violent means by which they can restrain their government. They would engage their fellow citizens—one on one or in town meetings—to debate the merits of legislative proposals or the actions taken by their government. Citizens would be in frequent contact with their elected representatives to ensure that their government did not overstep their mandate. Yet, today our interest is only raised when we personally witness a direct and measurable consequence to our personal lives. Even then, all we say is “someone should do something about that!”

Ours is the only country in the history of mankind that has survived as long as it has under the same founding document. The reason for this was described by Dr. Franklin when the Constitutional Convention reached a deadlock as to the question of representation. He urged the delegates to pray each morning before undertaking the debates saying:

Franklin, Benjamin-402x402

Dr. Benjamin Franklin

“I’ve lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, — and I also believe that without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel”

 –Dr. Benjamin Franklin


The events leading up to and including the Constitutional Convention were divinely inspired. It is only by the grace of God that our nation was formed as a Constitutional Republic and has endured this long. However as Ronald Reagan said…

President Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan

“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and lost it, have never known it again.”

–President Ronald Reagan

The key to saving our country is to engage our citizenry politically again. Politics is not dirty. I know that is the stigma attached to it today, but our founders recognized politics for what it is: a key to preserving our liberties. Politics is not dirty, it is the people practicing politics that are dirty. It is like the old adage about money: money is the root of all evil (which has morphed over the centuries from the original biblical source: 1 Timothy 6:10). No, money is just a tool. It can be used for good or for bad. It is the people who spend the money that have the capability to be evil.

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