William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


This Article argues specifically that under the text of the Constitution, Congress has the general power to provide for the welfare through tax and any other necessary and appropriate means. Clause 1 of the description of powers of Congress in Article I, Section 8, gives Congress the power to tax and spend to provide for the common defense and general welfare. Common defense and domestic welfare are parallel in the text and equally plenary, subject only to restrictions protecting individual rights. The final clause of Section 8 then allows Congress to reach the goal of general welfare by any necessary and appropriate means, that is, by the lesser auxiliary powers beyond tax. The constitutional text is a loyal codification of the binding resolutions previously passed on the floor of the Constitutional Convention, which for this issue provided that the Congress would be able to legislate in any case for the general interests of the Union. Close reading of the text—combined with the drafting history now available, and the evidence of the expressed rationale for the text—supports the argument that the general power in the Constitution provides for the general welfare including the power to abolish slavery. If we are to treat the constitutional text alone, Sola Scriptura, as the exclusive source of constitutional authority, then Congress has the general power to provide for the general welfare.

This abstract has been taken from the author's introduction.