To Provide for the General Welfare: A History of the Federal Spending Power

Synopsis

This book traces the course of the constitutional controversy over the spending power and the role of that power in driving an expansion in federal activity and authority from 1787 forward. Since the founding of the Republic, American statesmen have seen the federal government as a fitting source of tax dollars to finance national improvement and growth, but for decades the constitutional authority for this funding was the subject of fierce and bitter controversy. Some, like Alexander Hamilton, read the Constitution as granting authority to Congress to spend for these purposes. Others, like James madison, together with Thomas Jefferson, believed that a constitutional amendment was necessary to confer it. The true scope of the constitutional authority given to Congress to lay taxes to provide for the "general welfare of the United States" was a prominent political and legal issue until the Civil War and was not resolved by the Supreme Court until the 1930s.

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