Today is our tenth post in the series on the Constitution. It’s the penultimate section of Article I, enumerating various powers given to Congress.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
SECTION 8. 1 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; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Although Congress is authorized govern the nation’s financial affairs, all taxes must be uniformly applied to all states.
2 To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
A necessary power that has been thoroughly abused for the last 75 years.
3 To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
This is one of the main reasons the founders wantede a strong, viable central government.
4 To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
Don’t know why immigration and bankruptcies were included in the same paragraph, but it was important that both be handled uniformly throughout the nation.
5 To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
Imagine the chaos if each state coined its own money and established its own standards of weights and measurements.
6 To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
If Congress had the authority to coin money, it had to have the authority to punish counterfeiting.
7 To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
Again, imagine the chaos if there were no federal coordination of mail and roads.
8 To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
Without patents and copyrights, no one would go to the trouble of inventing or writing.
9 To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
The Constitution only established the Supreme Court, leaving it to Congress to establish the rest of the federal court system.
10 To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
11 To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
These and other things involving international dealings had to be handled by the nation as a whole rather than by the individual states.
12 To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
13 To provide and maintain a Navy;
14 To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
Since the federal government is charged with providing for the nation’s defense, it has to have the power to raise and support military forces and to make the rules governing those forces.
15 To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
16 To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
If Congress has the power to raise ongoing military forces, it also needed the power to provide for a militia, such as the National Guard and the Reserves.
17 To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful buildings;—
This gives Congress the job of government the District of Columbia.
18 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.
This general statement gives Congress the authority to do whatever is necessary to exercise the various powers given to it by the Constitution.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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