Constitution Alive, Section Four – The Enumerated Powers Of Limited Government: What Does The Federal Government Have The Power To Do? What are the enumerated powers of Congress? Is it the size of government that is most important, or the jurisdictions? What did our Founders mean by “general welfare”? Our Constitution is still alive and applicable today! The reason our government continues to overstep its boundaries is because “we the people” don’t know what those boundaries are! Tune in now for the first part of our three-part series!

Air Date: 09/22/2020

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture


Welcome to the intersection of faith and politics. This is WallBuilders Live with David Barton Rick Green. Thanks for joining us today. Be sure to visit us online at This is and

We’ve got some special information there on both of those websites for you. Just a wealth of information that you can get a hold of to find out what’s happening in the culture today and how to apply both a Biblical and historical perspective to that. That’s what we’re all about here at WallBuilders Live.

3-Day Series from Constitution Alive

Today we’re going to start sharing with you a three-day series from Constitution Alive specifically diving into the Constitution. In this particular section from the class on Constitution Alive where David and I take you through the entire Constitution. We’re in the library at Wall Builders pulling out those original documents, and also in Philadelphia at Independence Hall. In the very room where the Constitution was framed. Throughout that program, as we dive into each of those seven articles of the Constitution and the 27 amendments, we reach back into the original documents to find out what were the founders saying at the time. What were they thinking, what was their intent?

In this series we’re going to share with you over the next three days is actually Section 4 out of Constitution Alive. It’s the beginning of our coverage of the Congress and going into Article 1 Section 8. What does the Congress, what does the federal government actually have the power to do? What are those specific and numerator powers? So we’re going to walk through that with you over the next three days.

If you’re gonna miss a day, you can always go to our website at, and catch up. Let’s get started right now with Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green.

Article 1 Section 8


Welcome back to Constitutional Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s time to get into the specifics.

We’re going to go through those specific enumerated powers in Article 1 Section 8. Those powers are given to Congress. Before we get to the specifics back in Philly and walk through them; when you think about the specifics, and you think about all that you’ve learned from reading the Founding Fathers and their intent for these clauses in the Constitution, what’s one that comes to mind that’s really been changed from what they intended, distorted, even abused?

Difference Between Limited Government And Small Government


I think there’s one that’s abused by our folks that are Pro-Constitution people, and they confuse a small government with a limited government. There’s a big difference between the two. A limited government is what the Constitution established. And so when you think of a limited government quite frankly, a limited government means it has certain jurisdictions. It’s got certain lines it has to stay within. It doesn’t have to do with size, it has to do what it can and can’t do.


So, it could be a lot of money or could be a big department. That’s right. But it’s within a certain jurisdictional alignment.


That’s right. So, if you look within the Constitution, it authorizes a military. Now if you’re going to have a military that will defend 330 million Americans have already been abroad. It’s not going be small. It’s a limited government because it’s limited to that military, but it’s not a small area.

The Constitution says that the President can appoint ambassadors, can make treaties with foreign nations. That’s why we have a state department. That’s one of the four original Cabinet-level departments the founding fathers knew we needed. We got two hundred and fifty-seven embassies across the world. In the United States, we’re one of one hundred and ninety-five nations net goes up and down every year at the U.N. but two hundred fifty-seven members. That’s not small.


The State Department’s going to be big, but it’s still it hasn’t crossed over those jurisdictional lines. It’s still limited to the things we define.

Post Offices


Post Office. Article 1, Section 8 says that Congress will establish post offices and post roads. We get 31,000 post offices because we have one in every community. That’s not small, but it’s limited.

So that’s limited government. If we make the mistake of confusing limited government with small government, you get really frustrated. You won’t understand it.

Limited government means there are certain set of lines you cannot cross; those jurisdictional lines. Let me give you a way this used to work because we already talked in previous programs about the six principles of the Declaration, one of which involved inalienable rights and moral laws. One of the moral laws that we had dealt with was the issue of marriage.

Certain Areas of Authority

Now, this is really easy to understand. Jesus has a quote out of Matthew twenty twenty-one it says, render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and God that which is God’s. In other words, there are certain jurisdictions. This is not a separation of church and state verse. We talked earlier that you know you’ve got a gray Dodge pickup, and I’ve got a red Ford pickup. I want yours to be red. So I spend – I can’t do that. I can’t do that which belongs to me. I can’t do that which belongs to you.


There are certain areas of authority in certain areas –


Certain jurisdictional lines and Caesar can’t be God. It can’t get in. So Caesar’s got to recognize those lines. A good example of that is the marriage issue.

If you take the marriage issue itself back in Genesis 1 through 3. When God created everything he said this is good, this is good but when he got to man and woman, and a family he said this is very good.

Jesus has the same opportunities as disciples, and they were asking about divorce, and specifically, no-fault divorce which is what the law allowed. Then he said hey guys don’t you remember how it was back at the beginning. Don’t you remember there was one man one woman, and that’s what God put together? He said what God put together let no man divide asunder, and so Jesus in that passage in Matthew 19 reaffirms that marriage is a lifelong union of man, and woman.

Okay. So that’s God’s definition. That is part of the moral law that was actually part of the common law and the Seventh Amendment the Constitution. This is enshrined in the Constitution to the common law.

Moment From America’s History 

This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. Today, there are numerous documented accounts of individual students being disciplined simply for bringing a Bible to school. Fisher Ames would have been appalled at this open hostility toward the Bible. Fisher Ames was the Founding Father who authored the House of Representatives language for the First Amendment.

In his day, he vehemently objected to any attempt to minimize the Bible schools. In fact, he declared, “Why should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating, and Noble. The reverence for the sacred book that is thus early impressed lasts long and probably, if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm hold of the mind.”

Founding Father Fisher Ames, the man most responsible for the wording of the first amendment, believed that the most important schoolbook was the Bible.

For more information on God’s hand in American history contact WallBuilders at 1 800 8 REBUILD.



So you have that. Now what happens is in previous generations government would never even think about redefining marriage because that’s not part of its jurisdiction.

It’s already defined. God’s already done that. There is something higher than the government, that is God.


And so it’s not that government wouldn’t have anything to do with marriage, it’s their job to uphold it. It’d be from the outside; they’d begin across those limited government jurisdictional lines if they started tinkering with it and changing the definition to be something it was.

Grigsby vs. Rave


Let me take you to a court case that happened in 1913. The case is called Grigsby vs. Rave. Actually, this is the Supreme Court of Texas. And the question was – can we have civil unions? In other words, there are religious weddings or God weddings; can we have secular weddings as well? Can we do a second? Religious people you do to want to do but we secular people… Here’s what the court said and really clear, they said marriage was not originated by human law. This is not something we came up with. Therefore we don’t have the right to regulate it.

It said when God created Eve, she was a wife to Adam. They then occupied the status of a husband to wife and wife to husband. (It) Says the truth is a civil government has grown out of the marriage which created homes and population and society from which government became necessary. Marriages were British. A home, and a family that will contribute to a good society to a free and just government and the support of Christianity.

They said it would be sacrilegious to apply the definition of a civil contract to such a marriage. It’s that and more to satisfy ordained by God. Now, this is a statement of jurisdictions. We can’t go to find that. I can’t go paint your pick up red it’s not mine. The government says, hey these are errors we can’t get into. There is a higher authority here, we recognize that it’s the laws of nature, and nature’s God. We can’t redefine the laws of nature, and nature’s God. That’s limited government.

That’s what government says, you know I recognize certain lines I can’t cross. And that’s why the first premise of the Declaration is there is a Creator. That there’s nothing higher than government. Once the government thinks it’s God and it will redefine anything it wants to.

Marriages Benefit Society


Let me ask you a quick question if you back up there. Okay, so marriages will produce a home, and family that will contribute to good society to free, and just government, and support of Christianity. So that tells me then that marriage is something that the government should be interested in because it’s going to benefit the whole –


It promotions it. See what is said about it will contribute to good society? Among other things, I’ve done a bit in consulting the U.S. Justice Department. We know, for example, that when you look specifically at all violent crime committed in America between 1973 and 1995, 90% of that violent crime came from kids who are raised in a home without a father, and a mother.

So how much money do we spend on violent crime from that period, those 22 years, and


How much did it hurt other people? You didn’t have a good society because people have been –


You not only have the cost, but you also have the injuries, and the loss of life, and the loss of property that came from it. Plus we know that same group of kids raised in a situation without a mother and a father that they’re about five times more likely to have educational problems. About four times more likely to have psychological problems. About three times more likely to have health problems.

If We Want To Keep Cost Of Healthcare Down

So if we want to keep the cost of healthcare down, we need to have strong families.

If the government could look at this from a totally secular viewpoint, and say this isn’t in our best interests.

We’ve reached a point now where if you look at out of wedlock births, for example, single-parent out of wedlock births. We have one program alone in America that spends 26.5 billion dollars every year, just to help teenagers who are still in high school but have babies while they’re in high school, and we’re having to pay for that.

There’s a number of nations across the world that have adopted homosexual or same-sex marriage. And what we see from those nations over in Europe that have now had it for much longer in America, they found that the average homosexual marriage lasted 18 months. In those 18 months, it involved nine extramarital partners.

So if you’re in one of those countries, and you look at that and say that’s marriage? That doesn’t mean much.

So what they have found is in those countries out of wedlock births have increased over 60% so now they’re paying a huge social, economic effect in society. Now since you can’t control yourself anymore, you’re not raised in the environment where you’ve been taught to control yourself, we have to control you with more police and more regulations and more laws and more because

We As A Society Have An Interest In This


We as a society have an interest in we have it. Sometimes I hear people say well government just should stay out of it completely. But we can’t because government has an interest, and does have jurisdiction in promoting, and safeguarding marriage as defined by God.


And that’s part of the wrong argument. The government shouldn’t get involved in moral issues. I’m sorry. Point number four in the Declaration, such as a law of nature and nature’s God is a fixed moral law. That’s what we incorporate in the seventh amendment in the Constitution. There are fixed moral laws, and we do tell you what’s right.

Every Law Passed Has A Moral Aspect to It


And every law you pass has a moral aspect to it.

Somebody is deciding, your representatives are deciding from a moral point of view to do something or not do something. To outlaw something,


The speed limit law. Every time we pass a speed limit law, we think it is moral to drive 55 or below, it’s immoral to drop it. Every law establishes your right. And John Witherspoon signed of the Declaration says every law establishes a moral standard because we’ve said it’s right, it’s wrong. If it’s wrong, we’re going to punish you for it. That’s morality.

That’s legislative morality.


Okay, I got you. Sorry, I got you off track. It hit me about that in terms of there is a government role here. It is a great way of looking at it because it affects society. David:

It does affect society. Now one of the interesting things is when you understand limited government as much as you’re going to talk about even this session coming up, there are ways that it’s been expanded. And one of those is that the general welfare clause.

General Welfare Clause


Talk about an abuse clause from the Constitution.


We can claim anything is for your general welfare. When the government had decided that you need to have red hair whatever, and so government can claim general welfare as whatever they want to do for anybody.


Right. So it’s opened it up to anything. You hear Congressman all the times say well the general welfare clause gives us authority to do this, and this is for the general welfare of the nation. But is that what these guys, when we go back to the original intent of the folks who gave us the Constitution –


They meet even go back to recent debates in American history of debates over. Are there companies that are too big to fail? Should federal government bail out companies that are too big to fail, because that’s going to destroy the economy, that’s going to hurt everybody and the general welfare of everybody? You don’t want where the economy is going.

Working Library Of Sorts

And so all this is going on, we’ve had that the TARP bills and the stimulus bills. All these things that have happened and interestingly as we sit here in this library, this is very actively used library.


This is not a museum type thing where all this just sits right here. You guys are always researching, and writing new books, and taking information putting it online –


We have people come through all the time. It is a museum of sorts. But it’s a working library, and so it’s a working museum.

And so I remember very distinctly in the middle of that TARP stimulus bailout, as we were looking insurance about going to, real estate’s about to go, the automotive industry is about to go under, banking is about to go. We’ve got to bail them out because if they go under it will destroy all the jobs in America.

I’ve got a call from three congressmen who were on the floor in the house during that extended debate. And I can hear the debate going in the background. They said, with all the stuff you’ve got, do you think the founding fathers had a position on whether the federal government should bail out private industries, and whether there are private industries that are too big to fail?

Comedy and the Constitution at Front Site

Hey friends, Rick Green here. Have you ever wanted to laugh while learning? Would you like to actually have some humor included in your education about the Constitution? Well, that’s what Brad Stine and myself do in what we call Comedy and the Constitution.

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Did they connect the dot from one company to the general welfare of the whole nation? That’s really what they’re asking.

Constitutional Notes 


That’s right. It’s because we’re being told in Congress right now as we debate right now that this is for the general welfare. This is what the founders – and so I don’t know.

I went back, and actually found in this book right here, and this is all debates on the Constitution this is a five-volume set. This is the first-ever publication of all the notes from the Constitutional Convention.

So a lot of people kept notes you had your age, and you had King and other folks who kept notes. Luther Martin. All these delegates kept notes that are all here. Madison this first time. Madison’s notes on this so. Looking through here to see what they did it –


Turns out that fact all those names you just named. You never hear those names. Madison’s are the only ones that everybody talks about so you had a lot of them


There’s a bunch of them, and they’re here.

This is Volume 4 of those volumes. And in this one, this is done, and includes some of the later congressional debates that dealt with constitutional issues and the back of the book here –

Codfish Bill


Let me ask you this: so what you’re saying is these are the notes that the people who were actually debating the Constitution, and adopting the Constitution made. Added to that lot of the same guys that were in that first Congress are now debating things that have to do with the Constitution, they added that. It’s helping us


Now we understand how our Constitution is supposed to work.

So in 1792, you have what’s called the Codfish Bill. Now here’s the lodging 1792 you have Massachusetts. That is the economic engine that drives America. So much population out of Massachusetts.

Boston and Philadelphia and New York were your three big economic drive engines. Well, the really big one is Massachusetts. And what drives Massachusetts is the fishing industry. What drives the fishing industries? The Codfish industry. And to this day if you go into Massachusetts Chambers, the legislature there’s a big codfish hanging up there in the chambers because that was their economic backbone.

So there was a block if you will on the Codfish something was killing codfish, and they weren’t able to get this kind of like when a red tide comes in washes everything. And so here the economy of Massachusetts is headed down


If they were hurt, they were the main economic engine it’s hurt, everybody.


And that means that all these shipbuilders in South Carolina that build ships for four Massachusetts, so you look at all this stuff this happened. Congress needs to step in. This is general warfare. These companies are too big to fail.


This is the AIG and all the other businesses. G.M. of all of whatever year this was.

James Madison And the General Welfare Clause


So all that’s going on. That’s progressing on the floor of Congress back in 1792. James Madison, one of the guys who signed the Constitution, one of the players, and one of the guys who really had a significant impact.

He steps up, and it’s interesting what he says about the general welfare because he helped frame that clause in the Constitution. He said if you’re going to use the general welfare clause to apply money to anything if Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare and if not the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare. They may soon take the care of religion into their own hands.

It says they might appoint teachers in every state county, and parish, and pay them out of the public treasury.

They might even take into their own hands the education of children established in like manner of the union. They might even assume that provision for the poor, they might undertake the regulation of all roads other than postal roads.

In short everything from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police would be thrown under the power of Congress.

He says, guys if we don’t stop this now before long Congress can get involved in education. They’re going to get involved in the police powers, and if the states are the ones to do – that you know it’s interesting even the police area at the time of the founding fathers there were only three felonies that were federal because they were less in the Constitution. You had piracy, and you had treason. So. Now there are nearly 3,500 federal felonies.


So he’s not saying these things could happen, and that’s good. He’s saying if we go down this road, this is mad


If we go down this road, you’re gonna have nothing left. If the state is supposed to be in charge of education, soon Congress will be. The state is supposed to be the ones to do it, the religious. Soon Congress will be dealing with it –


All based general welfare being distorted.


So (they) called these guys back on the floor of Congress, and yep codfish debate. Been there done that.

We’ve decided that the founders decided that the general welfare clause is never to be interpreted to say something’s too big to fail and has to be built. We talked in the very first session about how they use general principles that are applicable across time. They had horses, no internet back then.

Guess what? That principle is still as timeless today as it was two hundred years ago.


Whether it’s cod fishing or AIG or any real company.

What Congress Can’t Do, What Congress Can Do


It works. And so that’s why you know going into this lesson on Article 1, what Congress can’t do, what Congress can do. What they can’t do is they can’t use a general welfare clause right to decide money that they collect from the states and give it back out for state functions.


So what we’re going to do is we’re gonna go through these different phrases these different clauses in Article 1 Section 8, and talk about what Congress can or can’t do.

I still have a hard time believing that we’re actually going to get to do this, but we’re gonna do it in the room where those guys.

So when I think about that sometimes where they took the time to go through line by line, they didn’t just come in, and you know one person had a proposal for an entire constitution. Okay, let’s just vote no.

They went through and looked at every line. Every phrase meant something. Everything that they put in the Constitution. They were taking a close look at this thing.

Franklin’s Call For Prayer

One of the things that you cover is Franklin’s call for prayer at the convention. One of the reasons that happened was you had 13 nations that came to the constitution convention. We think of the states. J just like Romania is different from Bulgaria is different for Switzerland.

When they came, and they all had their own plans. We had the Virginia plan, you had the New York plan, you had the Connecticut plan, you had the New Jersey plan, and guess what?

If you’re from Georgia, you didn’t want the New York plan. If you’re from New York, you didn’t want the Virginia Plan. That was the problem they were falling into because they didn’t come in with the written Constitution. They came in with their own separate agendas. That’s where Franklin says, guys, we’ve got to get God in the middle of this, or this thing will fail, and future generations look back to this as an example of the futility of the wisdom of man. We’ve got to get God in this.

So you’re exactly right. When they got there, they didn’t have mapped out in their mind everything. They came with agendas that they had to set aside and went for the common good.

In doing that, they came up with timeless principles that we still get to use today. Let’s go look at them one by one. We’re headed back to Philadelphia to walk through article 1 section 8 and identify those enumerated powers of Congress.

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The Do’s Of Congress


So now that we see the big picture. We seen the seven articles, we’ve seen the 27 amendments. Let’s zoom in to Article One because it’s here in Article One that we’re going to discover the enumerated powers of Congress.

What Congress is actually supposed to do. I called the do’s of Congress.

We are not going to spend a lot of time on all these other sections. In Article 1, you’ll probably remember all this from government high school. You know, our congressmen serve two-year terms, they got to be twenty-five. Our senators serve six-year terms, and they got to be 30. You get to restate. Those basics we’re gonna we’re going to leave aside for a moment. I want to touch on one thing before I get to Article 1 Section 8 where those enumerated powers are, and that is the enumeration.


I don’t even use the word census because I think enumeration is a much better description of what is authorized by the Constitution. What they actually intended.

It’s at the top of page six in your Constitution Made Easy.

And it says the actual enumeration shall be made within three years, and it goes through the description of how they’re going to count the people so that they know what the membership in Congress ought to be.

If we go back to that Webster’s dictionary to get inside the minds again of these folks and what did that word enumeration mean. Webster says, in the United States it’s an enumeration of the inhabitants of the states taken by the order Congress to furnish the rule of apportioning the representation among the states, and the number of reps to which each state is entitled in the Congress. Also, it’s the enumeration of a state talking about the order of its legislature. So what’s it about?

It’s about numbering the people so that we know how many members of Congress Pennsylvania gets? How many members of Congress does Texas get? How many members of Congress does California get? All of those things are determined by how many people are in the state, it is that simple. So when you look at the actual language there, what’s the one constitutional question that census worker ought to be asking you at the door?

How many people live here? Maybe more, how many citizens live here?


Out of time today folks.

You’ve been listening to Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s a video series that we did in the library at Wallbuilders, and also at Independence Hall. Today, tomorrow, and the next day we’re actually going to be covering Section 4 out of that full series that goes through the entire Constitution.

This particular section is on Congress. So, we’re covering what Congress actually has the power to do constitutionally we’re gonna pick it right back up tomorrow, and then we’ll have our conclusion the next day.

So if you are going to miss one of those be sure and visit our website at When the series is over this week, be sure to grab those links, and share it with your friends, and family. Tomorrow we’ll pick up where we left off today. You’ve been listening to Wallbuilders Live.