``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.''
The commitment to promote the general welfare of all persons, as opposed to protecting the interests of a narrow section or class of the population, encapsulates what is most unique about the United States of America--that it is the only modern nation-state republic founded on this principle.
Lyndon LaRouche has identified the principle of the general welfare as the only legitimate basis for the authority of government. A useful summary may be found, for example, in LaRouche's article, ``Will the U.S.A. keep its sovereignty?'' published in the November 19, 1999 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
LaRouche emphasizes that our United States republic ``came into existence as direct heir of those anti-oligarchichal, anti-Roman, Platonic principles of natural law'' which were first affirmed in the founding of the first nation-state republics during the late 15th Century: France under Louis XI, and England under Henry VII. LaRouche describes the source of this law as ``a combination of the Classical Greek, republican heritage, with those doctrines, respecting the universal notion of human individuality, which were promulgated by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, notably the Epistles of the Apostle Paul.''
Out of this, came the central principle upon which ``the authority, powers, and responsibilities of the sovereign nation-state republic were premised ... the notion of `general welfare,' or commonwealth.'
``The authority of the sovereign state lies solely in its indispensable role in promoting the general welfare of all persons, as Genesis I, and the Christian apostolic mission define all persons, as made equally in the image of the Creator of the Universe, and thus equally subjects of the obligation to promote the welfare of both the living and their posterity,'' LaRouche wrote, adding that, ``Only sovereign government has the means to promote the conditions of the general welfare respecting all of the people and all of the land-area, both for the living and future generations,'' and that thus, the existence of such sovereign nation-state republics is shown to be ``the morally required condition of mankind.''
This stands in opposition to those forms of oligarchical rule, in which the government is the private property of a ruling oligarchy, either a feudalistic, landed oligarchy, or a financier oligarchy of the sort that the British monarchy represents today. In such cases, governments exist to preserve the power and wealth of such oligarchies, and not to promote the general welfare of all citizens.
From the original colonizations of the Americas, those two outlooks have been in conflict; they are perhaps best expressed in the contrast between the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the Winthrops and Mathers, versus the Carolina colonies, whose constitution, written by John Locke, created a hereditary nobility, and ensured the primacy of property, including slave property.
What we shall do here, is to trace how the General Welfare clause became such a crucial element of the Constitution, looking back, both to the early colonial period, and then examining what the concept meant to the Founding Fathers (notably Alexander Hamilton), and others who shaped the political and economic life of the republic in the early 18th Century. Finally, we shall see the triumph of the Hamiltonian notion of the general welfare during the fight over President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s.
Today, that commitment has been largely abandoned, both among ``New Democrats'' of the Al Gore type, and among the dominant grouping among Republicans, whose radical free-market policies stand in the utmost contrast to the Lincolnesque principles on which the Republican Party was once based.