On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.
The Constitution, which at any time exists ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all.
Whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.
Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
The [U.S.] Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals … It does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government … It is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizen’s protection against the government.
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.
If the Constitution is adopted the Union will be in fact and in theory an association of States of a Confederacy.
With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers (enumerated in the Constitution) connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.
If the provisions of the Constitution can be set aside by an Act of Congress, where is the course of usurpation to end? The present assault upon capital is but the beginning. It will be but the stepping-stone to others, larger and more sweeping, till our political contests will become a war of the poor against the rich; a war growing in intensity and bitterness.
The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.