Extract from Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin

Dear Sir

you will have learnt that an act for internal improvement, after passing both houses, was negatived by the President. the act was founded avowedly on the principle that the phrase in the constitution which authorises Congress ‘to lay taxes to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare’ was an extension [. . .] of the powers specifically enumerated to whatever would promote the general welfare; and this, you know, was the federal doctrine: whereas our tenet ever was, and indeed it is almost the only landmark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not [. . .] place under their action: consequently that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money.

RC (NHi: Gallatin Papers); undated, with dated postscript added separately to RC and PoC; at foot of first page: “Mr Gallatin.” PoC (DLC: TJ Papers, 210:37478–9); notation by TJ at foot of text: “sent by duplicates, the one thro’ mr Vaughan the other thro the state office.”
Thomas Jefferson
Albert Gallatin
Date Range
June 6, 1817
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson