Constitution Minute: President Larry Arnn explains what the Founders meant by

Promote the General Welfare: A How To...


President Larry Arnn explains what the Founders meant by "general welfare."


STUDENT: Hello, I’m Cooper, a student at Hillsdale College. Here is Hillsdale President Larry Arnn on what the Founders meant by “general welfare.”

DR. ARNN: The great Preamble of our Constitution states that the purpose of the document is, in part, to promote the general welfare. Contrary to the modern understanding of that term, the Founders understood welfare to mean public good or happiness. This was understood, in accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Such happiness is contingent on securing to each citizen his natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because this requires the government to be limited, the powers of the federal government were enumerated and local matters were reserved to State authority. This was precisely intended to secure these inalienable rights and, in turn, promote the general welfare.

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