Alexander Hamilton’s “Implied Powers” Wrecked the Constitution

Madison warned against “the doctrine of implication,” saying, “the danger of it has been felt in other governments. The delicacy was felt in the adoption of our own; the danger may also be felt, if we do not keep close to our chartered authorities.”

The question becomes: who decides the extent of these implied powers? Who determines their limits?

In effect, Hamilton conjured up an almost unlimited reservoir of power the general government can dip into in order to take whatever actions it deems appropriate. Again, this was a 180-degree reversal from the position he took during the ratification debates when he insisted that the new general government would only have the authority to exercise its expressly enumerated powers.

Hamilton’s arguments won the day and Geroge Washington signed the bill chartering the First Bank of the United States.

Hamilton’s victory was a profound defeat for the Constitution. His “implied powers” doctrine set the stage for much of the federal overreach we live with today. Hamilton effectively flipped the constitutional structure on its head. Instead of exercising powers “few and defined,” the powers of the federal government today are “numerous and indefinite.”


Tags: Alexander Hamilton, Constitution, Expressly Delegated, implied-powers, James Madison, National Bank, Necessary and Proper

Mike MaharreyMichael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He is from the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky and currently resides in northern Florida. See his blog archive here and his article archive here.He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty., and Constitution Owner’s Manual. You can visit his personal website at and like him on Facebook HERE

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