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The Sympathetic StateDisaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State$
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Michele Landis Dauber

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226923482

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226923505.001.0001

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The Spreading Delta

The Spreading Delta

(p.53) Three The Spreading Delta
The Sympathetic State

Michele Landis Dauber

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the role of disaster relief in the development of constitutional doctrines regarding the powers of Congress during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beginning in the 1890s, with the Sugar Bounty Cases, the history of congressional appropriation for disaster relief was repeatedly cited in Supreme Court briefs and opinions and in policy debates as conclusive proof that Congress had virtually unlimited power not only to spend for the general welfare, but also to define what the “general welfare” consisted of. By the 1920, the notion that Congress' power to tax and appropriate was unconstrained by the enumerated powers, and not subject to judicial review was widely accepted as settled doctrine. The few opponents of an unfettered Congressional spending power, notably southern advocates of state's rights, were increasingly marginalized in discussions about national power in the decades leading up to the New Deal.

Keywords:   disaster relief, Congress, congressional appropriation, public spending, general welfare

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