Publius-Huldah's Blog

By Publius Huldah.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; and no one illustrates this Principle better than Forbes’ writer Rick Unger in his article, “Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance – In 1798”,  Washington Post writer Greg Sargent and Georgetown University history professor Adam Rothman.

In 1798, Congress passed An Act for the relief of sick and disabled Seamen which required the master of every American ship arriving from foreign ports to any port of the United States, and American ships engaged in the coastal trade using those ports, to pay a small fee to the federal government for every seaman employed on his ship. The funds so raised were used to care for sick and disabled seamen in the marine hospitals established in the ports of the United States.

So!  Unger cited this 1798 Act and chortled with glee that our Framers supported “socialized…

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2 responses to “

  1. This comment was nuked from the original site. I must have hit a nerve:

    Nice theory, but the author struck out. The actual 1798 legislation does NOT say these hospitals MUST be built at federally controlled dockyards. It reads:

    “That it shall be the duty of the several collectors to make a quarterly return of the sums collected by them, respectively, by virtue of this act, to the secretary of the treasury; and the president of the United States is hereby authorized, out of the same, to provide for the temporary relief and maintenance of sick, or disabled seamen, in the hospitals or other proper institutions now established in the several ports of the United States, or in ports where no such institutions exist, then in such other manner as he shall direct: Provided, that the moneys collected in anyone district, shall be expended within the same.”

    So these hospitals probably fall under Congress’s authority to buy “other needful buildings”. But then the question arises where is Congress getting this power to tax to create a health care system for sailors EXCEPT under the General Welfare clause? The power of taxation is limited “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;” and this health care tax certainly doesn’t fall under debt paydown or defense.

    • I suggest you take a few moments and review our tutorial on the Constitution. Pay special attention to Common Myth 3 on the welfare clause. The authority to care for our seamen in foreign or domestic ports would fall under “maintain a navy”.

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