James Madison and the Gathering Storm Prophecy


Timothy Baldwin, J.D.
Tenth Amendment Center
March 27, 2012

While the States were considering ratifying the Constitution, James Madison describes a prophetic ‘gathering storm’, doomsday scenario for the United States. However, his description was hypothetical and purportedly unlikely. Madison paints a picture of what the union would look like under healthy conditions and then contrasts that with terminal conditions that would destroy the union. His portrayal is fascinating and worth applying today.

In Federalist Paper 46, Madison discusses the happy and healthy situation where the Federal and State governments respect their constitutional boundaries. Madison says, “[the federal government will] be disinclined to invade the rights of the individual States, or the prerogatives of their governments”. Congress would be the “guardians of a common interest” and would not make “improper sacrifices…of local considerations, to the aggrandizement of the federal government”.

Madison continues, “the motives on the part of the States governments, to augment their prerogatives…will be overruled by no reciprocal predispositions in the members [of Congress].” In other words, the States will not want to intrude into federal authority because the Federal government will not intrude in State territory. In this “constitutional ideal”, Madison sees everyone respecting the authority of the other.

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