Madison, Hamilton predicted the future wrongly
As we engage a new year, our minds speculate about the future. In 2019, will Puerto Rico disappear and turn up next to Australia? Will earth warming hit the ice caps and cause flooding in Omaha? Will any border states petition Canada for asylum?
Some questions do not even need a trained prognosticator to foresee the future. Even though geniuses, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were unable to predict the future of the new United States of America. Here are a few of their failures recorded in The Federalist Papers.
1. A republic for the elite
They claimed they were creating a republic in which the voice of the people would be moderated by “a chosen body of citizens” consisting “entirely of proprietors of land, of merchants and the learned professions.”
That wasn’t what the trolls and serfs wanted so they appropriated the right to vote and with that vote moved the “republic” closer to a democracy by providing for the direct election of presidential electors and U.S. Senators. Previously, electors and senators were chosen by state legislatures
Some are now proposing a national initiative and referendum to second-guess the Congress.
Score one miss by Alex and James.
2. Neighbors always enemies.
In their crystal ball, Madison and Hamilton foresaw the United States being surrounding be enemies, alleging that neighboring countries are natural enemies and would be prowling about to take advantage of the new helpless coalition of states.
Neither Canada nor Mexico has attacked us. In fact, the reverse has been true. Benedict Arnold led an expeditionary force into Canada in the Revolutionary War and with 200 more men could have taken the country. Then we confiscated a good share of Mexico in the Mexican War.
Score another miss for the Founding Fathers.
3. Bill of Rights Not Needed
The opponents of the new constitution demanded a bill of rights but, according to Madison and Hamilton, a bill of rights was not needed because the national government had only delegated powers and there was no power among those delegated rights to abridge the rights of citizens.
As Hamilton put it: “For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do.”
When it looked like the issue would sink the Constitution, Madison promised that a bill of rights would be added in the first session of Congress. He did so and we need not point out the importance of the Bill of Rights in American history.
Score another miss for the two demigods.
4. States would out-muscle feds
In Federalist No. 17, Hamilton predicted: “It will always be far more easy for the state governments to encroach upon the national authorities than for the national government to encroach upon the state authorities.”
Obviously, the Founding Fathers didn’t know that the federal income tax would be down the road and the federal government would buy expansion rights by paying the states off.
For a brief time, the courts protected the powers of states but it eventually got tired of trying to determine the appropriate use of the power to “tax and spend” so they threw up their hands and gave the problem to Congress to decide. That opened the floodgates. The powers of states have been swallowed up by federal money.
Another loss for James and Alex.
These are only four of the poor predictions recorded in The Federalist Papers. So if you are chagrined at the end of 2019 for missing on your predictions, take heart because people smarter than us have predicted wrongly on some very important questions.
One thing for sure, however. It is safe to predict that President Trump will continue to be unpredictable.
Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.