What is a Republic?


The question for this week is “What is a Republic”?  This is an important question to answer, and for us to understand, since we live in the United States of America, which was founded, not as a democracy, but as a constitutional republic.

What does this mean?  Unfortunately, we hear the United States of America referred to more often today as a democracy instead of a republic.  So, what is the difference between the two?

– A republic is a form of government where sovereignty and power are held by the people, as individuals, and delegated to their elected representatives; whereas, in a pure democracy, sovereignty and power are held by the people, as a whole, which can lead to tyranny of the majority and mob rule.

– In a republic — more specifically, the constitutional republic of the United States — there are checks and balances in place, designed to protect against any one branch of our government having absolute power.  We, the people, elect a President to preside over the Executive Branch; we, the people, elect representatives to govern in the Legislative Branch; and our elected President appoints members to the Judicial Branch, which must then be approved by our elected representatives in the US Senate. Each of these branches – when operating in accordance with our constitution – safeguards against any one branch obtaining supreme power and control, thus providing another important safeguard against tyranny.  However, the success of this design rests upon the vigilance of “we the people” in wisely choosing and electing those that will govern us, and holding those we elect to the limits of the Constitution of these United States.

– Most importantly, in a republic, the people have the freedom to enjoy their God given rights; whereas, in a democracy, the people only enjoy the rights their government, and the majority, grant them.

Alexander Hamilton, who was an American statesman and one of our founding fathers, said, “We are a Republic.  Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”  He was right.  This is the reason why our founding fathers saw that forming a republic, instead of a democracy or monarchy, was so important.

The second and third paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence state:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

We as Americans have been blessed to live in a country where we have religious freedom, freedom of speech, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our founding fathers rightly perceived that these freedoms were not granted to us by the government they were forming, but by God – the Creator of the universe.

Joseph Story, a lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court from 1811 to 1845, wrote, “Let the American youth never forget that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils and sufferings and blood of their ancestors, and capable, if wisely improved and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to the latest posterity all the substantial blessing of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion and independence.  The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid, its compartments are beautiful as well as useful, its arrangements are full of wisdom and order, and its defenses are impregnable from without.  It has been reared for immortality, if the work of men may justly aspire to such a title.  It may nevertheless perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, the People.  Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit and intelligence of the citizens.  They fall when the wise are banished from the public counsels because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded because they flatter the people in order to betray them.”

We should be so thankful and never take the blessings we have for granted!  We must all do our part to preserve the liberty and freedom that our forefathers fought and died to obtain.



Photo credit: pixabay.com

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