Saturday - Dec 15, 2018

An important distinction: Democracy versus Republic, which one is best for individual liberty?


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NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

Dear readers:

Most people pretty often hear here and there accusations among political contenders of being anti-democratic, while demanding ‘more democracy.’ Most consider the United a States a Democracy regardless that only two traditional political parties – which many believe are partners – are allowed in the debates – while other less known parties are blocked from participating. The majority talk about Democracy as the safeguard of liberty, but, is it? How about a Republican form of government – we never hear public debates about it. Was the US created as a Democracy or a Republic? The following article – which doesn’t identify its author – brings light about the difference of the two. You, the reader have the last word. PART 3 AND LAST.

An important distinction: Democracy versus Republic, which one is best for individual liberty?

by anonymous author

A Republic

A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term “the people” means, of course, the electorate.

The people adopt the Constitution as their fundamental law by utilizing a Constitutional Convention–especially chosen by them for this express and sole purpose–to frame it for consideration and approval by them either directly or by their representatives in a Ratifying Convention, similarly chosen. Such a Constitutional Convention, for either framing or ratification, is one of America’s greatest contributions, if not her greatest contribution, to the mechanics of government–of self-government through constitutionally limited government, comparable in importance to America’s greatest contribution to the science of government: the formation and adoption by the sovereign people of a written Constitution as the basis for self-government. One of the earliest, if not the first, specific discussions of this new American development (a Constitutional Convention) in the historical records is an entry in June 1775 in John Adams’ “Autobiography” commenting on the framing by a convention and ratification by the people as follows:

“By conventions of representatives, freely, fairly, and proportionately chosen . . . the convention may send out their project of a constitution, to the people in their several towns, counties, or districts, and the people may make the acceptance of it their own act.”
Yet the first proposal in 1778 of a Constitution for Massachusetts was rejected for the reason, in part, as stated in the “Essex Result” (the result, or report, of the Convention of towns of Essex County), that it had been framed and proposed not by a specially chosen convention but by members of the legislature who were involved in general legislative duties, including those pertaining to the conduct of the war.

The first genuine and soundly founded Republic in all history was the one created by the first genuine Constitution, which was adopted by the people of Massachusetts in 1780 after being framed for their consideration by a specially chosen Constitutional Convention. (As previously noted, the so-called “Constitutions” adopted by some States in 1776 were mere Acts of Legislatures, not genuine Constitutions.) That Constitutional Convention of Massachusetts was the first successful one ever held in the world; although New Hampshire had earlier held one unsuccessfully – it took several years and several successive conventions to produce the New Hampshire Constitution of 1784. Next, in 1787-1788, the United States Constitution was framed by the Federal Convention for the people’s consideration and then ratified by the people of the several States through a Ratifying Convention in each State specially chosen by them for this sole purpose. Thereafter the other States gradually followed in general the Massachusetts pattern of Constitution-making in adoption of genuine Constitutions; but there was a delay of a number of years in this regard as to some of them, several decades as to a few.

This system of Constitution-making, for the purpose of establishing constitutionally limited government, is designed to put into practice the principle of the Declaration of Independence: that the people form their governments and grant to them only “just powers,” limited powers, in order primarily to secure (to make and keep secure) their God-given, unalienable rights. The American philosophy and system of government thus bar equally the “snob-rule” of a governing Elite and the “mob-rule” of an Omnipotent Majority. This is designed, above all else, to preclude the existence in America of any governmental power capable of being misused so as to violate The Individual’s rights–to endanger the people’s liberties.

With regard to the republican form of government (that of a republic), Madison made an observation in The Federalist (no. 55) which merits quoting here–as follows:

“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.” (Emphasis added.)

It is noteworthy here that the above discussion, though brief, is sufficient to indicate the reasons why the label “Republic” has been misapplied in other countries to other and different forms of government throughout history. It has been greatly misunderstood and widely misused–for example as long ago as the time of Plato, when he wrote his celebrated volume, The Republic; in which he did not discuss anything governmental even remotely resembling–having essential characteristics of–a genuine Republic. Frequent reference is to be found, in the writings of the period of the framing of the Constitution for instance, to “the ancient republics,” but in any such connection the term was used loosely–by way of contrast to a monarchy or to a Direct Democracy–often using the term in the sense merely of a system of Rule-by-Law featuring Representative government; as indicated, for example, by John Adams in his “Thoughts on Government” and by Madison in The Federalist numbers 10 and 39. But this is an incomplete definition because it can include a Representative Democracy, lacking a written Constitution limiting The Majority.