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A Republic, Not A Democracy
The Philadelphia Bulletin ^ | July 31, 2010 | James G. Wiles

Posted on 07/31/2010 5:25:15 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

As Philadelphians know, the second most significant event in human history occurred right here in 1787. That was when the Founding Fathers gathered in Independence Hall (and the City Tavern, among other watering holes) to write the United States Constitution.

One day, as the Convention was finishing its work, the story goes that a woman stopped old Ben Franklin in the street. “Well, Dr. Franklin,” she supposedly asked, “what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”

Franklin’s choice of words was deliberate. The Founders emphatically did not want to create a democracy. Democracies, they believed from their study of ancient Athens and Rome, didn’t last long because the people – the demos – could be swayed, by bribes, by corrupt morals or by popular passion. Ultimately, they elected a tyrant. Tyranny ended in monarchy.

They didn’t know it yet, but the Founders’ fears were about to be confirmed by the French Revolution. Better, James Madison and the rest thought, to design a representative democracy.

It would be, one wrote, “a machine that would go of itself.” Checks and balances. No centralized national government controlling all. Instead, three independent branches in a federal system wherein a national government with limited powers shared sovereignty with the states.

No direct, popular election of presidents. Instead, an Electoral College.

No direct election of senators. Senators would be chosen by the state legislatures. Furthermore, there would be staggered, six-year terms for Senators, to counterbalance the popularly elected House of Representatives. The Senate, said another Founder, would be the saucer into which the heated passions of the popularly-elected House could be cooled.

Popular revolution would be almost impossible.

At the state level, where the right to vote was determined, the franchise was limited. No women, no African Americans or Indians. No one who could not meet a property test. The majority of Americans could not vote at all.

To erect a fence around Liberty (and to win ratification of the Constitution in the first place), the Founders and the First Congress added a Bill of Rights. Certain rights, deemed to be based in natural law (i.e., proceeding from God, not man) which pre-dated the Constitution. Only a super-majority of Congress and the States could sweep them away.

There had never been anything like it before. There still hasn’t.

The Founders’ world has long since passed away. However, with a little time granted them to understand changes in modern technology, I think they would see some recognizable patterns in our politics today. I’m sure Ben Franklin and James Madison would have no trouble at all.

First, of course, the conflict between elites and the demos. How else to explain the battle between the Tea Party Movement, on the one hand, and the Obama administration and its allies, on the other? I believe we have witnessed in the last year something like the Rising of the North after the Confederates’ firing on Fort Sumter in 1861. The federal court’s striking down of parts of the Arizona immigration law last week will only further inflame our public mood.

Whether that popular movement will hold together until November and result in vote totals on election day which will sweep away large parts of the Liberal Project which has taken power in this country since 1965 is not yet known. Either way, it is certain – as the Founders intended – to be a slow counter-revolution.

Second, a corrupt media. The Founders all felt the sting of what Mary Lincoln later called “the vampire press.” More than a few of them – Thomas Jefferson comes to mind immediately – had their own media machine and used it to electoral advantage. Both Washington and John Adams suffered greatly from a politicized press.

The Journolist scandal will only further the perception that large parts of our national media are now the arm of one of our two great political parties. For all the well-deserved criticism of NBC, CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times, it remains a fact that it’s Fox News which employs not one, not two but three likely candidates for the American presidency: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. Not to mention Dick Morris.

Let us not be fooled.

Third, corruption of electoral politics by wealth. In the first half of the 19th century, American politics at the national level was driven by what Lincoln and others called the Slave Power. After the Civil War came the Gilded Age. Now, in the wake of the economic meltdown of 2008, we confront Finance.

Finally, there is the tendency of the on-going revolution in electronic media, social networking and the rest to bring about direct democracy. The Sherrod scandal, and the other episodes involving, are the most obvious examples of this. Yet, our republican institutions are not designed for, and do not easily accommodate, the vox populi.

There is, of course, a corrective for this. It may even be that, in the scheme of things, the Obama administration and this Democratic Congress are providing just such an antidote to a moment of temporary insanity on the part of the electorate of 2008. Every now and then, H. L. Mencken believed, the American people should get just what they want – good and hard.

Boy, are we.

August is usually the Silly Season of American politics. Come Labor Day, maybe things will start making more sense. In the meantime, all is whirl.


Jim Wiles is a Philadelphia lawyer and can be reached at

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: arizona; democrats; journolist; marchondc; obama; palin; politics; teaparty
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1 posted on 07/31/2010 5:25:18 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

We don’t have a democracy anymore either.

2 posted on 07/31/2010 5:31:23 PM PDT by freedomfiter2
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Tun Tavern was a tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which is traditionally regarded as the site where the United States Marine Corps held its first recruitment drive.

Semper Fi, to the US Marine Corps.
USMC 1970-1991

3 posted on 07/31/2010 5:31:38 PM PDT by Tahoe3002
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Link that does a good job explaining the difference between the two.

4 posted on 07/31/2010 5:33:19 PM PDT by Bellagio
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
The United States is a Republic AND a Democracy.

The choice of words to Benjamin Franklin was deliberate -- the citizen asked whether we would establish a Republic OR a Monarchy, because THOSE are separate, competing forms of government. She did NOT ask if we were "a Republic or a Democracy", since they co-exist in most nations.

The founders established a constitutional Republic with free democratic elections. Thus, the United States is representative (indirect) democracy where WE THE PEOPLE are the ultimate source of authority and choose our representation in government thur free democratic elections.

If they had meant for "the Republic to NOT have democracy", they would have established a Cuban-style dictatorship where power is derived from the state instead of the just consent of the citizens.

End of story.

5 posted on 07/31/2010 5:35:07 PM PDT by BillyBoy (Impeach Obama? Yes We Can!)
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To: BillyBoy

BM for later

6 posted on 07/31/2010 5:38:49 PM PDT by Popman
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
We no longer have a Representative Republic. The special interests and Marxists have co-opted all three branches of government.

The people MUST begin to take this government back, beginning in November.

7 posted on 07/31/2010 5:47:34 PM PDT by alice_in_bubbaland (Professional Politicians are a Threat to the Republic! Remove them on 11-2-10!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The form of government created by our revolution lasted for only 7 years (1781-1788).

The First Continental Congress formed in response to the Coercive Acts (The Intolerable Acts) of the British Parliament. The Congress first met on September 5, 1774, in Philadelphia, and was attended by 56 members who were appointed by the legislatures of twelve of the Thirteen Colonies (the Province of Georgia did not send any delegates).

The First Continental Congress met briefly to consider their options and decided upon a petition to King George for redress of their grievances. They called for another Continental Congress to be convened in the event that their petition was unsuccessful in halting the enforcement of the Intolerable Acts.

The appeal to the Crown from the First Continental Congress had no effect, and so the Second Continental Congress was convened. The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from all of the Thirteen Colonies that met beginning on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia. This was soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun.

[The American Revolutionary War was fought from 1775 through 1781.]

The Second Continental Congress managed war effort; organized the defense of the colonies; and urged each colony to set up and train its own militia. On June 14, 1775, the Second Continental Congress established a Continental Army under the command of George Washington.

The Second Continental Congress adopted the “United States Declaration of Independence” on July 4th, 1776.

The Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the “The Articles of Confederation” in June 1776 and sent the draft to the states for ratification on November 15, 1777. The ratification process was completed on March 1, 1781, binding the sovereign and independent states into a new federation, “The United States of America”.

Under the Articles, the states retained sovereignty over all governmental functions not specifically relinquished to the central government, but a group of reformers, known as the “federalists”, believed the Articles of Confederation lacked the necessary provisions for a sufficiently effective government, and sought to replace the confederation. The key criticism by those who favored a more powerful central government was that the Congress of the Confederation lacked taxing authority and had to request funds from the states. Those opposed to a new Constitution, known as the “anti-federalists,” considered the limits placed on the powers of the federal government in the Articles of Confederation to be necessary and good.

In January 1786, at the instigation of James Madison, Virginia invited all the states to a special meeting at Annapolis the following September to discuss some of these these issues. Beginning on September 11, 1786, the Annapolis Convention was held mainly to discuss interstate trade. Attendance was low, with only 5 of the 13 states represented (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia) and only 12 total delegates in attendance.

On September 14, 1786, during the Annapolis Convention, Alexander Hamilton introduced a resolution for convening a special convention in Philadelphia “for the purpose of amending the weak Articles of Confederation for a number of serious defects”.

On February 21, 1787, the Congress of the Confederation endorsed a plan to revise the Articles of Confederation . Twelve states (all but Rhode Island) sent delegates to convene in May 1787, but by mid June the delegates decided that rather than amend the existing Articles of Confederation they would instead propose an entirely new Constitution. What was discussed is unknown, because the Philadelphia Convention voted to keep the debates secret, “so that the delegates could speak freely”.

Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation stated that the union created under the Articles was “perpetual” and that any alteration must be “agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State”. Even though the 1787 Convention was represented by only 12 of the 13 states, a completely new constitution was proposed that would entirely replace the “perpetual union” established by the Articles of Confederation. The proposed new constitution stipulated that only nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it for the new government to go into effect.

On September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and it was ratified by conventions in each U.S. state.

The government created by “The Articles of Confederation” that was ratified in March 1, 1781, was completely replaced by a new government, created by “The United States Constitution” on June 21, 1788.

8 posted on 07/31/2010 5:57:54 PM PDT by Repeal The 17th (If November does not turn out well, then beware of December.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Any pol who votes to overturn the Electoral College is guilty of subverting the Republic, and should be hung for treason.

9 posted on 07/31/2010 6:02:20 PM PDT by Mr. Blond
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The distinction between republic and democracy is a popular one with many posters here on FR, but in my opinion it isn’t very useful.

Winston Churchill’s UK was a constitutional monarchy with democratic and limited-government characteristics, while Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Joseph Stalin’s USSR were totalitarian republics.

I think that the distinction that is trying to be made is between totalitarian democracies like the first French Republic of 1792, and democratic republics with limited government, like the Swiss confederation and the USA. It is difficult to make that distinction clearly with a few simple words.

10 posted on 07/31/2010 6:22:14 PM PDT by devere
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I was born too late. I would of loved that time

11 posted on 07/31/2010 6:41:19 PM PDT by reefdiver ("Let His day's be few And another takes His office")
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To: Mr. Blond

They’re doing it in Massachusetts.

12 posted on 07/31/2010 6:48:28 PM PDT by Clock King (Ellisworth Toohey was right: My head's gonna explode.)
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To: Tahoe3002

Should Tun Tavern be rebuilt for Marines?

13 posted on 07/31/2010 7:13:16 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try. ~Master Yoda)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; Allegra; big'ol_freeper; Lil'freeper; TrueKnightGalahad; blackie; Larry Lucido; ...
Re: “A republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”

Franklin’s choice of words was deliberate. The Founders emphatically did not want to create a democracy. Democracies, they believed from their study of ancient Athens and Rome, didn’t last long because the people – the demos – could be swayed, by bribes, by corrupt morals or by popular passion. Ultimately, they elected a tyrant. Tyranny ended in monarchy.

They didn’t know it yet, but the Founders’ fears were about to be confirmed by the French Revolution.

Now, we are facing that probability with our current wannabee monarch and his Democrat pardners in crime who disregard the US Constitution and wish to bribe a majority of government supported hangers on...

So, I believe we DO have a Republic-- If we can keep it during the next two years and 90 some odd days!

14 posted on 07/31/2010 8:27:32 PM PDT by Bender2 ("I've got a twisted sense of humor, and everything amuses me." RAH Beyond this Horizon)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet


15 posted on 07/31/2010 8:46:56 PM PDT by JennM
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The thing that makes America America is not it’s republican form of government, or it’s intended avoidance of pure democracy or monarchy. Rather, it is its fundamental foundation upon the Doctrine of Negative Rights.

In other words, the idea that the people are - by their very existence - completely free, and ONLY government, NOT the people, need a legal granting of powers in order to function.

To the extent that exists, America exists. To the extent it is supressed, American are under attack. And to the extent it has died, Americans are no longer Americans, but slaves.

The Doctrine of Negative Rights is the height of political achievement in all of human history. Which is why it is loathed and has been attacked by every possible type of tyrant, by definition - because it is the antithesis of tyranny.

Even Jefferson acknowledged that just because the founders did the best they could, if the structure of the government needed to change in the future in order to be able to continue to protect freedom, it should. He didn’t mean freedom should be abandoned, though. And freedom is literally defined as the Doctrine of Negative Rights.

Ultimately , ALL Rat and RINO efforts are solely committed to destroying the Doctrine of Negative Rights. It alone is the real target of all of the intrigue. Trying to kill it is what the elite - in academia, government, business, and even religion - DO. It’s what MAKES the elite, the elite.

And it’s what is taught in the elite’s schools, and why the elite require degrees from those schools, and acceptance by those schools, before they acknowledge someone’s “intelligence.”

16 posted on 07/31/2010 8:53:21 PM PDT by Talisker (When you find a turtle on top of a fence post, you can be damn sure it didn't get there on it's own.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Let us not be fooled.
I totally agree. The author, however, wishes to fool readers.
Better, James Madison and the rest thought, to design a representative democracy.
A Constitutional Republic, not a representative democracy.
This "Philadelphia lawyer" is sly.
He pulls in the unsuspecting and unknowing with the title and then implants a thought as to what he wants the reader to live in a democracy despite my telling you in the title that America isn't a democracy.

I'll be that if pressed he can't give one instance (evidence) in any of the founding documents or the Federalist Papers where Madison or anyone else supported a representative democracy. He sure doesn't do so in this article. The reader is just supposed to "take his word for it".

No, I'm not fooled.

17 posted on 07/31/2010 10:25:11 PM PDT by philman_36 (Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy. Benjamin Franklin)
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To: Tahoe3002

Has to be the third most important significant event in human history! First for the Corps, of course.

Semper Fi
USMC 1959-1963

18 posted on 08/01/2010 3:16:04 AM PDT by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

What we have is rule by oligarchy with phony democratic trappings. Time to fertilize the tree of liberty as Jefferson prescribed.

19 posted on 08/01/2010 8:52:36 AM PDT by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat ( Islamia Delenda Est ))
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Questions, such as the one posed here, must not rely on second-hand sources for real answers. The new electronic media provides original sources for analysis of the ideas of liberty incorporated into the Founders' structuring of their form of self-government for a free society.

Statements like Franklin's are reinforced and substantiated by other Founders, as well as by early Presidents, Justices, and historians, including Bancroft and Frothingham's 1872 "Rise of the Republic of the United States."

John Adams' son, John Quincy, was 9 years old when the Declaration of Independence was written, defended and discussed by John and Abigail, 20 when the Constitution was framed, and from his teen years, served in various capacities in both the Legislative and Executive branches of the government, including as President. His words on this subject should be instructive on the subject at hand.

In 1839, he was invited by the New York Historical Society to deliver the "Jubilee" Address honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington. He delivered that lengthy discourse which should be read by all who love liberty, for it traced the history of the development of the ideas underlying and the actions leading to the establishment of the Constitution which structured the United States government. His 50th-year summation seems to be a better source for understanding the kind of government the Founders formed than those of recent historians and politicians. He addresses the ideas of "democracy" and "republic" throughout, but here are some of his concluding remarks:

"Every change of a President of the United States, has exhibited some variety of policy from that of his predecessor. In more than one case, the change has extended to political and even to moral principle; but the policy of the country has been fashioned far more by the influences of public opinion, and the prevailing humors in the two Houses of Congress, than by the judgment, the will, or the principles of the President of the United States. The President himself is no more than a representative of public opinion at the time of his election; and as public opinion is subject to great and frequent fluctuations, he must accommodate his policy to them; or the people will speedily give him a successor; or either House of Congress will effectually control his power. It is thus, and in no other sense that the Constitution of the United States is democratic - for the government of our country, instead of a Democracy the most simple, is the most complicated government on the face of the globe. From the immense extent of our territory, the difference of manners, habits, opinions, and above all, the clashing interests of the North, South, East, and West, public opinion formed by the combination of numerous aggregates, becomes itself a problem of compound arithmetic, which nothing but the result of the popular elections can solve.

"It has been my purpose, Fellow-Citizens, in this discourse to show:-

"1. That this Union was formed by a spontaneous movement of the people of thirteen English Colonies; all subjects of the King of Great Britain - bound to him in allegiance, and to the British empire as their country. That the first object of this Union,was united resistance against oppression, and to obtain from the government of their country redress of their wrongs.

"2. That failing in this object, their petitions having been spurned, and the oppressions of which they complained, aggravated beyond endurance, their Delegates in Congress, in their name and by their authority, issued the Declaration of Independence - proclaiming them to the world as one people, absolving them from their ties and oaths of allegiance to their king and country - renouncing that country; declared the UNITED Colonies, Independent States, and announcing that this ONE PEOPLE of thirteen united independent states, by that act, assumed among the powers of the earth, that separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitled them.

"3. That in justification of themselves for this act of transcendent power, they proclaimed the principles upon which they held all lawful government upon earth to be founded - which principles were, the natural, unalienable, imprescriptible rights of man, specifying among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - that the institution of government is to secure to men in society the possession of those rights: that the institution, dissolution, and reinstitution of government, belong exclusively to THE PEOPLE under a moral responsibility to the Supreme Ruler of the universe; and that all the just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed.

"4. That under this proclamation of principles, the dissolution of allegiance to the British king, and the compatriot connection with the people of the British empire, were accomplished; and the one people of the United States of America, became one separate sovereign independent power, assuming an equal station among the nations of the earth.

"5. That this one people did not immediately institute a government for themselves. But instead of it, their delegates in Congress, by authority from their separate state legislatures, without voice or consultation of the people, instituted a mere confederacy.

"6. That this confederacy totally departed from the principles of the Declaration of independence, and substituted instead of the constituent power of the people, an assumed sovereignty of each separate state, as the source of all its authority.

"7. That as a primitive source of power, this separate state sovereignty,was not only a departure from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, but directly contrary to, and utterly incompatible with them.

"8. That the tree was made known by its fruits. That after five years wasted in its preparation, the confederation dragged out a miserable existence of eight years more, and expired like a candle in the socket, having brought the union itself to the verge of dissolution.

"9. That the Constitution of the United States was a return to the principles of the Declaration of independence, and the exclusive constituent power of the people. That it was the work of the ONE PEOPLE of the United States; and that those United States, though doubled in numbers, still constitute as a nation, but ONE PEOPLE.

"10. That this Constitution, making due allowance for the imperfections and errors incident to all human affairs, has under all the vicissitudes and changes of war and peace, been administered upon those same principles, during a career of fifty years.

"11. That its fruits have been, still making allowance for human imperfection, a more perfect union, established justice, domestic tranquility, provision for the common defence, promotion of the general welfare, and the enjoyment of the blessings of liberty by the constituent people, and their posterity to the present day.

"And now the future is all before us, and Providence our guide."

In an earlier paragraph, he had stated:
"But this institution was republican, and even democratic. And here not to be misunderstood, I mean by democratic, a government, the administration of which must always be rendered comfortable to that predominating public opinion . . . and by republican I mean a government reposing, not upon the virtues or the powers of any one man - not upon that honor, which Montesquieu lays down as the fundamental principle of monarchy - far less upon that fear which he pronounces the basis of despotism; but upon that virtue which he, a noble of aristocratic peerage, and the subject of an absolute monarch, boldly proclaims as a fundamental principle of republican government. The Constitution of the United States was republican and democratic - but the experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived; and it was obvious that if virtue - the virtue of the people, was the foundation of republican government, the stability and duration of the government must depend upon the stability and duration of the virtue by which it is sustained."

20 posted on 08/01/2010 9:20:07 AM PDT by loveliberty2
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