United States Constitution - Democracy Or Republic?

Discussion in 'Constitution & Bill of Rights' started by Ken Anderson, Dec 30, 2015.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Many people today are ignorant of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, a state that I fear is promoted by our recent political leaders and brought about through the public school system. For example, the greatest percentage of U.S. citizens under the age of thirty believe that the United States is a democracy. Indeed, democracy is what our government is promoting overseas. Our government was never intended to be a democracy, but a republic. In a democracy, the majority decide everything while a republic respects the rights of individuals. Where the word "democracy" was used by our founding fathers, it was in reference to a democratic republic.

    The founders of our nation rejected democracy, and hoped that the government would never degenerate into a democracy.

    The word "democracy" is not found in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. Even our pledge of allegiance refers to "the Republic for which it stands."

    Although the attribution is in dispute, Benjamin Franklin is said to have described a democracy as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch, while liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

    Here are some quotes that are not in dispute:

    "The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty." -- Fisher Ames, in a speech in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, January 15, 1788.

    "Democracy is the most vile form of government. Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as the have been violent in their deaths." -- James Madison, father of the Constitution, 4th president of the United States.

    “We are a Republic. Real Liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.” -- Alexander Hamilton, founding father.

    “A simple democracy is the devil's own government.” -- Benjamin Rush, founding father and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

    “Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy; such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few.” -- John Adams, 2nd president of the United States.

    “A democracy is a volcano, which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption, and carry desolation in their way.” -- Fisher Ames, founding father and framer of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.” -- John Adams.

    "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent." -- Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd president of the United States.

    “Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subjet to caprice and the madness of popular rage.” -- John Witherspoon, founding father.

    “We have seen the tumults of democracy terminate, in France, as they have everywhere terminated, in despotism.” -- Gouverneur Morris, writer of the final draft of the Constitution.

    “All such men are, or ought to be, agreed, that simple governments are despotisms; and of all despotisms, a democracy, though the least durable, is the most violent.” -- Fisher Ames, founding father and framer of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    "Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." -- James Madison, father of the Constitution, 4th president of the United States.

    “But between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.” -- John Marshall, fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court.

    At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked the question, "Well, Doctor, what have we got -- a Republic or a Monarchy?"

    His answer, "A Republic, if you can keep it."
     
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  2. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    Anyone who believes that democracy will work should read Animal Farm. Thank God our forefathers had the good sense to make our nation a republic.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    The Founders had grown up under a Monarchy but by the end of the Revolutionary War, nearly all of them agreed that the new government should be a Republic. However, it was difficult for them to come up with a firm definition of what it meant to be a republic, as dictionary definitions differed somewhat, and the Founders didn't always agree on what they had in mind for the new government. Most of those who addressed the topic during the constitutional debates believed that a republic could include an aristocracy, as did the Roman and Dutch republics, but others believed strongly that an aristocracy was inconsistent with a republic, and did not want an aristocracy for the new American government. That is largely why the Constitution attempted to resolve the problem by forbidding the states from awarding titles of nobility, or from adopting state governments that were not based on the model of a republic.

    There were some agreements on what was meant by a republic. Nearly everyone agreed that a republic should not a have a king, and everyone agreed that a republican government must follow the rule of law, and be responsible to the electorate for its decisions. Ultimate responsibility to the electorate did not make the government a democracy, in which a widely enfranchised citizenry could sacrifice minority interests for the common good. The founders believed that state and federal governments should limit democratic governance in ways that encouraged wise decision making and allowed for individual liberty. This is why the Constitution restricted democracy by taking certain decisions out of the hands of the majority. We are dangerously close to undoing this today, largely because our elected officials, media and public school system has persuaded people that our government is a democracy.

    Many of the founders believed strongly that a republic could only survive so long as the citizenry was virtuous, and argued that government should ban immoral practices and promote religion. The founders left most issues of religion and morality to the states, and for the first part of our country's history, many states did have official religions. For example, the Congregational Church was the official religion of Maine, and all Maine residents paid taxes to support the Congregational Church, regardless of whether they were themselves members. At one time, a Baptist preacher could be jailed for preaching in the state of Maine. After the laws were relaxed somewhat, other denominations were made legal but their members nevertheless paid a tax to the Congregational Church, much as homeschoolers and parents whose children are enrolled in private schools nevertheless pay a public school tax. I am using Maine as an example because I live here and know the history, but other states had similar laws. Rhode Island was the first state that was organized for the purpose of allowing freedom of religion.

    What about the First Amendment? As far as the people who wrote and adopted the Constitution were concerned, the First Amendment prohibited the federal government from establishing a religion; it did not prohibit the individual states from doing so. But I'll get into that further at a later date, when we cover the Bill of Rights.
     
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  4. Will Lawrence

    Will Lawrence Well-Known Member
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    If the U.S. were a true democracy...
    • Woman would not have the right to vote, drive, work out of the home, or probably wear pants.
    • Non-Caucasians would not have the right to vote, go to "white" schools, etc.
    • People of non-Christian and/or non-Jewish religions would not be voting.
    • Anyone caught cohabitating with the same sex would spend most of the rest of their life in prison.
    The list goes on and on. To have had... or to have in the future... a simply majority of the citizenry make all the laws by which we are governed would see the quick demise of this Great Nation. Today, we have the far right wanting to do away with the Supreme Court, Electoral College, and allow dollars to speak as if money has the best interest of the citizenry at heart.
     
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  5. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Democracy = The rule of the people by the people.
    Republic = Representatives, elected by and accountable to the people, make the decisions for us.

    The ancient Greeks were not united into one country, or under one central government. Rather, different city-states ruled in their various locations and fashions. Some city-states were controlled by tyrants, others under a monarch, some were oligarchies, and others were democracies. Athens had a democracy, but only for the limited number of residents who held status as citizens.

    "A pure democracy is a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person." -- James Madison

    The Romans had a republic, as we do. They emphasized separation of powers, and checks and balances. Many people, like the Jews, who lived under Roman rule, were not considered citizens of the Roman Empire, however, and did not enjoy the rights and privileges afforded to citizens. They were subjects, not citizens.
     
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  6. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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