When a lady asked Benjamin Franklin as he left the Constitutional Convention, “What have you given us, Mr. Franklin?” he replied, “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it!” We should thank God they gave us a republic, not a democracy. What is the difference?
In a republic, an official set of fundamental laws, such as our Constitution and Bill of Rights, prohibits the government from limiting or taking away certain “unalienable” rights of the people. In a democracy, the voting majority always has the power over the minority. What they determine to be the law is the law. This can limit the freedom of the minority. Their inalienable rights could be overridden by the majority, if not protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. A republic is a government of laws, not of men.
Thomas Jefferson declared, “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.”
James Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 10, wrote that in a pure democracy, “there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.”
Edmund Burke, who helped create the Constitution, called attention to these pitfalls, “In tracing these evils to their origin every man has found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.”
Though we are not a democracy, we are often called such. One of President Trump’s defense lawyers, Pam Bundi referred to fighting for our democracy. Her improper use of the term shows how pervasive this misuse is.
Saying our founders were radically republican has nothing to do with a political party. It simply means they strongly supported a republic form of government.
The word democracy appears nowhere in our Declaration of Independence or Constitution. Instead, Article IV, Section 4, guarantees “to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”
John Marshall, our fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, noted the difference in the two forms of government as, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”
Alexander Hamilton noted that to which a democracy drifts: “If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon see it shoot into a monarchy.” History confirms his conclusion to be right. Therefore, to avoid a monarchy, avoid a democracy.
John Adams further defined the differences in a democracy and a republic. “You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by any human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.” These rights are spoken of as being “certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“Unalienable” means non-transferable, they can’t be taken away, not even by the majority. They are given by God.
Adams noted further danger inherent in a democracy. “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” By that he means they are self-destructive.
Even more self-destructive is another form of government, socialism.
George Washington observed, “A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing ... than ... communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”
If you know a youth, please share this column with them.