Democracy or Republic?

By Steve Farrell
web posted February 21, 2000

To possess a memory is to be blessed with a priceless good. It is our link to the past, our guidepost to the present, and our passport to the future. It is who we are, what we believe, and how we fit in. It is that fixed vantage point in a world of confusion that gives us a degree of security, stability, and moral direction.

I don't need to tell you what would happen if we were to sever the cord that connects a man, a family, or a nation to who he is and what he has learned. Such a clean slated one might be transformed into a naive Pinocchio, or a tra la la Pollyanna, whose lack of experience would lead him or her into the grasp of one of a million Honest John's who offer frills and thrills which later come crashing down upon them in a Carnival of Deception and Slavery.

Memory is critical, both in individuals and in nations.

Yet, America has lost her memory. Her fixed vantage point. Her sense of the laws that protect liberty for all, not just liberty for the few. I speak of America's failure to recall the historical belief that liberty is only possible within the confines of fixed law.

Today, the law floats, a particular which places our nation and our liberties at risk, every day, every hour, every minute.

The most visible manifestation of this crisis comes from politicians who reverse or ignore eternal rights, settled law, and written constitutions, based on no higher authority than an appeal to popular consent.

Paradoxically, when popular consent is the only standard by which laws are formulated and defined, implemented or rejected - popular consent is rarely obtained.

Examples abound. In one instance, law is shaped in response to carefully crafted opinion polls which sample a mere 1 200 people (noting that 80 percent of those polled fail to respond, and of those who do, a disproportionate number are seniors, housewives, and the unemployed); in another case, a petty core of advisors who care not for the law, but for job security, get their way; in another situation, a flood of letters from a small but potent watchdog group dictates policy; next, a law comes into being when a congressman's fear of being accused of bigotry prompts him to cave in to a noisy special interest group; in yet another, unelected-elected Judges decree law by a cosmic appeal to the "pulse of the nation;" and finally, there is the President's method of making law: tell the people what he knows they are thinking, use the media to insure that is what they are thinking, and then sign an executive order which overrides the people's thinking in Congress.

Such is democracy, or government by the people, and the people only. Unstable and revolutionary, especially in times of crises - real, perceived, or invented. Daily, dangerously dancing along a precipice. A idea which can never work unless it is restrained by fixed laws, a moral populace, and written checks upon the power of the people.

That is why America's founding fathers rejected democracy and embraced a Republic.

To prove and clarify the point, lets go back to our childhood and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Ready, begin! "I pledge of allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Just thirty two words, but these thirty-two words enunciate four principles which, if widely understood and embraced, would secure our liberty for generations yet to come.

1. We are republic not a democracy.

2. We have a Constitution which in delegated areas of authority put an end to the extreme democratic anarchy of state governments which chose to do as they pleased (such as refusing support to Washington and his troops in war), creating a perpetual and fixed union, a union which was enforceable by Federal power.

3. That while the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, yet another law reigns Supreme over the Constitution - God's law. Hence, inalienable rights, and the necessity of statutes which punish the violation of those rights, such as laws against lying, stealing, and killing. Indeed, almost all statutory law might traces its origins in principle (whether correctly or not), to Biblical law.

4. That no one is above the law (as a King might be). The law applies equally to all, regardless of social, racial, or political class.

The Pledge of Allegiance, a half century old now, pledged allegiance to a Republic not a democracy, and there were other reasons that such a pledge was written.

Consider: There is not one single reference to democracy, in the Declaration of Independence, in the US Constitution, or in any of the fifty state constitutions.

Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution demands: The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a Republican form of government."

Randolf, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, observed: "The general object [of our creating a new constitution] was to provide a cure for the evils under which the United States labored; that in tracing these evils to their origin, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy; that some check therefore was to be sought for, against this tendency of our governments."

Madison added in Federalist 10: "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. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would at the same time be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions."

A careful reading of this last comment by Madison reveals one very critical point - democracies produce three basic problems: a disrespect and deterioration of the law and of basic human rights - a constant revolution in the land - and economic and political socialism.

Thus the Founders, concerned about the protection and more especially the survival of our God given liberties over an extended period, chose a Republic not a democracy, or in other words a system of government which honored the law, not men, and whose complexity made it very difficult for change to occur. This it did with fixed and written laws, inalienable rights, limited government, and a complex system of checks, balances, and divisions of powers designed to prevent power from combining, whether in monarchy, oligarchy, or democracy.

There wisely were democratic elements involved, but those elements were tempered, not controlling.

In this era of government and season of campaign promises where inordinate play is given to polls, pundits, and pigeonholes, isn't it time that we remind candidates, presidents, congressmen, and justices, that they remember that we all pledge allegiance to a republic and not to a democracy? That democracies unsettle the law and lead to socialism, and that long term security may only be found in a nation that reverences its laws, not a nation which puts the law on trial at every turn.

Steve Farrell is a widely published research writer. His column is carried by CalNews, Liberty Caucus, Ether Zone, Enter Stage Right, Spin Tech Magazine, OpinioNet, ConEye, and Projects include his upcoming book "Democrats In Drag: Another Look at the Republican Party." Please send your comments and/or media requests to Steve at

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