Happy Constitution Day ! Are We A Republic or A Democracy?

Posted by courage On September - 17 - 2009

From the United States Government:

On September 17, 1787, forty-two of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention held their final meeting. Only one item of business occupied the agenda that day, to sign the Constitution of the United States of America.

Since May 25, 1787, the 55 delegates had gathered almost daily in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. By the middle of June, it became apparent to the delegates that to merely amend the Articles of Confederation would not be sufficient. Instead, they would write an entirely new document designed to clearly define and separate the powers of the central government, the powers of the states, the rights of the people and how the representatives of the people should be elected.

After being signed in September of 1787, Congress sent printed copies of the Constitution to the state legislatures for ratification. In the months that followed, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay would write the Federalist Papers in support, while Patrick Henry, Elbridge Gerry, and George Mason would organize the opposition to the new Constitution. By June 21, 1788, nine states had approved the Constitution, finally forming “a more perfect Union.

No matter how much we argue about the details of its meaning today, in the opinion of many, the Constitution signed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787 represents the greatest expression of statesmanship and compromise ever written. In just four hand-written pages, the Constitution gives us no less than the owners’ manual to the greatest form of government the world has ever known.

We have no tribal council, nor can we vote anybody off the island. But, we do live in the land of the free, and as long as the Constitution stands, we always will.”


One of the interesting things I have come to realize is that Americans are confused over the difference between a Republic and a Democracy.  Often the two words are assumed to be synonyms, which they are not.  Their similarity could best be illustrated by comparing an apple to a banana, while both fruit very different.

A Republic and a Democracy are both styles of government, the fundamental difference lies in where the government derives its power.  The power in a Democratic government rests with the rule of the majority.  While a Republic relies on a Constitution which stipulates the extent of power the Government has and safeguards the rights of the individual and the minority.  Now I will flush this out a bit further:

In a Democracy

  • The government makes laws for the “greater or common good” of the people.  The government becomes the overseer or nanny and abolishes personal rights.  Individuals have no inherent rights.  Rights are relative and take the form of privileges granted through government licenses and permits, which are revocable by those in power.
  • The government is considered by and for the people.
  • The majority in a Democracy has unlimited power over the minority.  These powers can extent to any and all aspects of the individual’s life.  The majority makes laws and governs by passion, prejudice or impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences.
  • A democracy does not provide for legal safeguards of the rights of the individual and the minority.  Remember, the majority and their interests have the power.
  • In essence, the majority rule is mob rule.  The whims of the majority become laws, emotion of the moment replaces reason.
  • A Democracy is unconcerned with truth or justice, the primary concern is the “public good.”
  • Law making occurs rapidly.  Foresight in to the impact of legislation on average citizens is replaced by political law, which often is produced through lobbying efforts and is more concerned with immediate consequences and less with consistency or continuity.
  • Democracies are self-imploding, when the non-productive members of a society realize they can vote themselves handouts by electing politicians who can promise the most benefits.  Government then becomes an institution whose focus centers on a redistribution of wealth.

In A Republic

  • The government of a Republic uses and abides by a Constitution.  Freedom is realized by the willingness of the people to live by the dictates of the Constitution, which protects the individual’s rights. Personal rights are respected and cannot be taken away, which helps to avoid tyranny and mobocracy.
  • The majority is constrained and limited by the written Constitution which protects the rights of the individual and the minority.  The purpose of a Republic form of government is to control the majority and protect the God-given, inalienable rights and liberty of the individual.
  • Authority is derived thru the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them.
  • We the nation are ruled by law (ie. The Constitution.) Law is defined by and means common or scientific law, which is certain and unchangeable.  The law seeks truth, transcends politics, is reasonable, consistent, and predictable and reflects a sort of natural justice.
  • The inalienable rights of the individual are recognized.  The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
  • In a Republic making laws is a slow and deliberate process.  The law is neutral, no one is exempt; everyone is equal in its application.  All are held accountable for their actions.

Okay does that help in erasing the confusion over the structures of these two very different styles of government?  I know it cleared things up for me as I researched this information.

The Constitution in Article IV Section 4, states:  “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government..”  Make no mistake the United States was formed as Republic, in fact nowhere in the Constitution is the word “Democracy” mentioned.

The Pledge of Allegiance states: “And to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Some quotes which place things in to perspective:

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. John Adams

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%. Thomas Jefferson

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. Thomas Jefferson

Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos. John Marshall

Democracy is the road to Socialism. Karl Marx

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests. Patrick Henry

We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts–not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln

When you hear uninformed pundits say that the United States is a Democracy, you will now know better… I do.

One Nerve Left has an excellent post on Constitution Day.

Check it out here.

2 Responses to “Happy Constitution Day ! Are We A Republic or A Democracy?”

  1. Roberta says:

    Nice to see someone besides me knows the differance well done

    courage Reply:

    Thanks Ro… it’s all a learning process. I personally would like to know why schools today are teaching Obama songs, instead of emphasizing the great strengths of this Republic.