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Dare Inquire Representatives Truth

Is U.S. a Republic or a (representative)(indirect) Democracy?

DIRT founder report

A well-informed citizenry is the most powerful revolutionary force in our Constitutional republic.


by Harry F. Atwood. Laird & Lee, Inc., 1918
Chapter II


The present great war crisis has aroused the world to serious thought about government and the best form of its administration.

If the people of all nations could be awakened to the tremendous truth that a repulic is the only form of government that has solved governmental problems successfully and given wholesome and desirable results, it would compensate in part for the awful sacrifice and carnage of this tragic time.

One of the serious aspects of present-day tendency is the reckless and inaccurate use of governmental terms. Almost daily Russia is spoken of as "the new republic."

That phrase is as inaccurate as it would be to speak of a drunken man as a new example of temperance. To speak of Mexico as a "republic" is as inaccurate as it would be to speak of fanaticism as a new form of reverence. To call China a "republic" is as far-fetched as it would be to speak of insomnia as a new form of rest.

China, Mexico, and Russia at the present time are all types of democracy. In each instance the pendulum swung all the way from the extreme of autocracy to the extreme of democracy. It did not stop at the golden mean. These countries are not republics.

England, Italy, Belgium and France are frequently spoken of as the allied democracies of Europe; yet with one exception each country supports a royal family at a tremendously large expense, which is one of the elements of autocracy.

It would create considerable confusion of thought in the medical world if we should speak of disease as health; if in the realm of law, we should speak of crime as a contract; if in the realm of nature, we should speak of a cyclone as a sea breeze; if in the commercial world, we should speak of a bankrupt as a business success; if in the religious world, we should speak of the dime novel as the Bible; yet these are fair illustrations to parallel the inaccuracy that prevails in the present-day use of governmental terms.

The terms republic and democracy are thoughtlessly and inaccurately used almost synonomously in dictionaries, in encyclopedias and in political literature and discussion.

This country is frequently spoken of as a democracy, and yet the men who established our government made a very marked distinction between a republic and a democracy, gave very clear definitions of each term, and said repeatedly and emphatically that they had founded a republic.

Surely no one has more valid authority to use governmental terms, or to make definitions of those terms, than the men who evolved the best form of government the world has ever known.

The statements of Hamilton and Madison, who were designated as the spokesmen and interpreters of the work of the Constitutional Convention, make it absolutely clear that the founders of the republic had in mind a very marked distinction between these two forms.

In the Federalist Madison says:

"What, then, are the distinctive characters of the republican form? Were an answer to this to be sought, not by recurring to principles, but in the application of the term by political writers, to the constitutions of different states, no satisfactory one would ever be found. Holand, in which no particle of the supreme authority is derived from the people, has passed almost universally under the denomination of a republic. The same title has been bestowed on Venice, where absolute power over the great body of the people is exercised, in the most absolute manner, by a small body of hereditary nobles. Poland, which is a misture of aristocracy and monarchy in their worst forms, has been dignified with the same appellation. The government of England, which has one republican branch only, combined with an hereditary aristocracy and monarchy, has, with equal impropriety, been frequently placed on the list of republics.

These examples, which are nearly as dissimilar to each other as to a genuine republic, show the extreme inaccuracy with which the term has been used in political disquisitions."

The above quotation indicates how forcefully Madison called attention to the gross misuse of the word republic in his day. He was very jealous of the use of the term. He was extremely conscious and justly proud of having played an important part in helping to found the first republic of history. He knew the difference between an autocracy and a republic and he objected to having the autocracies spoken of as republics.

He also understood quite clearly the difference between a republic and a democracy. Again, in the Federalist, he said:

"Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention...

...American people."

Educate yourself

On September 18th, 1803, Hamilton wrote to Pickering:

"The plan of a constitution which I drew up while the convention was sitting, and which I communicated to Mr. Madison,... was predicated upon these bases:

"These were the genuine sentiments of my heart, and upon them I acted."

In his great and exhaustive work on "Political Science and Constitutional Law," John W. Burgess, after analyzing minutely the forms of government of the four leading countries, makes the following deductions:

"I do not believe it is utopian to predict that the republican form will live after all other forms have perished... It is a hazardous venture to prophesy what the form of the future will be. It seems to me, however, that that form will be a republic... It seems to me evident that the destiny of history is clearly pointing to the United States as the great world organ for the modern solution of the problem of government as well as of liberty."

Article 4 Section 4, of the Constitution provides:

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government."

It is inconceivable that the Fathers would guarantee a republican form of government to every State in the Union without the absolute intent of providing that same form of government for the nation.

It would seem that the founders of this republic, after a careful survey of the governments of history, concluded that autocracy resulted in tyranny and democracy merged into mobocracy, and they strove to avoid the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy by establishing the golden mean and founding a republic.

The new form of government provided for by the Constitution and evolved in 1788 was the first republic the world had ever known, and it may clearly be defined as follows:

A republic is a form of government under a constitution which provides for the election of (1) an executive and (2) a legislative body, who, working together in a representative capacity, have all power of appointment, all power of legislation, all power to raise revenues and appropriate expenditures, and are required to create (3) a judiciary to pass upon the justice and legality of their governmental acts and to recognize (4) certain inherent individual rights.

Take away any one or more of those four elements and you are drifting into autocracy. Add one or more to those four elements and you are drifting into democracy.

In an autocracy authority is derived through heredity, regardless of character, capacity, or conduct. Rulers are chosen by virtue of their membership in the royal family; the people have no choice in their selection.

In a democracy authority is derived through mass-meeting, the initiative, the referendum, instructed delegates, or any other form of direct popular expression.

In a republic authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials to represent them.

The attitutde of autocracy toward property is feudalistic. This is unjust and results in protest, and finally in rebellion, on the part of the people.

The attitude of democracy toward property is communistic or socialistic. This negates property rights and results in chaos, mobmindedness and riot, finally terminating in destruction of the very property itself.

The attitude of the republic toward property is that of individual ownership, resulting in thrift, respect for law, individual rights, and orderly, sensible, economic procedure.

The attitude of democracy toward law is that the will of the majority shall prevail, regardless of whether it be based upon deliberation or is governmed by passion, prejudice and imp8lse, without restraint or regard to consequences.

The attitude of the republic toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence and with strict regard to consequences.

There is no such thing as a representative democracy.

To use that expression is equivalent to speaking of a temperate drunkard.

The very essence of democracy is that the people speak direct.

There is no such thing as a "democratic republic." To use that expression is equivalent to speaking of gluttonous nourishment.

The very essence of a republic is that the people speak through representatives. If there is such a thing as a democratic republic, what other kinds of republics are there?

There is no such thing as a democratic autocracy. To use that expression is equivalent to speaking of gluttonous starvation.

This line of reasoning will be clarified in the following chapter on "The Golden Mean."

The expressions "representative democracy," democratic republic, and democratic autocracy are among the most dangerous and misleading in current use.

Issue: Is U.S. a republic or democracy

A representative democracy, some say, a republic, says DIRT founder

Educate Yourself U.S. a republic
DIRT founder U.S. founded As a republic
Republics and Democracies by Robert Welch
As first delivered, at the Constitution Day luncheon of We, The People in Chicago, on September 17, 1961. The address was first published in the October 1961 issue of American Opinion magazine and reprinted in the June 30, 1986 issue of THE NEW AMERICAN

Matt Glavin It's a representative democracy
Educate yourself: what others believe

Activists say and do preserve the republic

Educate yourself: Bill of Rights

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