Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host
Excerpt from my book, Concepts of the United States Constitution:
The difference between a republic, and a democracy is the same as the difference between the rule of law and the rule of man.
The word “republic” comes from the Latin “res publica,” which means the ‘public thing’.
Democracy comes from the Latin “demos kratein,” which means the “people's rule.” Pure democracy is “majority rule,” or “mob-rule.”
A quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, despite the source actually being unknown, says it in a nutshell. “A democracy is the tyranny of the majority, where 51% may take away the rights of the other 49%.”
In five of his Federalist Papers essays, James Madison defines a republic, and compares its features to that of a democracy. Nationalists of the day were challenging the viability of a republic over a democracy, while other nationalists who sought a stronger central government were trying to convince the public that a difference between a republic, and a democracy, does not exist.
Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.
“The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.”
Madison wrote in Federalist No. 14, “The error which limits republican government to a narrow district has been unfolded and refuted in preceding papers. I remark here only that it seems to owe its rise and prevalence chiefly to the confounding of a republic with a democracy, applying to the former reasonings drawn from the nature of the latter. The true distinction between these forms was also adverted to on a former occasion. It is, that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy, consequently, will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be extended over a large region.”
Madison wrote in Federalist No. 39, “If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. It is sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well as every other popular government that has been or can be well organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican character.”
Madison wrote in Federalist No. 48, “In a government where numerous and extensive prerogatives are placed in the hands of an hereditary monarch, the executive department is very justly regarded as the source of danger, and watched with all the jealousy which a zeal for liberty ought to inspire. In a democracy, where a multitude of people exercise in person the legislative functions, and are continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation and concerted measures, to the ambitious intrigues of their executive magistrates, tyranny may well be apprehended, on some favorable emergency, to start up in the same quarter. But in a representative republic, where the executive magistracy is carefully limited; both in the extent and the duration of its power; and where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly, which is inspired, by a supposed influence over the people, with an intrepid confidence in its own strength; which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its passions, by means which reason prescribes; it is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.”
Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions.”
Drawing from Madison’s writings, it is important to understand that the Founding Fathers were not necessarily against the will of the people, but recognized that too much power in the hands of the electorate could be as dangerous as too much power in the hands of a ruling minority. A balance had to be struck. As John Adams put it, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
However, too much government opens up the opportunity for tyranny, as well. A successful republic is one that finds its foundation on a mixed constitution, a system that applies the proper amount of government. Without law there can be no freedom. With too much government there can be no freedom.
The will of the people is fine, as long as the will of the people, just like the will of the political class, remains within the limitations prescribed by the rule of law.
Democracies, in history, have always been a transitional form of government. The result of a collapsed democracy has always been the rise of an oligarchy, where a powerful few rule over the many.
When Elizabeth Powel walked up to Benjamin Franklin after the completion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the politically involved woman asked Franklin, "Well, Sir, what have you given us? A monarchy, or a republic?"
"A republic, Madam, if you can keep it," replied the senior statesman.
Despite the attempt by the nationalists to convince the American people that a republic and a democracy are the same, the public rejected the concept, as well as the drive by the Federalist political party to expand the size of government. By the 1820s, the Federalist Party faded into obscurity, and for the moment, the Constitution had won. During the 1830s, however, the lure of democracy returned.
Andrew Jackson, despite his love of the Constitution, and sound economic principles, had a flawed desire to fundamentally transform the United States from a republic, to a democracy. This is one of the reasons many Democrats view Jackson in a favorable light, and why he is considered by many to be the "father of the Democratic Party."
Jackson began what the nationalists could not. He convinced many Americans that the United Should be a democracy. The drive for democracy created confusion, and provided an opening for socialism to use the tool of democracy to begin the transformation of America.
Karl Marx recognized the usefulness of democracy as a transitional system. He once said, “Democracy is the road to socialism.”
Karl Marx, the father of communism, understood that the implementation of a democracy is a necessary step in the process of destroying our Constitutional Republic. Once the people are fooled to believe that they can receive gifts from the treasury rather than achieve for their livelihood through their individual aspirations, they will continually vote in the people who ensure the entitlements continue to flow. Eventually, this mindset becomes the majority. Government dependency is a cancer that grows over time from an involved and informed electorate to a populace who lacks the understanding of the principles of liberty and can easily be manipulated into believing that sacrificing individual liberty in exchange for social justice, artificial security, and gifts from the treasury is a price that we must be willing to pay. A group dependent upon the government in such a manner, then, is primed to vote into power a potential tyranny.
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary