America's Concerns, Part 3

A very good example of a possible faction in a pure democracy is the anti-gun movement in Republics and  Democracies.

The Original Words In The Pledge Of Alligance Has Been Changed

"I pledge 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."

by A.K.  Pritchard
September 24, 1995

Copyright 1995, 2001
Anthony K.  Pritchard
All Rights Reserved

It is notable that we pledge our allegiance to a REPUBLIC, and not to a DEMOCRACY.

The original wording of the pledge of allegiance was:

"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

It has been claimed that the pledge of allegiance to the flag first appeared in a children's magazine called The Youth's Companion.  On Columbus Day October 12, 1892, by proclamation of President Benjamin Harrison, the pledge was first used by school children, and it was amended by the substitution of the words "the flag of the United States of America" rather than  "my flag."  The pledge was adopted officially on Flag Day, June 14, 1924 by joint resolution of Congress and was again amended, this time in 1954, by the addition of the words "under God."

How many times a day, listening to the news on television, or radio, reading the newspaper, or listening to general conversation, have you heard of our form of government referred to as a "democracy?"  Just what is a democracy anyway?

DEMOCRACY,  Government by the people; a form of government, in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the people collectively, or in which the people exercise the power of legislation.  Such as the government of Athens.  [Websters 1828]

At first glance it seems that this fits exactly what we learned in a previous lesson, that the sovereign power of this nation rests with the people, not the government:

"In the United States, Sovereignty resides in the people, who act through the organs established by the Constitution." Chisholm v Georgia, 2 Dall 419, 471; Penhallow v Doane's Administrators, 3 Dal 54, 93: McCullock v Maryland, 4 Wheat 316, 404, 405: Yick Yo Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 370:

ORGAN, 2] The instrumentation or means of conveyance or communication.  A secretary of state is the organ of communication between the government and a foreign power.  [Websters 1828]

"...The Congress cannot invoke the sovereign power of the  people to override their will as thus declared." Perry v United States, 294 U.S. 330. 353 (1935).

Why is it, do you suppose, that we pledge allegiance to the REPUBLIC for which it (the flag) stands and not the DEMOCRACY?  Is there a difference between the terms "democracy" and that of "republic?"

REPUBLIC,  A commonwealth; a state in which the exercise of the sovereign power is lodged in representatives elected by the people.  In modern usage, it differs from a democracy or democratic state, in which the people exercise the powers of sovereignty in person.  Yet the democracies of Greece are often called republics.  [Websters 1828]

So we see several things regarding the differences between a democracy and a republic:

In a DEMOCRACY the sovereignty of the nation rests with the people, as it also does in a REPUBLIC.  The primary difference is in the EXERCISE of that  sovereignty.  In a DEMOCRACY the people exercise the powers of sovereignty "in person", while in a REPUBLIC they exercise the powers of sovereignty through representatives elected by the people, or through "the organs established by the constitution."

"The true distinction between these forms (democracy and republic) 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."
--James Madison, Federalist 14

The above definition by Madison of what constitutes a Democracy has also been termed a 'pure democracy'.  Those who wrote our Constitution, which created our government, never mentioned a democracy at all in that document.  Nowhere in the Constitution does it even mention a democracy, nowhere at all.  That same Constitution does however guarantee to each State a REPUBLICAN form of government:

Article IV Section 4.

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a  Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence." The founders of this nation decided to establish a republic rather than a democracy:

In Philadelphia, a Mrs. Powell asked Dr. Franklin, "Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy? A republic, replied  the Doctor, if you can keep it."  September 18, 1787 Recorded by James McHenry, one of Washington's aides, in his diary; published in the American Historical Review, XI [1906], 618. --Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Sixteenth Edition, at 310:26,  referenced under "A republic, if you can keep it."

Our founders, in establishing our republic, had some very harsh words regarding a democracy:

"... 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."
James Madison, known as the father of the U.S. Constitution,  in "Essay #10" of The Federalist Papers:

"On May 31, 1787, Edmund Randolph told his fellow members of the Constitutional Convention that the object for which the delegates had met 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 trials of democracy...."

"The People Of The Republic"

Edmund Randolph, 1753 -1813)

A lawyer who, 1774 upon the retirement of Thomas Jefferson, took over his law practice.

Offices Held: Clerk of the Committee on Courts and Justice, House of Burgesses, May 1774; Deputy Muster Master General of the Continental Army, Southern District, 1775-1776; Aide-de-camp to General Washington, August-November 1775; Delegate, representing Williamsburg, to the Fifth Virginia Convention, 1776; Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1776-1786; Mayor of Williamsburg, 1776-1777; Justice of the Peace for James City County, 1777; Clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates, 1778-1779; Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1779, 1781-1786; Governor of Virginia, 1786-1788; Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, 1787; Delegate to the Virginia Ratification Convention, 1788; United States Attorney General, 1789-1794; United States Secretary of State, 1794-1795.

At that Constitutional Convention another delegate, Elbridge Gerry, said:
"The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want [do not lack] virtue; but are the dupes of pretended patriots."

"The People Of The Republic"
Elbridge Gerry, 1744-181

American patriot and political leader. A signer of the Declaration of  Independence and the Articles of Confederation.

Offices Held:  Delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776; Delegate to the Constitutional Convention 1787; U.S. Congressman; Governor of Massachusetts;  Representative in the Massachusetts State Legislature; Vice President Of The United  States.

"It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government.  Experience has proved that no position is more false than this.  The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity." Alexander Hamilton, in a speech on June 21, 1788

As we learned earlier, in both a democracy and in a republic, the sovereign power of the nation rests with the people.  The difference is in how they EXERCISE that sovereign power.  In a democracy the people exercise their power in person, all is subject to the will of the majority directly.  In a republic the people exercise their sovereign power through the "organs created by the constitution," through the people that they elect to those offices created by the constitution.  In the words of the founders, exercising sovereign power directly in person through a democracy was:  the character of tyranny, the figure of deformity,  the evils of excess, turbulence and trials, contention, incompatible with personal security or the rights of property, and so on.

A moments consideration of a 'pure democracy' reveals a couple of its primary weaknesses, it would only work with a very small population, and rights would be subject to the will of the majority.

The founders worried much about what they termed 'factions':

"[T]he same advantage which a republic has over a Democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic . . . "James Madison, Federalist number 10

"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." James Madison, Federalist [as quoted in Websters 1828]

A republican form of government, or properly termed, our Constitutional Republic, was one of the guards against a segment of society, a faction, from dictating their whims to the rest of society, this is what Alexander Hamilton was warning against when he stated regarding democracies "Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity."  Another guard against factions that was built into our system of government is our Electoral College.

A very good example of a possible faction in a pure democracy is the anti-gun movement, united by passion rather than facts, and adverse to the rights of others.  In a pure democracy, if the anti-gun view became the one held by the majority (which thankfully it has not), then they could destroy our right to keep and bear arms by dictate of the majority. Our Constitutional Republic stands as a guard against this type of factionalism.

Self Study Questions For Review

* These study guide suggestions are included especially for the benefit of home schooling students who may be using this course as a part of their Civics study for high school credit.
1- Define:





2.  What year were the words "under God" added to the pledge of allegiance?

3-  What is the purpose of the Bill Of Rights?

4-  True or False - In both a democracy and a republic, the sovereignty of the nation rests with the people.

5- What then is the "primary" difference between a democracy and a republic?

6-  Can you name some special interest groups today, that if we lived in a pure democracy rather than a constitutional republic, would be a faction that would dictate their beliefs to the rest of society?

7- What rights do you believe would be lost today if we did indeed live in a pure democracy?

8- Besides our Constitutional Republic, what is another guard against  factions that our founders gave us?

[Please do not return the answers to these questions, they are for self-review only]

Sharing by:  Brenda Pitts Bennett
Texas Advocates


TRUE DEMOCRACY Spring 2002 Copyright © 2002 by News Source, Inc.