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Are We A Majority Dictatorship or Constitutional Republic?

Majority Dictatorship


Why We Are a Republic Not a Democracy


By Brannon S. Howse


 


"A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials


of its own destruction."[1] [2]


"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts,


and murders itself."[2] [3]


"A simple democracy is the devil's own government."[3] [4]


 


These are hardly the sentiments today's average American would expect from the pens of our Founding Fathers. Yet, the men who established our great nation understood a critical facet of political philosophy that is all but lost on 21st century Americans. They did not set out to establish a democracy but rather, a constitutional republic.


Thanks be to God.


Living in a time when debating governmental systems was voguish among intellectuals, the Founders could have chosen from a smorgasbord of forms based on widely divergent worldviews. However, they deliberately chose a system of government built on a standard that is unchanging even if-and particularly if!-the majority populace deviates from the standard.


These days, most of our citizens believe America is and was a democracy and that democracy embodies the highest ideals of liberty. This, despite the Founders' labors to create a system that wouldn't cave in to the baser instincts of its citizens, the self-serving potential in its leaders, and the nearly boundless potential in any society for domination of the few by the many. We pledge allegiance to our flag "and to the republic for which it stands…," but most Americans do not even know the important and clear distinctions between a democracy and a constitutional republic.


A democracy is what the late Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer called "the dictatorship of the 51%." In U.S. War Department Training Manual No. 2000-25, published in 1928, the U.S. Government defines democracy:


 


A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of "direct" expression. Results in mobocracy [mob rule]. Attitude toward property is communistic-negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Results in… anarchy.


 


The framers of the U.S. Constitution so feared the dangers of democracy they included a provision in the Constitution requiring "each State maintain a republican from of government" (Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution). In addition, the Founders warned about the perils:


 


• Noah Webster said, "In democracy…there are commonly tumults and disorders…Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth."[4] [5]


• John Witherspoon wrote, "Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state-it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage."[5] [6]


 


If, then, a democracy is so menacing to social well being, what is it that makes a constitutional republic a solid base for our society?


Turning back to U.S. War Department Training Manual No. 2000-25, we find the following description of a republic:


 


Authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them. Attitude toward property is respect for laws and individual rights and a sensible economic procedure. Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences. A greater number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass. Avoids the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy. Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment, and progress…Our Constitutional fathers, familiar with the strength and weakness of both autocracy and democracy, with fixed principles definitely in mind, defined a representative form of government. They made a very marked distinction between a republic and a democracy and said repeatedly and emphatically that they had founded a republic.


 


Noah Webster explained what the fixed principles of this republic must be: "[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principals is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion."[6] [7]


Similarly, contemporary historian and author David Barton, in his video Keys to Good Government, states:


 


The difference between a republic and a democracy is the source of its authority. In a democracy, whatever the people desire is what becomes policy. If a majority of the people decides that murder is no longer a crime, in a democracy, murder will no longer be a crime. However, not so in our republic: in our republic, murder will always be a crime, for murder is a crime in the Word of God. It is this foundation which has given our republic such enduring stability.


 


The Founders chose a constitutional republic because they understood that, over time, people will naturally choose to do wrong. The Bible tells us clearly that every way of a man is right in his own eyes (Proverbs 21:2), that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and that evil men and seducers shall become worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).


Alexander Hamilton, signer of the Constitution, reflected this understanding when he explained the reason we need governments: "Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint…."[7] [8] 


The foremost legal authority of the Founder's day was William Blackstone. Introduced in 1766, Blackstone's Commentaries on the laws became the legal guidebook of early American leaders. Blackstone's Commentaries, in fact, formed the basis of American law until 1920, considered authoritative even in the U.S. Supreme Court. Commenting on the need to keep our laws consistent with God's laws, Blackstone states:


 


To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the Divine…If any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it, we are bound to transgress that human law…But, with regard to matters that are…not commanded or forbidden by those superior laws such for instance, as exporting wool into foreign countries; here the…legislature has scope and opportunity to interpose.


 


Alexander Hamilton supported this worldview: "[T]he law…dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this."[8] [9]


Another signer, Rufus King, likewise noted, "[T]he…law established by the Creator…extends over the whole globe, is everywhere and at all times binding upon mankind…[T]his is the law of God by which He makes His way known to man and is paramount to all human control."[9] [10]


 


According to David Barton in his book, Original Intent:


 


The Founders understood that Biblical values formed the basis of the republic and that the republic would be destroyed if the people's knowledge of those values should ever be lost…Understanding the foundation of the American republic is a vital key toward protecting it. Therefore, in analyzing public policy remember to ask, "Is this act consistent with our form of government?" and support or oppose the policy on that basis.


 


Despite the fact America was founded as a constitutional republic, we are sliding toward democracy and are reaping the consequences. Maintaining a republic is hard work and requires the election of individuals that understand the unique nature and foundation of our government.  If we are to preserve this heritage, we must elect men and women that understand God's instructions on how we are to live-individuals who hold a comprehensive biblical worldview.


This is the path the Founders set us on. We dare not stray.


 






[1] [11] Fischer Ames (Works of Fisher Ames, Boston T.B. Wait & Co., 1809, p. 24, Speech on Biennial Elections delivered on January 15, 1788)


 



[2] [12] (The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851, vol. VI, p. 484, Discourses on Davila; A Series of Papers on Political History)



[3] [13] (The letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. I p. 454, quoting John Joachim Zubly, Presbyterian Pastor and delegate to Congress, in a letter to David Ramsay in March or April 1788)



[4] [14] (The American Spelling Book: Containing an Easy Standard of Pronunciation: Being the First Part of a Grammatical Institute of the English Language, To Which is Added, an Appendix, Containing a Moral Catechism and a Federal Catechism. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews, 1801) pp. 103-104.)



[5] [15] (Witherspoon, Works, 1815, Vol. VII, p. 101, Lecture 12 on Civil Society.)



[6] [16] (Noah Webster, History of the United States, New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832, p. 6)


 


 



[7] [17] (The Federalist, p. 80, Federalist #15 by Alexander Hamilton).


 



[8] [18] (Alexander Hamilton, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Harold C. Syrett, editor. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, Vol. I, p. 87, February 23, 1775, quoting William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England. Philadelphia: Robert Bell, 1771, Vol. I, p. 41.)



[9] [19] (Rufus King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, Charles R. King, editor. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1900, Vol. VI, p. 276, to C. Gore on February 17, 1820.