on Democracy

“[D]emocracies 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, from The Federalist Papers, No. 10, and 4th U.S. President

Did you know that America was founded as a republic and not a democracy? Do you know the difference between the two, and why that is important? Do you know why having a republican form of government is far more secure to individual liberty than a democracy? For too long we have been under the mistaken assumption that we live in a democracy, when a close reading of our founding documents, as well as the writings of the founders themselves, reveal that they soundly rejected the idea of a democracy as a valid form of government. In fact the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Why? It was due to the fact that they saw democracy as incapable of protecting individual liberty.

We must remember that our Founders were all learned men, who studied the great philosophers and historians of the day. They did not proceed into the formation of our government lightly; they sought the wisdom and counsel of those who had walked the road through the failures of various governments before them. They knew that they did not want a monarchy, where all power was centralized in one person, nor did they want a democracy, where all power was centralized with the majority, as in both instances the rights of the individual would be forfeit. So, they sought a republic, one of laws and not of men, where the powers of government were limited and every voice mattered.

To our Founders, democracy was truly nothing more than mob rule, where the rights of the individual were always subject to the will of the majority, regardless of whether they agreed to that will or not. They called this the “tyranny of the majority”, and equal to any tyranny perpetrated by a monarch. For this reason, they chose a republican form of government over a democratic one.  In fact, in Article 4, Section 4, Paragraph 1 of the U.S. Constitution it states that “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government”. In a republic we have duly elected representatives, and our government is structured so as to ensure that everyone has an equal say, no matter if they live in rural or urban areas or in big or small states. In a republic, the will of the people means ALL the people, not just the loudest voices. However, in a democracy, the “majority rules”, and the current feeling of the people can override any law on a whim. For example, long ago there once was a government bureaucrat who asked the people to choose between two men for crucifixion: Jesus or Barabbas. They chose Jesus, despite Him having been found innocent at trial, and despite multiple laws that forbade the execution of the innocent. Yet, the mob had spoken. You see, in a democracy, not even the law can protect the innocent from the desire of the mob, because in a democracy the majority always rules. Do you really want your rights, your property, your life and your liberty subject to the whims of the majority, where their collective will is equated to the collective wisdom of the day? In a republic the individual and their property are protected under the law; in a democracy the mob can create their own law to demand all that you have, and then even punish you for resisting. Under which would you prefer to live?

On September 17th, 1787, citizens eagerly gathered outside Independence Hall to find out what the Constitutional Convention had produced. As Benjamin Franklin emerged, a woman asked him a question: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” To which he replied: “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”

So, what are you doing to ensure that we can keep it?

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd U.S. President

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