Wednesday, March 19, 2014

America: A Democracy or Republic?

What form of government does America have?  Is it a Democracy or a Republic?  In The Federalist No. 39, James Madison discusses the best form of government for America.  The following is an excerpt from his argument:

“The first question that offers itself is, whether the general form and aspect of the government be strictly republican.  It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.  If the plan of the convention, therefore, be found to depart from the republican character, its advocates must abandon it as no longer defensible.”

Madison then defines the character of a republic:


“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.”


No comments:

Post a Comment