Every government, every institution, every individual is and will always be accountable to Natural Law. Natural Law is simply all the laws that are independent of mankind and are, essentially, the unvarying system of causes and effects. Whether or not a people recognizes this fact is beside the point. Whether or not that understanding is carried through in orchestrating a governmental system is also beside the point. However, the more a government is instituted in harmony with these principles, the better off that society will be.
The Declaration of Independence never specifically outlines a certain form of government as the sole standard for good government. It merely speaks of the fact that “when any form of government” becomes tyrannical, that it is the right and duty of the people to alter or abolish that government, and to lay “its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Neither does it outline a specific form of government in the philosophical father of the Declaration, as found in George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights. The Virginia Declaration of Rights merely states, in Section Three:
“That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. And that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”
However, that being acknowledged, please do not let this be confusing in the least. The Declaration clearly states that governments exist solely to protect man’s unalienable rights, and that anything contrary to this purpose is purely tyrannical. Therefore, any government that has as its basic principles of foundation any means, or any end, which is contrary to this, should immediately be rendered invalid by those individuals that make up society.
Therefore, once the principles of the Declaration are understood and realized, it should stand to reason that any legitimate form of government will hold the rights and duties of the individual as sacrosanct. It will hold within its entire active purpose, as well as its means of achieving them, the fact that every person has an equal amount of unalienable rights, and that those rights are also equal in value in relation to every other person!
Thus far in human history, a true Republican form of government is the only form that has held this standard. Thus, it should not be shocking to find out that the founding fathers of America held this form of government to be supreme above all others, and sought to institute the most purely republican government to date. Samuel Adams even stated that he “firmly believe[s] that the benevolent Creator designed the republican Form of Government for Man.” (The Writings of Samuel Adams)
In fact, Article Four, Section Four of the Constitution requires that every state that is a part of the Union have a Republican form of government. This would, if truly practiced, create a Union of states that are more than just a a group of nations that cover a lot of real estate! It was intended to create unity of purpose and harmony of ideals between the sovereign states themselves. There was supposed to be a common goal behind the union! They sought to have fundamental individual rights better secured together as a whole. In fact, they thought that the rights of all americans would be better protected with a Union, than without one. A Union of Republicanism!
Yet, ironically, many speak of America in their day-to-day language as being a democracy. The difference between these two, as shall be explained, are critical in understanding the proper role of government itself. The two are so diametrically opposed in manner and principle, that they are necessarily mutually exclusive. If one be the right course for mankind, the other would have to be the contrary course.
Democracy has essentially had two forms: direct and representative. Direct is where the people directly vote and make every decision by majority vote, while representative is where the people vote for people (representatives) who then, in turn, by majority vote, make every decision. Yet, whether direct or representative, they have the same basic flaw of a failing to recognize the natural limits of legitimate government itself. Democracy refuses, in principle, to restrain itself. It is majority rule and majority will, regardless of the quality of that will when compared to the natural boundaries set by Natural Law around the rights and duties of individual persons. It is thus often referred to as mobocracy, since it is simply tyranny of the majority. It is simply two wolves and a sheep deciding what is for dinner.
Addressing the flaws in even a representative democracy, Thomas Jefferson noted in his “Notes on The State of Virginia,” written some years after the Declaration of Independence, that “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for . . .” (Emphasis is Jefferson’s). Thus, in principle, even the legislatures here in America are greatly restricted by Constitutional limitation. They are limited by paper guarantees of Constitutional restraint, which is as valid as far as it is in harmony with the Rule of Natural Law itself. The majority is restrained at every level!
James Madison, Father of the Constitution, speaking of the flaws of democracy, noted in Federalist No. 10 that:
“[a] common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such 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. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”
As Madison even hinted at, proponents of Democracy often use the word “equality” as its battle cry. The impossibility of the notion of “equality”, as vague as the term can be, especially in the way that it is often used by those very proponents, should be clear to everyone who takes the time to ponder and observe human nature and human society itself.
John Adams, in his “Defence of the Constitutions of the Governments of the United States”, points out a criticism made by M. Turgot, that even republics are “founded on the equality of all the citizens…” Adams’s reply sums up the flaw in not specifically contextualizing and defining the term, and in seemingly applying the term equality in such a broad and liberal manner:
“But what are we to understand here by equality? Are the citizens to be all the same age, sex, size, strength, stature, activity, courage, hardiness, industry, patience, ingenuity, wealth, knowledge, fame, wit, temperance, constancy, and wisdom? Was there, or will there ever be, a nation, whose individuals were all equal, in natural and acquired qualities, in virtues, talents, and riches? The answer of all mankind must be in the negative. It must then be acknowledged, that in every state…there are inequalities which God and nature have planted there, and which no human legislator ever can eradicate.”
It is simply impossible to desire the same results stemming from different people who take different results. This is without even touching the moral issue of everyone getting the same supposed result, regardless of the amount of work and genius that was put into the process. The word utopia, being derived from Greek and meaning “nowhere” or “no place,” is perfectly placed as a descriptor of this type of political goal of “material equality.” The concept of “same results for different actions,” if you will, is simply and literally Utopian. It would literally take a suspension of the natural laws of cause and effect. Regardless of how badly a legislator or a populace desired this to occur, reality would be no less applicable.
Yet, even with that point aside, is it merely a coincidence that some of the greatest examples of inequality and outright human rights’ violations have come packaged with “equality” as the battle cry? The Communist experiments in Russia and China should be evidence enough of this fact! The point of “equality” being made in reference to even merely material goods is an apparent impossibility in the very governmental systems supposedly championing it! There is irony in the Marxist critique of how supposedly materialistic free enterprise systems are, when a huge part of their battle cry is material “equality.”
Thus, it is said that John Marshall, a founding era Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, stated that “between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”
The equality of the recognition towards the rights of man, or, as John Adams put it, “a moral and political equality of rights and duties among all the individuals” is the only possible virtue that will maintain harmony with the entire legitimate purpose of government itself. And yet, democracy sacrifices that premise on the altar of “majority rule.” It makes the legal codes themselves a battleground for competing groups in society, each trying to get enough votes to rule over others. Democracy is the might side of the battle between “might vs. right.” Republic takes the right side.
Yet, if Democracy is based majority rule, the question should naturally be: what about a weaker and more powerless minority? Are they any less human, with any less quality of rights to be legitimately represented? As George Mason pointed out so succinctly: “To protect the weaker from the injuries and insults of the stronger were societies first formed.”
Therefore, the author is hopeful that a huge irony has become apparent to the reader. The powerful, even the majority, have the power, or the ability to force its will on others even outside of an organized society. We form society, as equals, with equal rights, to be better secured as a whole, in the exercise and recognition of those rights! Thus, Democracy, in principle, not only seeks the impossible, but goes against the entire purpose society and civil governments are formed in the first place! A government, to be in harmony with its entire purpose, would represent the weak just as much as the strong! It would represent one person’s rights, regardless of the will of even the 99.99% that are somehow opposed to it!!
This is not to say that the Founders, or anyone else that dislikes democracy as a form of government, dislikes popular government. The Founders’, in decrying the “excesses of democracy”, did not somehow hate the people and attempt to set up some sort of merely self-serving system that didn’t represent the people’s true interests. This is a misrepresentation and a straw man of the highest order! Those who champion republicanism should not be shy in debating this point either! A rebutting point is found even in this simple question: How could any governmental system based on “majority-rule” represent ALL the people anyway? Its whole basic fundamental premise already is set out to only represent some people at the expense of other people.
In fact, how did the label of “popularism” ever get attached to democracy in the first place? It is a system built on de facto exploitation to one extent or another! If there is going to be a truly moral civil government, that is truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” it must be based on a form that represents all people, and all of their corresponding rights and duties, and not just whoever has majority support and the power to enforce it!
The type government that has, especially in terms of principle, been best at maintaining its own standard of the rights of man and individual freedom has, therefore, been Republican in form. The word “Republic” comes from the Latin word: ‘res-publica.‘
Res – “affair, matter or thing”
Publica – “Public interest”
A Republic, therefore “the public thing”, or simply put, the government. Yet, if this government is, thus, built, not on the special interests of certain portions of a person or groups of people, with all their various vices and weaknesses, but truly built on something that could be considered the “Public’s Thing”, it would be built on the Rule of Law. The Law which is no respecter of persons, and variables they currently have no control over. John Adams even reiterated in his “Thoughts on Government” that “the very definition of a republic is ‘an empire of laws, and not of men.'”
Now, this concept of “the Rule of Law” could only be marginally better if one still holds on to the idea that whatever the legislature passes, or majority of people vote for or support, is “Law.” Actual Law is eternal, unchanging, and “self-evident,” and is no less applicable and relevant after the written legal code than before.
The ancient tradition of Common law, or law that is common to every individual, (Natural Law), holds within its maxims the concept that Law simply exists, and needs no added weight than its own existence itself to be any more valid or real. Thus, a true Republic, in its purest form will hold THE LAW, (Natural Law), as the basis of its ruling and Constitution, and not presumptuously act as if its the other way around. The Legislatures in a true Republic merely find Law, as opposed to acting as if they “create” law. They find law and codify it into its own Constitutions and decrees. Anything outside of this standard is therefore arbitrary, and therefore a step down the road to tyranny and, in this country, Constitutional Apostasy.
Therefore, ultimately, A true Republican government is one in which Natural Law is actually recognized as the Higher Law that it is, with any legislative, judicial, or executive decree notwithstanding. With this point in mind, any other form of civil government is, therefore, merely an exercise in denial. And for many people throughout history, a fatal one. Why any people would desire a form of government thus constituted, simply reveals an attempt to avoid reality, which reality will not stand without effect in relation to their denial of it!
And once again, it is not as if Natural Law has no effect on any other governmental system, it is that a true republican form of government recognizes that and conforms to it! Any statutory code that does not mimic or echo actual law, although it is being enforced by a state as if it is anyways, is below the dignity of mankind! It is beneath the standard set by a free people!
So, in sum, it should be apparent that there are deeper differences between a democracy and a republic than most realize. In the end, the difference is even more than just a difference in representation, a better historical record when it comes to respecting individual rights, or even merely a restraint on the majority, let alone the standard of the rule of law itself. An endorsement of republican principles is an acceptance of reality itself. It is a recognition of the value of every single individual person! It is the acceptance of personal initiative and personal responsibility! It is an acceptance and active acknowledgement of the rights and duties inherent in man, and is, when codified into civil society, an accepting of it on as wide a scale as possible. It is simply choosing reality as “King”, and the God of Nature as the Lawgiver.
When Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked him, “Sir, what have you given us?” To this, Franklin replied succinctly, “A Republic ma’am, if you can keep it.”
Because, ultimately, it is entirely up to us.
P.S. – For those who have yet to view the video “Overview of America”, I recommend it for viewing. In this author’s view, it covers the difference between republicanism and democracy well enough to be worth of recommendation: