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Stay informed, your life may depend on it


In response to “And to the Republic, for which it stands...” signed by Barbara McNeely, I was taken by a familiar style of wild and weird assertions, unsubstantiated facts and a lack of a coherent connectiveness.

A quick internet search led to an assertion in an obituary, dated August 2018 that a decedent was survived by her daughter Barbara McNeely and beau Samuel Foust. I will presume Mr. Foust in spirit and substance was involved in this excessively wordy diatribe against democracy!

The outlandish assertion that “people have been groomed or conditioned to believe that the United States is a democracy,” flies in the face of Colonial history, the agreed compromises made at the Convention by serious, sensible, undoctrinaire men, gathered together in a pragmatic spirit to do something practical, and looking back on a thousand years of political traditions, inherited from England, which had always stressed compromise and give-and-take.

Faced with a pressing state debt problem from the war, tax revolts such as Shay’s Rebellion and commerce disputes between states, the Articles of Confederation were hopelessly inadequate to the challenging task and mandated a strong central government. The Convention’s proposed scheme of government can be described as filtered, representative government as opposed to “direct” modes of popular participation.

Historian Charles Beard’s “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution” [1913] emphasized the economic motivations rather than the philosophical principles.

Richard Hofstadter, remarking on Beard’s career, stated he was foremost among the American historians in search of a usable past; however the Cold War pushed his views out of vogue; while Denis Brogan summed it up this way in 1965: “The suggestion that the Constitution had been a successful attempt to restrain excessive democracy, that it had been a triumph for property and big business seemed blasphemous to many and an act of near treason ... ”

James Madison in Federalist No.10 : “ A republic, by which I mean government in which the scheme of representation takes place ... and promises the cure for which we are seeking ... [the] difference between a democracy and a republic[is] the delegation of government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest.”

Madison’s contemporaries conflated the meaning of democracy and a republic. State legislative bodies were all based on principles of representation and described as “democratic” or “democratical” elements in various state constitutions.

The crucial distinction was not between a republic and a democracy, but rather between a democracy/republic on the one side and monarchy or aristocracy on the other. In a proper republic/democracy, “the people at large retain the supreme power, and act either collectively or by representation.”

Wilson of Pennsylvania declared, “All authority, of every kind, is derived by representation from the people, and the democratic principle is carried into every part of the government.”

Federalists defined republics not in contradiction to democracies, but rather in opposition to monarchies and aristocracies. Article IV means that “no state should have a right to establish an aristocracy or a monarchy.”

In a Federalist essay “Plain Truth,” the clause would guarantee against “monarchial or aristocratical encroachments,” and others read the clause to mean that state constitutions cannot be royal forms, cannot be aristocratical, but must be republican.

Hamilton/Publius’s Nos.21 and 78 painted the core meaning of republican government with majority rule and associated the idea with the capacity of mankind for self-government and with the right of the people to alter or abolish the established Constitution, whenever they find it inconsistent with their happiness. The American People by amending the Constition enlarged the definition of We The People able to participate in choosing their representatives.

See Amendments XV, XIX, XXIV, and XXVI which enfranchised former slaves and women, barred poll taxes, and 18 year olds. Stay informed and vote. Your very life may depend on it.

Harry Shatz