Founders’ fears protected nation
Recently, I attended several community board meetings in a virtual manner. My objective was to view a republic in action. At each of these meetings, the public was invited to view their opinion on various subjects under discussion. The local press was in attendance and the newspaper reported on each of these meetings in their next edition of the paper. This is the way things should happen in a Republic.
The word republic, derived from the Latin res publica, or “public thing.” We live in the United States and it is a Republic. The word “democracy” does not appear anywhere in the Declaration of Independence or in our Constitution. In fact, the Constitution states “to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government” is established.
There are those who have the impression that our form of government is a pure democracy, or representative democracy. This is really not the case.
The Founders were knowledgeable about the issue of democracy and feared a democracy as much as they feared a monarchy. They understood that the only entity that can take away the people’s freedom is their own government, either by being too weak to protect them from external threats or by becoming too powerful and taking over every aspect of their life.
Our early Founders knew very well the meaning of the word “democracy,” and the history of democracies; and they were deliberately doing everything in their power to prevent having a democracy. In a Republic, the sovereignty resides with the people themselves and they may act on their own or through their representatives whom they choose to represent their interests.
Clearly, there is a difference between republican and democratic forms of government. John Adams knew well the essence of the difference when he said, “you have rights antecedent to all earthly governments, rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; laws derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.” Nothing in our Constitution suggests that government is a grantor of rights. Instead, government is a protector of rights.
The Constitution of the United States put into practice the principle of the Declaration of Independence: that the people form their governments and grant to them only “just powers,” limited powers, in order primarily to secure their God-given unalienable rights. The American philosophy and system of government thus bar equally the “snob rule” of a governing elite and the “mob-rule” of an Omnipotent Majority. This is designed, above all else, to preclude the existence in America of any government power capable of being misused so as to violate the Individual rights. Our early framers gave us a Constitution which contains coverage to protect the Republic. In their wisdom, the writers gave us the Electoral College so that in presidential elections, heavily populated states could not democratically run over the smaller, sparsely populated states. There was virtue in their wisdom.
In a Republic such as ours, there is no need for hate speech, name calling, and physical personal altercation. Thankfully in our Republic, our voice is heard and our opinion counts each time we vote at the ballot box.
Truly, we in our local communities and all across America, are indebted to our American forefathers for their brilliance in Constitutional content in protecting our freedoms. And these “rights” are clearly exemplified in our local public meetings, hearings, and in the public media.
The founders intended and laid out the ground rules as a republic for our nation, and for our local communities. Clearly, we believe that all Americans have much for which to be proud, going all the way back to the founding of this great nation. To be sure the United States,as a Republic, is a tribute to American Exceptionalism in the past, at the present, and hopefully for many generations to come.
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus SUNY Fredonia