In the past I’ve had a couple of email or site discussions with people on the difference between these terms. It seemed significant enough to warrant taking a position. To me, a Constitutional Republic means that we are a republic with a written constitution thus making the document the supreme law of the land. A Democratic Republic (DR) on the other hand is a republic where the laws are democratically dealt with, in other words, by the sustaining of the majority.
Some people have argued that America is a DR because we have democratically elected representatives who do the will of the people. Some of these same people believe the constitution is the supreme law of the land and that there is no problem calling us a DR.
Last week someone forwarded me an email from Tim Irwin in Highland, Utah. He’d been asked a similar question and in his response drew from a book by Scott Bradley, former senatorial candidate for Utah. With Tim’s permission, here is his email which I found very helpful on this subject.
As I finished my response to you I felt I should do a little more research and I think the answer that follows is much better and more detailed. Thanks to my constitutional mentor Scott Bradley.
“Elected representatives create legislation within the scope and limits of government power that had been previously defined within the constitution. It is government by law. The legislature, indeed, the entire government, is constrained to act within constitutionally delegated authority and may not encroach into areas that are not authorized. Elected officials are allowed to operate only within their defined boundaries and are not allowed to act on matters outside those boundaries. These limits are designed to protect the rights of all citizens, whether in the majority or in the minority. This is the type of government that was created for the United States by the United States Constitution.” Scott Bradley
What I did not know was NONE of the men we consider to be the principle founders of the American Republic EVER used the term Democratic-Republic to describe the form of government they created under the United States Constitution. The term came into use AFTER the days of the American Founders, and is attributed in the modern writings to the FOLLOWERS of Thomas Jefferson as I indicated to you in my first response.
The American Founders were adamantly opposed to ANY linking of the nation to ANY form of democracy. In Scott’s book, “To Preserve the Nation,” (pages 51-74) he addresses the Democracy Deception at length.
Of interest is the fact that when the French Ambassador, Edmund Genet, came to America during the administration of President George Washington, Genet established “Democratic-Republic” Clubs throughout the nation. Both President Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson were appalled and incensed, and denounced the clubs and the philosophy that was fostered in the name. The nation quickly saw the error they had stumbled into, and all of the clubs were disbanded. The term, Democratic-Republic, is closely associated with the debauched and perverted government that metastasized during the French Revolution and in subsequent revolutions (see chapter 14, pages 289-307 of Scott’s book).
EVERYTHING that was done during the founding era of this nation was republican in nature. The nation NEVER followed a democratic process during the monumental founding events: Trusted representatives brought forth the Declaration of Independence; The acceptance of the Declaration of Independence was never put before the people for a vote of ratification; The trusted representatives of the people in congress called for a Constitutional Convention in 1787; The trusted representatives of the people in the respective States appointed trusted representatives to attend the Constitution Convention of 1787 (the people never appointed or ratified those individuals called as representatives of the States); The new Constitution created by the trusted representatives in the convention was submitted by the Convention back to the trusted representatives in the national congress with the direction that it be forwarded back to the States to be ratified by trusted representatives of the people within the States; Ratification of the ratification by the state conventions of the Constitution was never placed before the people of the States for a democratic vote (a la the process followed in Iraq when the people democratically “ratified” the communist-style constitution the United States helped them write a few years ago); Once the Constitution was ratified by trusted representatives in the state conventions, the people chose trusted representatives to go to congress, and the trusted representatives of the people in the State legislatures chose the new senators as trusted representatives to serve in the senate at the national level; Trusted representatives were chosen by the people and the States to serve as a “electors” in the Electoral College as a single purpose representative body of trusted representatives with the responsibility to select the president as another trusted representative in an assignment as the “executive” at the national level. At no point was this nation a democracy, or even (as the modern revisionists would have us believe) a democratic-republic.
After doing more research, I now I believe it to be a grave error to foster the idea of a democratic-republic. Reading in Scott’s book:
“Thus, we see that the evidence presented throughout the Federalist Papers, as well as countless other impeccable sources, is overwhelming and unimpeachable: The United States of America was established as a constitutional republic, not a democracy. By recognizing that great fact and seeking to preserve the foundation principles upon which this nation was founded, we may preserve the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Those who have received knowledge of the “original intent” of those who founded this nation have a duty, a responsibility, even an obligation, to foster wider understanding of the truth in this matter. We must seek to make popular the sound and good principles that were ordained as this nation was established. We diminish our value in the cause of liberty if we adopt the lexicon of those who foster global democracy on the pathway to socialism. We allow our worth to be debauched if we become co-opted into unwitting shills for the cause of democracy (even if it is simply in the usage of the terms associated with that destructive movement) in order to obtain the praise of men and women who are not worthy to stand in the light of those who laid the foundation of this nation.”
Thanks for driving me to do more research. I did a piece on the electoral college several months ago and it was clear to me the founders never intended for the populous to elect our president. As Ben Franklin clearly said when asked what type of government did you give us….” A republic if you can keep it”.