Why a Republic?

“Between a republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.” -Chief Justice John Marshall

The issue at hand is not just whether or not we are a Republic, but whether freedom can be maintained by a populace that doesn’t understand what a Republic is. The resources below will help you to understand what a Republic is and why it is so vital to our nation’s freedom.

After watching the above movie, ask yourself why Benjamin Franklin said they had given us a Republic, “if [we] can keep it”? It seems Franklin’s premise was that it is more difficult to keep a Republic properly operating than other forms of government. Why is that?

John Adams warned:

“Avarice, ambition, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Why did he say such a thing?

Because a Republic is the form of government that maximizes personal freedom and agency. When we lose our morality based on Judeo-Christian values, we are no longer capable of self-rule. We devolve into creatures that must have masters and we then readily accept them because we are incapable of exercising our agency, lost in the same proportion as we have given up our individual responsibility and ability to govern ourselves.

In 1966, Ezra Taft Benson said the following at a BYU devotional:

“We must be careful that we are not led to accept or support in any way, any organization, cause or measure, which in its remotest efforts would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or in any other field. It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support, we must be right.”

There are only two forms of government available in this world. That which has masters, and that which has freedom and self-rule under a set of laws that protect God given rights. The former is identified under many names such as Communism, Fascism, Socialism, and even Democracy as shown in the video above, but the latter is known by few names including Republic.

“The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.”- Alexis de Tocqueville

The great question then is, will we be free men, or slaves?

“It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights – the “right” to education, the “right” to health care, the “right” to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery – hay and a barn for human cattle.”- P.J. O’Rourke

Click here to see what C.S. Lewis had to say about the American education system in a short clip from his classic essay, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast“.

6 Responses to “Why a Republic?”

  • edarrell:

    At the far right you have 100% government, too. The narrator claims that Naziism is just another form of socialism — savaging history, politics and reality.

    Somewhere in the middle of a spectrum, you'd have anarchy. That's no government. It's not an ideal in human experience (unless you like the world of “Mad Max”), and it doesn't make roads that work.

    But trying to make a spectrum of “good” and “bad” simply reveals the problem: Governments of humans are not all one thing and nothing of another. Humans don't work that way.

    Are you offering Ben Franklin as the “model Founder?” Do we get to adopt his irreligion, his advocacy of nudity, and other social views, as well?

  • Ed, did you actually watch the whole video? Rather than say left is communism and right is fascism, a much better model that was presented is that the left is total government power, and the right side is anarchy with a sliding scale of how much power and influence government has over your life. We don't want either end. A Republic rests in-between these two points, balancing limited government of necessary things and maximizing freedom for the people.

    Franklin was a great man and there is no reason to tear him down. If it wasn't for Franklin, we would not have won the Revolutionary War. His efforts with France funded the war and brought it to a close.

    For about 4 years in his 20's he was a deist and then went to Christianity though he had some doubts as to Jesus' divinity. He was not irreligious and in a letter to Ezra Stiles (President of Yale) at the end of his life he wrote this:

    “Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion.” (Smyth, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 10:84)

  • edarrell:

    Rather than say left is communism and right is fascism, a much better model that was presented is that the left is total government power, and the right side is anarchy with a sliding scale of how much power and influence government has over your life.

    That's not a right-left scale that any historian or political scientist would recognize. Naziism was opposed to communism, yet both went off the rails united with totalitarianism. To claim that Hitler was a lefty is complete lunacy.

    So, who is the guy who made that wacky video? Which Comedy Central program was he trying out for?

    We don't want either end. A Republic rests in-between these two points, balancing limited government of necessary things and maximizing freedom for the people.

    A good description of a democracy.

    Franklin was a great man and there is no reason to tear him down.

    Then don't. He was a great man, and he wasn't on your side.

    If it wasn't for Franklin, we would not have won the Revolutionary War. His efforts with France funded the war and brought it to a close.

    For about 4 years in his 20's he was a deist and then went to Christianity though he had some doubts as to Jesus' divinity. He was not irreligious and in a letter to Ezra Stiles (President of Yale) at the end of his life he wrote this:

    “Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion.” (Smyth, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 10:84)

    Why do you edit Franklin? On the one hand you claim he's a great man, but on the other hand you put things in his mouth and pen he did not write, and leave out essential things he did write and say.

    Your distortions of the founders' words and ideas really tick me off, you know? If you had a good point, you wouldn't need to twist what they said and wrote. Here's that entire paragraph in the letter to his friend, Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale:

    You desire to know something of my Religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it: But I do not take your Curiosity amiss, and shall endeavour in a few Words to gratify it. Here is my Creed: I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental Principles of all sound Religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever Sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: tho' it is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble. I see no harm however in its being believed, if that Belief has the good Consequence as probably it has, of making his Doctrines more respected and better observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the Believers, in his Government of the World, with any particular Marks of his Displeasure. I shall only add respecting myself, that having experienced the Goodness of that Being, in conducting me prosperously thro' a long Life, I have no doubt of its Continuance in the next, tho' without the smallest Conceit of meriting such Goodness. My Sentiments in this Head you will see in the Copy of an old Letter enclosed, which I wrote in answer to one from a zealous Religionist whom I had relieved in a paralitic Case by Electricity, and who being afraid I should grow proud upon it, sent me his serious, tho' rather impertinent, Cautions. I send you also the Copy of another Letter, which will shew something of my Disposition relating to Religion. With great and sincere Esteem and Affection, I am, Dear Sir, Your obliged old Friend and most obedient humble Servant

    B Franklin

    [There is a good account of the letter and the period of his life, just a few weeks before his death, in Ronald W. Clark's biography of Franklin, p. 413]

    Franklin was much the deist his entire life. He contributed to Christian ministries, and Jewish, and atheist — he was a staunch defender of Thomas Paine who was greatly reviled for his atheism, despite his great contributions to the American revolution. Franklin left home before getting deeply into any sect, and then never did (unless you count the work of Dr. Mesmer a religious sect).

    You would do well to read Franklin's Autobiography, and follow it up with one of the very good volumes on his life, the one by Walter Isaacson, or Edmund Morris, or Ronald W. Clark.

    It is pure pretense to contend Franklin was Christian. In one of his most famous pranks, at the height of dissension Franklin proposed to the delegates of the Constitutional Convention that they might consider opening their sessions with prayer. It would have been easy to do; several preachers and vestrymen were delegates, and any preacher, rabbi or other religious official in Philadelphia would have been happy to pray for free. But that wasn't Franklin's intention. He wished to put an end to the warring between factions each claiming to be Christian and having the high moral ground from God. The sight of the world's most famous deist or atheist proposing prayer embarrassed the delegates quite enough. The meeting was adjourned; some accounts say the motion died for lack of a second, some say it was voted down the next day, but all accounts agree that the delegates achieved the Great Compromise within a few days, and the convention was saved.

    The joke wouldn't have worked from a Christian.

    You try to steal the patriots as a fellow traveller in Christianity. That's dishonest, and unbecoming. Let's take them at their word, and take them as they were.

  • Ed, communism and fascism are a heck of a lot more related than anarchy. The traditional left-right model with communism on the left and fascism on the right is outdated. Total government vs. no government is a much better model to assign government systems to. Communism and Fascism both share atheism, government control of production and resources, and control of the lives of citizens. Anarchy at the other end would have none of this but also not provide protection for citizens. Therefore a republic of limited government is what the Framers settled on to give us the very best system of protecting personal rights and freedom.

    As for Franklin, my point was, and still is, that he thought the doctrines of Christ to be the very best even though he had his doubts about Jesus' divinity. He also attended Christian churches to observe what was being taught, and as the quote above demonstrates, he was a firm believer in God and during the heated discussions of the constitutional debate offered these words.

    Your statement about Franklin “pranking” the assembly is pure nonsense and for someone who continues to espouse turning to the actual record, you should read it yourself. Franklin was quite clearly not joking around.

    [Ben Franklin said]
    “In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard; and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need [His] assistance?

    “I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, or conquest.

    “I, therefore, beg leave to move:

    “That hereafter prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

    (Smyth, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 9:600-601.)

    The reason the motion failed was because they had no funds to hire clergymen and because the people didn't want to change the proceedings at that point after having carried on so far without it. It did have the effect of settling the mood though and within a short time they accomplished their task.

    After signing the constitution, Franklin left the building whereupon a woman asked him “Well, Doctor, what have we got-a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” (Papers of Dr. James McHenry on the Federal Convention of 1787 in Charles Tansill's “Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States” p. 952).

    I like this quote from Franklin as well.

    “That Being who gave me existence, and through almost threescore years has been continually showering his favors upon me, whose very chastisements have been blessings to me; can I doubt that he loves me? And, if he loves me, can I doubt that he will go on to take care of me, not only here but hereafter? This to some may seem presumption; to me it appears the best grounded hope: hope of the future, built on experience of the past.” -Smyth 4:248

    And this one:
    “Being mindful that before I address the Deity my soul ought to be calm and serene, free from passion and perturbation, or otherwise elevated with rational joy and pleasure, I ought to use a countenance that expresses a filial respect, with a kind of smiling, that signifies inward joy, and satisfaction, and admiration.” – Smyth 2:94

    And this one:
    “Having taken care to do what appears to be for the best, we must submit to God's providence which orders all things really for the best.“-Smyth 3:103

  • edarrell:

    The traditional left-right model with communism on the left and fascism on the right is outdated. Total government vs. no government is a much better model to assign government systems to.

    So, then, you think a strong-but-not-totalitarian communist government is qualitatively no different from a strong U.S. federal government. I think that's an obviously defective view, and I can't imagine why you'd subscribe to it. Any strong government with a democratic foundation is better than a strong government without a democratic foundation, in the long run (though it may offer problems in the short run.

    Communism and Fascism both share atheism,

    Not the French or Italian communists, who were Catholic, nor the Mormons who founded Orderville, Utah, who were Mormon. There is no inherent reason that any totalitarian government should be atheist, and through history, most have been closely tied to a religion.

    The fascist governments of the German Third Reich, Mussolini's Italy, and Japan circa 1930 to 1945, were all religiously based.

    I don't mean to seem rude, but have you ever studied history?

    government control of production and resources,

    Not true of Nazi Germany, nor fascist Japan in World War II, nor of Italy. There was a lot of interference from the government, but no nationalization. You might do well to study von Mises's graphic novel version of socialism. (I'd post a link, but when I do my posts go to your moderation cue — do you ever let posts out from there?)

    . . . and control of the lives of citizens.

    Again, I think you'd be hard put to find real examples. Not necesssarily so of fascist governments.

    Anarchy at the other end would have none of this but also not provide protection for citizens. Therefore a republic of limited government is what the Framers settled on to give us the very best system of protecting personal rights and freedom.

    You'd do well to study what the delegates to the Philadelphia convention actually used as models, and why. They did not discuss anarchy. They did not discuss any form of modern socialism, apart from the discussions of a monarchy. Among other things, they needed a strong central government in order to provide a framework for and protection of development. Specifically, Washington needed assurances he could sell his lands in the Ohio Valley, and that the settlers there could develop them. That required a strong national government of some sort, in order to settle and square the land rights and “dispose” of the lands.

    The government settled on was republican in form, but also a lot less democratic than it has grown. Senators were elected by the state legislatures until the 17th Amendment; increasing the amount of democracy in governments in the U.S. was a chief goal of the Progressive Movement, which got that amendment passed, and pushed for the 19th Amendment as well (Women's Suffrage). They also pushed for initiative and referendum powers in the states, often successfully, short-circuiting the republican structure the founders created. Ironically, many of these democratic initiatives, like the disaster-causing Proposition 13 in California, are probably initiatives you like, and would never have been possible in a more republican structure.

  • Ed, interesting comments at the end of your post. So are you a progressive and in favor of the 17th amendment, or are you against the 17th amendment? Are you in favor of initiatives and referendums, or not?

    I'm well aware the delegates didn't discuss anarchy because they all knew it wasn't a viable political system that hasn't ever been used by a nation.

    “So, then, you think a strong-but-not-totalitarian communist government is qualitatively no different from a strong U.S. federal government.”

    When you measure individual liberty of the citizens of a nation, it really doesn't matter when there's no free speech if you're under a communist or fascist regime. You still have a loss of liberty. That's what I'm saying.

    You're right on fascists and religion. They don't preach atheism but what I should have said was they often turn against religions. Hitler did have a plan to turn against Christians. From this NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/13/weekinreview/…) you'll find this quote:

    According to Baldur von Schirach, the Nazi leader of the German youth corps that would later be known as the Hitler Youth, ''the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement'' from the beginning, though ''considerations of expedience made it impossible'' for the movement to adopt this radical stance officially until it had consolidated power, the outline says.

    The article mentions a 108-page outline prepared by the O.S.S. to be used at the Nuremburg trials entitled “The Persecution of the Christian Churches” and called this plan ''an integral part of the National Socialist scheme of world conquest.''

    Another interesting article that discusses Hitler's birth to Catholicism and his turning to pagan worship is here: http://www.adherents.com/people/ph/Adolf_Hitler

    Also, have you resolved your Franklin issue that he really did believe in God and was not “pranking” the convention Christians? Among all of the signers of the Declaration, the Constitition, or the Articles of Confederation, only 3 were declared deists (if only for some time as in Franklin's case certainly). Here's a link that shows the tally and individuals by name: http://www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_R

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.