Constitution: The U.S. Is Not A Democracy

Note: Over the years word meanings have changed.  In order to understand the Constitution, it is imperative that we understand the words used as the Founding Fathers understood them, rather than how we define them today. The following video explains.  (note: Because of the very informative comments below which were  made by Stephen, I have added the following video:)

Websters on line dictionary(1913 and 1928)

While attending college in the 60’s I was taught that the U.S. was a “Democratic Republic”.  My Father would  rebuttal by saying, “no, we are a Republic.  Thinking my professors, and text books  knew more than my Dad, I dismissed his words.

But in more recent times, I notice students are being taught that the U.S. is a Democracy…leaving out Republic all together.  My curiosity began to get the best of me, and I discovered that in the 60’s (and even earlier)  the U.S. educational system began rewriting history: my father was right!

Democracy

Defined: A government by the people; a government in which the power is lodged in the hands of the majority.  Athens, Greece had a Democracy.

  • Judge Napolitano , a Constitutional Attorney,  points  out that, in a Democracy, the majority can vote to take your property, and your freedom if they so desire.
  • Results: mobocracy/mob rule
  • Majority rules without restraint or regard to consequences
  • History shows that Democracies result in agitation, discontent and eventually anarchy.  As a result, this form of government has always ended in a collapse.
  • The Federalist Papers (Signet Classics)U.S. Politics Books) : James Madison, “Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security of rights of property: and have in general been as short lived in their duration as they have been violent in their Deaths.”
  • If one reads the Constitution they will discover the word democracy never appears, but the word Republic does.  Have you ever noticed we “pledge allegiance to the Republic”?

We have done a disservice to the Egyptians now demonstrating in their Country for freedom by telling them we are a Democracy.  If they had been told the truth, they might now be putting the emphasis on the creation of a Constitution (which would limit the powers of their  government), rather than demonstrating for higher wages. Could this also be part of the story of what is happening now in the U.S.?

Republic

U.S. Constitution

  • Defined: The sovereign power is vested in representatives elected by the people.
  • Authority is derived through elections by the people who elect those they think best suited to represent them.
  • Respects individual rights, laws and sensible economic procedure, with strict regard to consequences
  • As long as the people are vigilant, and make sure there elected officials are limited by the Constitution, it results in liberty, justice, contentment, and progress
  • The government is restricted, and the people are free to create as long as they do not commit a crime (harm another)
  • Federalist Papers James Madison: “The first question that offers itself is, whether the general form of the government be strictly republican.  It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America: with the fundamental principles of the revolution; or with that honorable determination which animated every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.  If the plan of the convention, therefore, be found to depart from the republican character, its advocates must abandon it as no longer defensible.”
  • Justice Joseph Story: “This Constitution is truly republican, and forms a splendid era in the history of man.

We do ourselves, our children and one another a disservice if we do not point out that the U.S. is not a democracy, and never has been. The book,  A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States: Containing a Brief Commentary on Every Clause, Explaining the True Nature, Reasons, and … Designed for the Use of School Libraries and… Is an excellent resource for teaching, and learning about our true history, and the U.S. Constitution.

As you can see, in a Republic, Egyptians would not be in a position in which they find themselves protesting a government for higher wages.  Instead,  they would first protest  for a Constitutionally limited government…a government that would not have that power over them in the first place.

In a Republic, teachers would not be working for the government, but for a free enterprise run by the parents of the children they teach .

The Book JR mentions in his comment below is: Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st CenturyU.S. Politics Books)

Thanks goes to both of these gentlemen for improving this post.

One can read more about why definition changes have taken place at this link: The Constitution And The Welfare Clause

 

 

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About Roma Cox

Education has always been my passion, and I am blessed beyond measure to be allowed to serve in this way. We offer many educational products and school supplies, information, workshops, news letters, tutoring services, volunteer work, and free consultations. Roma can be reached at (904)317-5330 from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. EST-U.S.
This entry was posted in Lesson Plans, The U.S. Constitution and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Constitution: The U.S. Is Not A Democracy

  1. What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It absolutely helpful and it has helped me out loads. I am hoping to give a contribution & aid different users like its helped me. Great job.

  2. Tookymalo says:

    The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty, not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people.

  3. Stephen says:

    The US is technically a “representative democracy” where the citizens have a free vote to elect representatives who then vote on legislation, etc., as opposed to a direct democracy. Hence the US is a republic and a representative democracy, like, say, France, and unlike the UK, which is a constitutional monarchy and also a representative democracy.

    Why people continually incorrectly deny that the US is a democracy instead of correctly denying the far more limited assertion that the US is a direct democracy is a mystery.

    • Jess says:

      Many people are surprised to discover that no where in the Constitution does it use the word democracy, but you will find the word Republic.

      Ever noticed we pledge elegance to the Republic..

      • Stephen says:

        Jess: there are many things contained in the constitution which surprise people (e.g., that international treaties trump state laws), and things whose absence is perhaps just as surprising! For example, there’s no mention in the US constitution of the US being a republic – the only reference being that the US guarantees that each state should have a republican form of government, not the US itself.

      • Stephen says:

        Jess: there are many things in the constitution which surprise people (e.g., that international treaties ratified by the Senate pre-empt state law) and things which are missinng, perhaps equally surprising. The only reference to “republic” in the text of the Constitution itself is in Art. IV, where the US guarantees a republican form of government to each state – no mention is made of whether the US is a republic.

        Of course, the Constitution implicitly establishes that the US is a republic, without needing to say so explicitly.

        • ~JL says:

          Stephen,

          You just answered your question yourself. The U.S. is a Republic via the states. A Democracy would blanket ALL states under one law, but because the founding fathers saw the danger in a direct Democracy they made the states Republic and gave more control to the individual states, interesting to see how it all has gotten so perverted. The United States of America is compiled by all 50 states, which is made up of WE THE PEOPLE.

          Under modern times Progressives are Marxists. They came up with that wonderful name about mid-twentieth century when the American people clearly rejected Communism. It has nothing to do with the Progressive era.

    • Roma Cox says:

      Stephen, if one uses today’s definition of Democracy, you would be absolutely correct. However if one uses the definition of the word Democracy during the time period the Constitution was written (which was the intent of the Founding Fathers), one would differ.

      I am using early documents in my presentation of the Constitution because they give a more accurate understanding.

      • Stephen says:

        Roma, granted that the US was not a democracy in the narrow definition used at the time of the FFs (and indeed, not by the modern definition given the constrains on voting eligibility), if someone wants to state the proposition, “the US is not a democracy” it is reasonable to suppose that they’re using the modern definition – indeed, it would be perverse to think otherwise.

        If according to the normal modern usage the US is a democracy – a point we’re agreed on – then it is still a mystery why so many people think that by virtue of its being a republic, it isn’t.

        • Roma Cox says:

          It is absolutely imperative that we understand the definition of democracy as the Founding Fathers understood it, if we are to understand the Constitution and quotes they wrote:

          “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” John Adams

          “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the right of the other 49 percent.” Thomas Jefferson

          “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.” John Marshal

          “Democracy is the road to socialism.” Karl Marx

          I can’t resist adding this one: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government-least it come to dominate our lives and interests.” Patrick Henry

  4. J.R. says:

    Hi, Roma. I decided to pay you a visit and join the conversation.
    Note to Stephen (and other readers): U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 4. “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.”
    We also, in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States say, “…and to the Republic for which it stands…” Also, please be reminded of our “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Through whatever stages it goes, a Democracy leads to Oligarchy, the rule of the elite few—and it ultimately fails.
    Reference to treaties can be found in Article II, Section 2. Referring to the President’s power to make treaties, “He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;…” This shows the President cannot carte blanche, of his own volition, make treaties, and his power to do so depends on concurrence of 2/3 of the Senators present and voting, which is neither an unsurmountable barrier, nor an easy vote count to attain.
    I don’t like the unclear and awkward wording about treaties myself, but believe you might be misunderstanding Article. VI. It is a difficult read, but in looking at the wording, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made…,”
    I believe “which shall be made in Pursuance thereof, reinforces that all else derives from the Constitution itself, according to the sovereign states’ framers drafting of it and joining together as sovereign states to form a union that would serve the states for the mutual benefit and defense of the states and the citizens of the states. I believe this passage, which does not mention the “supreme Court,” means that the several states are sovereign, and they have constitutionally preserved power and authority to determine what will be enforced within their boundaries. Other than the few delegated powers of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the federal union. All other powers were, and are, reserved to the states.
    States were also provided the authority and means to amend the Constitution and to determine whether laws passed on the federal level adhere to the Constitution and would be enforced within their sovereign borders. Basically, it implies the basic sovereign right of the states to interposition or nullification of laws or acts they believe to be unconstitutional.
    One means to abolish or change a treaty would would be a consititutional convention to Amend the constitution itself. It is from the Constitution itself, that the right or power to enter a treaty derives, and from that same Constitution itself, from which the Amendment process derives. The Amendment process, in and of itself, acknowledges the supremacy of the sovereign states. Further, the Constitution does not include wording to prevent the withdrawal from a treaty. At the time of the drafting and signing of the Constitution, the framers intended the several states to be sovereign and would most certainly have known that circumstances change over time and the need for a particular treaty could end or a need to change it might occur. Plus, in many other writings of the time, it was very clear that the framers believed the states were sovereign and that the federal union they created and signed into being was subordinate to the several sovereign states.
    I would like to add that I admire the fact that you are on this website discussing things that are so very important for all American citizens to know and understand. Our country and our freedoms depend on serious-minded and thoughtful people like yourself and the other concerned citizens and commenters looking for understanding and the truth. I know that I don’t know everything and am only expressing what, after a great deal of research and careful thought and analysis, I believe.
    I would strongly recommend the hugely successful writings of Thomas Woods, whose book, “Nullification,” shows how nullification is a viable and necessary means toward the end of preventing tyranny in this great country. He couldn’t have written it at a more needed time, for we are staring in the face of the threat of tyranny even as I write.

    • Stephen says:

      JR: just a quick drive-by on treaties…this section on treaties: ” and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” shows that the FFs not only intended treaties to supersede state laws, but that they envisaged that states might not recognise this and the judges – clearly being granted the power to rule on laws – were nonetheless bound to rule accordingly.

      FWIW the Supreme Court has ruled that where Congressional legislation is in contradiction to existing treaties, even if it does not say so specifically, the relevant part of the treaty is automatically rescinded. I forget the case – one of the Texas Mexican DP cases, IIRC – but they ruled that the AEDPA had the effect of rescinding part of the Vienna Convention.

      • J.R. says:

        Well, Stephen, evidently SCOTUS disagreed with your interpretation of the supremacy of Treaties above even the Constitution itself, from which Treaties and the U.S. Congress derive, as do the Presidency and the SCOTUS. As you stated above “the Supreme Court has ruled that where Congressional legislation is in contradiction to existing treaties, even if it does not say so specifically, the relevant part of the treaty is automatically rescinded.” Rescinded means reversed or removed, ie. that “relevant part of the treaty” becomes void.

        Congressional legislation IS “a thing in the Constitution.” Making laws is the major role of the U.S. Congress, along with Congress’ other enumerated powers. The Constitution is the law of the land, and if you take your argument to its extreme, a treaty could be entered into to negate the Constitution itself.

        The Constitution does not subjugate or negate the role of the SCOTUS in determining the constitutionality or appropriate power of a treaty, as SCOTUS proves in its ruling that an offending part of a treaty can be rescinded. Would your argument still be the same if a treaty entered into in one era became a danger to this country and its people in another era? Nations alliances and motives change, whereas the Constitution was designed to be permanent and constant, except insofar as it is amended through one of the constitutional enumerated processes for same. And, as we saw with the 18th Amendment, it didn’t work as intended and was later repealed.
        As for the FWIW comment, I would really like to see the case caption and number you are referring to and read the exact wording of the laws cited in support of and against it, as well as the final judgment in that case.
        I still believe there is a misreading of the phrase “to the Contrary notwithstanding.” And, as I wrote earlier, there is nothing prohibiting an Amendment to repeal and remove the offending wording implying supremacy of treaties, there is nothing prohibiting the two forms of Constitutional Conventions to repeal and remove it, and there is nothing prohibiting nullification of it by the sovereign states to render it null and void.
        Thanks for your reply, I will try to find the case to which you referred, and I respect your right to your opinion. If you find the case citation before I do, please post it here.

  5. ~JL says:

    What is disingenuous about that statement is that the Founding Fathers did not intend for the Supreme court to be the last word on what the U.S. Constitution Actually It Actually Said and Meant by Robert Natelson. Great book by the way.

  6. ~JL says:

    Stephen, That is a untruth, the founding fathers did not mean for the Supreme Court to have final word on the U.S. Constitution, only rarely but it has become a constant.

    You can read that in Robert G. Natelson’s book: The Original Constitution: What it Actually Said and Meant. Somehow it has gotten all perverted. Most of what Congress does IS unconstitutional. Many Congressional members break their oath of office daily. Even Ellison who gave his oath of office:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

    Presidential oath of office:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    Ellison gave his while swearing on the Qur’an which supports Sharia law being supreme over other laws. He should not be in Congress. No one who does not believe in the U.S. Constitution should be in Congress or allowed to break their oath of office, if you are in the military, and you break it, you are dishonorably kicked out.

    The U.K., France, Netherlands, Germany and many other countries have already made that mistake of allowing people to become citizens while not adapting their traditions and laws. That is what made America so exceptional in our early years. I was shocked to read that both the UK and Canada allow a person to become a legal citizen and have multiple wives because of their religion.

    • Stephen says:

      JL: the FFs must have meant the courts to rule on the meaning of the constitution because that is part of what “judicial power” (under Art III) meant even then. This is very clear. One only has to study the jurisprudence of England at the time (which prior to US independence was the law in the US as well – and still is, in some instances) to know that interpreting law fell under the aegis of the courts.

      As far as Ellison’s oath, etc. is concerned, as long as he does not in practice elevate Muslim law over US law in his legislative actions, he is not only entitled to continue to serve, the Constitution explicitly permits it in Article VI: ” but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”.

      I wonder how far you go in this – would you equally condemn a congressman who swore on a Christian bible, and made it clear that faced with a conflict between the US constitution and the bible, he’d choose the latter? And have you any references to support your claim of the UK’s and Canada’s permitting polygamy? It’s news to me…

      I think, too, we must tread very carefully when it comes to arguing about foreigners adapting to US ways – because the US signally failed to adapt to the ways of the existing inhabitants, and it’s hard to avoid special pleading.

      • Jess says:

        Stephen,

        I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this article:

        http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2011/05/14/in-public-statement-tsa-lies-about-the-constitution/

        (also linked to my name when you click on it)

        • Stephen says:

          Jess, thanks for that.

          There are, IMO, two distinct issues wrt the TSA. First, I have little doubt that the TSA is in violation of 4A. It’s not unique in that, of course (see also “warrantless wiretaps”, John Doe warrants, the aconstitutional doctrine of “no expectation of privacy”, etc.)

          (IMO the continuation of these concepts is due to the unholy bargain that arises when the Republican Party implements authoritarian measures, and the Democratic Party doesn’t do enough to get rid of them for fear of being depicted as soft on terror, crime, etc.)

          But until the Federal laws establishing the TSA and its functions are properly challenged in Federal courts, I’m afraid that on my reading of the constitution, the states have no leg to stand on wrt supremacy here – the reason being that the preamble to the constitution explicitly states as part of the function of the new constitution that it is to “insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty” and the laws concerning the TSA are clearly – or at least, presumptively – made in pursuance thereof (and without checking, I strongly suspect that the preambles to the legislation will state as much).

          So while it is true that the TSA statement does not accurately state the constitutional position – that’s not specifically what the supremacy clause means – it doesn’t mean that therefore Texas is right and can go ahead – the states cannot unilaterally decide that a law is unconstitutional and hence they can bypass it.

          Until the law is properly challenged in Federal court (and then Texas can file an amicus curiae brief if it wishes), the supremacy clause does indeed reign supreme even if one may wish it didn’t.

          • Jess says:

            Stephen,
            Here is what Judge Napolitano who is a Constitutional Attorney has to say about it:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q905NX1s-vw&feature=player_embedded#at=48

          • Stephen says:

            A good overview by Napolitano in the first video – and he seems to agree with me about the US’s being a democracy!

            The second video is different, as he’s significantly more partisan.

            He’s guilty of misrepresenting the financial cost – or rather, benefit – of the health care law. The financial benefit is surely independent of any (lack of) constitutional grounding.

            In tis comment about nullification, though, if I hear aright, he cited an instance of one state nullifying another state’s laws rather than a state nullifying Federal law.

            FWIW while I have little issue with the reduction of Federal power, I don’t think that this necessarily means that the states should get more. The history of the US is that the states too cannot be trusted to stand up for people’s rights – even to the present day, which is why in some places the Federal courts have to oversee state prison or election systems, for example, and why Lawrence v. Texas should not have been necessary.

  7. Stephen says:

    Glenn Beck is no authority on political definitions and he’s flat-out wrong here, for reasons I make clear earlier. He’s an= successful entertainer, no more.

    The only interesting question arising from the clip is given that his definition is in modern terms, false, why does he want his viewers to believe it to be true?

  8. Jess says:

    Though it is true that part of the U.S. had slaves, few know that some of our Founding Father helped in the Underground Railroad to free Slaves, and that the Constitution was written never using the word slave with the intention that one day all men would be free. http://www.read-phonics.com/constitution-slavery.html

    Here is a whole online library about why Democracy is not freedom (some of the authors are of good authority, and some I do not know their reputation) :
    http://www.democracyisnotfreedom.com/articles.asp

  9. Jess says:

    “The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply majoritarianism, which is inherently incompatible with real freedom. Our founding fathers clearly understood this, as evidenced not only by our republican constitutional system, but also by their writings in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere. James Madison cautioned that under a democratic government, “There is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.” John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect pre-existing rights. Yet how many Americans know that the word “democracy” is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents?
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul233.html

    • Stephen says:

      Indeed democracy does not equal freedom – note that liberal thinkers like John Stuart Mill counselled against the tyranny of the majority. Nonetheless in the modern definition of the word the US is a democratic republic. Note too that being a republic says nothing about freedom either – cf. North Korea or Venezuela (which destroys Adams’ critique).

      And the US constitution does provide a bulwark against a degree of that tyranny. Arguably, a representative democracy like the US is likely to be freer than a direct democracy because the representatives will generally have a better understanding of policy and its effects, and will be less likely to respond in a majoritarian fashion than the mobile vulgus. (Yet presidents do succumb – consider as an obvious example Nixon’s inexcusable pardoning of Lt. Calley, and the huge majority who approved of it.)

      But the fact that the US like other representative democracies has largely free elections means that the possibilities for tyranny are somewhat reduced, even though the majoritarian impulse is strong enough that anti-liberty policies like the War on Drugs, and laws like the Defense of Marriage Act survive after a series of elections.

      • Roma Cox says:

        As I watch the discussion between all of you, I see circles being made around the original definitions of words (like democracy), and today’s definitions. As a tutor talking with young people, I see the same divide between them and the older generations because words continue to change at a faster and faster rate.

        In the early days of American history, people talked openly and freely about the subject of politics. But for so long we were taught not to talk politics with anyone who might disagree with us, and now that we are talking, we find discussion but little understanding.

        I have also found there is truth on both sides, and more agreement then one might think. In trying to understand what the original writers of the Constitution meant in the words they used, I am discovering it is a greater document than I ever realized, and it is also a very unifying document. If we are ever going to restore the greatness of this country, we need to understand our roots which is very different from that of Europe’s because of our Constitution.

        P.S. An example of changing words:
        Protectionist to a globalist is an insult. The older generation thinks, “of course I want to protect my Country and my family (that is a good thing) , but that does not make me an isolationist.

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