Few people are willing to criticize the myth that
"America is a democracy."
deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of
1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently,
anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall
when the proceedings ended in order to learn what
had been produced behind closed doors. The answer
was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of
Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well,
Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a
monarchy?" With no hesitation whatsoever,
Franklin responded, "A
if you can keep it."
exchange was recorded by Constitution signer James
McHenry in a diary entry that was later reproduced
in the 1906 American Historical Review.
Republic, If You Can Keep It - The New American
We have not kept it.
The essential difference between a Republic and a
Democracy is that a Republic is under
law, while in a democracy, "the
voice of the people is the voice of God" (vox
populi, vox dei). In a Republic the People may
democratically elect their representatives, but their
representatives do not simply rubber-stamp the will
of the people, but govern according to the "organic
v. Democracy by David Barton, Wallbuilders.com
|We have grown accustomed to
hearing that we are a democracy; such was never
the intent. The form of government entrusted to
us by our Founders was a republic, not a
Founders had an opportunity to establish a
democracy in America and chose not to. In fact,
the Founders made clear that we were not, and
were never to become, a democracy:
Many Americans today seem to be unable to define
the difference between the two, but there is a
difference, a big difference. That difference
rests in the source of authority.
[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of
turbulence and contention; have ever been found
incompatible with personal security, or the
rights of property; and have, in general, been
as short in their lives as they have been
violent in their deaths.2
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon
wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There
never was a democracy yet that did not commit
A democracy is a volcano which conceals the
fiery materials of its own destruction. These
will produce an eruption and carry desolation in
their way.4 The
known propensity of a democracy is to
licentiousness [excessive license] which the
ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be
Fisher Ames, Author of the House Language for
the First Amendment
We have seen the tumult of democracy terminate .
. . as [it has] everywhere terminated, in
despotism. . . . Democracy! savage and wild.
Thou who wouldst bring down the virtuous and
wise to thy level of folly and guilt.6
Gouverneur Morris, Signer and
Penman of the Constitution
[T]he experience of all former ages had shown
that of all human governments, democracy was the
most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.7
John Quincy Adams
A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest
Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration
In democracy . . . there are commonly tumults
and disorders. . . . Therefore a pure democracy
is generally a very bad government. It is often
the most tyrannical government on earth.9
Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be
carried far into the departments of state, it is
very subject to caprice and the madness of
John Witherspoon, Signer of the
It may generally be remarked that the more a
government resembles a pure democracy the more
they abound with disorder and confusion.11
Zephaniah Swift, Author of America's First Legal
Read the rest of this fine essay here.
Founding Fathers were passionately OPPOSED to
1. An example of this is demonstrated in
the anecdote where, having concluded their work on
the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin walked outside
and seated himself on a public bench. A woman
approached him and inquired, "Well, Dr.
Franklin, what have you done for us?" Franklin
quickly responded, "My dear lady, we have given
to you a republic--if you can keep it." Taken
from "America's Bill of Rights at 200
Years," by former Chief Justice Warren E.
Burger, printed in Presidential Studies Quarterly,
Vol. XXI, No. 3, Summer 1991, p. 457. This anecdote
appears in numerous other works as well.
2. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, The
Federalist on the New Constitution (Philadelphia:
Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 53, #10, James Madison.
3. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second
President of the United States, Charles Francis
Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James
Brown, 1850), Vol. VI, p. 484, to John Taylor on
April 15, 1814.
4. Fisher Ames, Works of Fisher Ames (Boston: T. B.
Wait & Co., 1809), p. 24, Speech on Biennial
Elections, delivered January, 1788.
5. Ames, Works, p. 384, "The Dangers of American
Liberty," February 1805.
6. Gouverneur Morris, An Oration Delivered on
Wednesday, June 29, 1814, at the Request of a Number
of Citizens of New-York, in Celebration of the Recent
Deliverance of Europe from the Yoke of Military
Despotism (New York: Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814), pp.
7. John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the
Constitution. A Discourse Delivered at the Request of
the New York Historical Society, in the City of New
York on Tuesday, the 30th of April 1839; Being the
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Inauguration of George
Washington as President of the United States, on
Thursday, the 30th of April, 1789 (New York: Samuel
Colman, 1839), p. 53.
8. Benjamin Rush, The Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H.
Butterfield, editor (Princeton: Princeton University
Press for the American Philosophical Society, 1951),
Vol. I, p. 523, to John Adams on July 21, 1789.
9. Noah Webster, The American Spelling Book:
Containing an Easy Standard of Pronunciation: Being
the First Part of a Grammatical Institute of the
English Language, To Which is Added, an Appendix,
Containing a Moral Catechism and a Federal Catechism
(Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews,
1801), pp. 103-104.
10. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon
(Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. VII, p. 101, Lecture
12 on Civil Society.
11. Zephaniah Swift, A System of the Laws of the
State of Connecticut (Windham: John Byrne, 1795),
Vol. I, p. 19.