Remember the reply Benjamin Franklin gave when asked what type of government the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had created. He stated, “ A republic, if you can keep it.”

Many Americans believe that we live in a democracy. This claim is almost universally accepted in the news media, but is it true?

If the United States of America is a “democracy,” then why, in the Pledge of Allegiance that used to be universally recited by schoolchildren every morning, is reference made to the “republic (not “democracy”) for which it (the flag) stands”? Why is the famous war hymn not titled “The Battle Hymn of the Democracy”?

In The Federalist, No. 10, James Madison clearly spells out the difference between democracies and republics. A “pure democracy” he defined as “a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person,” while a “republic” is “a government in which the scheme of representation takes place.” Based on the example of the ancient Greek city-states, Madison opined that democracies are inherently unstable and short-lived, “spectacles of turbulence and contention” that were actually injurious to liberty; as in the French Revolution (1789-1799).

Democracy in theory was more beloved of egalitarians (later named socialists) than of true partisans of liberty. In republics, the instability occasioned by direct self-government is tempered by the “scheme of representation.” Delegation of government duties to elected officials, stated Madison, would “refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” Put otherwise, republics, by ensuring that decisions are made by bodies of elected or appointed magistrates, are far less likely to act precipitously and unwisely, especially in times of crisis or public agitation. This is because duly-appointed government bodies have the ability to deliberate, which the general public does not.

Thus, while our electoral system is partly democratic, and other features of direct democracy, such as town hall meetings and referenda, are found here and there, the United States was created to be, and remains (at least in intent), a republic – a government of laws, and not of men.

Remember the reply Benjamin Franklin gave when asked what type of government the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had created. He stated, “ A republic, if you can keep it.”

Let us strive to keep it.

Steve Czonstka, Okaloosa Republican State Committeeman, Niceville