Those who founded this country spoke the language and upheld the ideals of the republic. Most of us find that quaint and rarely take the time to ask why. But it’s a question worth asking. Why did the Founders want to create a republic and not a democracy?
The Hamiltons, Adamses, and most Federalists were frightened of democracy. For them it meant mobs in the streets. They believed in a aristocratic elite that would supply national leaders. The more radical Jefferson, his close ally Madison, and most of the Republicans embraced democratic principles and thought leaders could come from all social strata and all should participate equally (except, tragically, for slaves). This led them eventually to form what was called the Republican Democratic party.
But they all wanted to create on these shores a republic, patterned after the ancient Greek and Roman models, albeit on a scale never before realized. Up to our founding all republics had been small. Nevertheless, all republics throughout history have shared at least four common denominators: civic virtue (duty to participate); popular sovereignty (power to the people); resistance to corruption (special interest lobbying); and a sense of the commonwealth (we own many things in common that bind us together).
We have moved to the far end of democracy (my rights above all) at the expense of the republic (responsibility and duties). We’ve lost sight of the fact that we the people are the sovereign authority. The lobbyists control government. And we don’t want to be told we share a common-wealth and the responsibility for it.
If someone comes along to start a classic republican party, it would attract great interest among those of us who still believe in those four basic principles upon which our nation was founded.