Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Letter To My Son's [then] 5th-Grade Teacher

Democracy or Republic

Dear Mrs. Jackson,

Question #4 on the “Thinking About Our Government” Q & A homework for Dominic is confusing, as is question #5. As the included paper shows that the Founders wrote about why we were not to be a democracy? Take note that as well Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution reads:

“The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government…”

I told Dominic to hold off on the above-mentioned questions until this apparent discrepancy is resolved. I am telling him that we do not have a democracy but a republic, and I am basing these on the Constitution and the authors (and signers) understanding of it (commonly referred to as “original intent”). Also note that I realize that California is becoming a real democracy, which may explain some of our “woes” (as I see it) in this progressive state.

Our Founders had an opportunity to establish a democracy in America but chose not to. In fact, they made very clear that we were not – and never to become – a democracy:

  • James Madison (fourth President, co-author of the Federalist Papers and the “father” of the Constitution) -- “Democracies 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.”
  • John Adams (American political philosopher, first vice President and second President) – “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
  • Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration) -- “A simple democracy… is one of the greatest of evils.”
  • Fisher Ames (American political thinker and leader of the federalists [he entered Harvard at twelve and graduated by sixteen], author of the House language for the First Amendment) --“A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will provide an eruption and carry desolation in their way.´ / “The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness [excessive license] which the ambitious call, and the ignorant believe to be liberty.”
  • Governor Morris (signer and penman of the Constitution) -- “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.”
  • John Quincy Adams (sixth President, son of John Adams [see above]) -- “The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.”
  • Noah Webster (American educator and journalist as well as publishing the first dictionary) -- “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.”
  • John Witherspoon (signer of the Declaration of Independence) -- “Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state -- it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.”
  • Zephaniah Swift (author of America’s first legal text) -- “It may generally be remarked that the more a government [or state] resembles a pure democracy the more they abound with disorder and confusion.”