Constitution Day - We are not a Democracy
Over the years I have been writing an Independence Day article to remind us of the sacrifice our founding fathers made. In the article I wrote this year, Slavery & the Original Declaration of Independence, I mentioned I wrote a second article. Honestly, this was the article I was writing first before I decided to change the topic the week before Independence Day.
Since this topic actually relates more to the Constitution, I thought it was be a good idea to release this article on Constitution Day. I don't plan on writing an article for Constitution Day every year.
You can read past Independence Day articles HERE.
Some of you may have scratched your head with the title of this article. I stand by the title, our government is not meant to be a democracy.
What is a Democracy?
We are use to hearing the news and our leaders call our government a democracy. The word is even used to attack other viewpoints or actions; claiming that an opposing party is attacking our nations "democracy".
"The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy." - Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 11/07/2012
"This man is the nominee of the Party of Lincoln. We are watching it become the party of Trump. And that's not just a huge loss for our democracy - It is a threat to it." - Hillary Clinton 07/13/2016
"... our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before." - Barack Obama 08/19/2020
These are just a few quotes of countless said every day by our politicians. Are we a democracy? In the sense of having the common person being able to give his/her voice by voting for their leaders; yes, we do have a democratic process. However, it is different than how most democratic governments act.
My short definition of a true democracy: a government which operates by direct majority vote of the people.
51% dictate what happens to the other 49%
Ruled by what the majority is feeling
The highest "law of the land" is the majority of people
Most major democracies in Europe is some kind of representative democracy system; the population does vote for their leaders, and a simple majority of the represented leaders decides governmental policy. Not every action is voted on by the entire population, but a representative democracy can have any action or issue set out for the entire nation to vote on. An example of that is Brexit; 52% of the nation voted to leave the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron only put the referendum to vote because of an election promise he made, even though he didn't want to leave the EU. When the votes were final he resigned the next day because he didn't like the outcome. Israel completed their FIFTH prime minister election in less than 2 years because they can't finalize majority vote in their democratic election structure.
Our Founders hated the idea of a Democracy. Here are some quotes of our Founding Fathers commenting on democracies.
"Hence it is that such 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."(1) - James Madison
"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."(2) - John Adams
"The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness [excessive license] which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty."(3) - Fisher Ames, (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 produce an eruption and carry desolation in their way."(4) - Fisher Ames
"The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived."(5) - John Quincy Adams
"A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest of evils. A democracy is a mobocracy."(6) - Benjamin Rush
"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"(7) - Noah Webster
In short, a democracy at it's very core is mob rule mentality. Laws are often passed on a whim, during the heat of the moment, and fueled by rage against a particular group of people. Whoever has the loudest argument tends to 'win'.
Article IV section IV garantees our republic, and every state a republic.
"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."
A republic elects representatives who come together to pass laws and governs the nation. Ruled by the rule of law. A Constitutional republic says, "It doesn't matter who you elect, all elected leaders are subject to the pre-written law (the Constitution) that restrains what they can do."
Focus is protecting individual rights
Pre-written law is the highest law in the land (The US Constitution)
Government is restricted on what laws they can pass
A representative government
Our Constitution and Declaration make references to "unalienable rights" and the laws-of-nature. These rights were not to be infringed on by our government. The reason why our Founders put together the Bill of Rights was to clarify the guaranteed rights of citizens. They are admonishments to all governments of the United States that they can never amend, eliminate, or infringe upon these rights. In a democracy any law can be passed as long as a simple majority agrees. Our republic protects individual rights by restraining what the government is able do. A simple majority cannot take away the rights from any minority.
A system in our government that helps establish us as a Republic is the Electoral College.
Electoral College outlined from Article II, Section 1
a) "Each State shall appoint, in such Mannger as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative or person holding Office of Trust or Profit under the United States shall be appointed an Elector."
"The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the united States."
b) Electoral College increases the importance of smaller and less populated areas. Increasing the diversify of thought in elections.
c) Helps protect against voter fraud.
d) Only a handful of cities would control the entire nation without the Electoral College.
e) Helps remove the Federal Government to run national elections.
There is a growing movement to remove the Electoral College and place a pure populous vote for the presidency. The removal of electoral college would be a big step in the wrong direction.
U.S. Constitution vs Others
The United States Constitution is the oldest codified constitution of any sovereignty in existence. There are older constitutions for smaller forms of governments, for example the state of Massachusetts. When you consider sovereign independent states, the United States has the oldest.
For those of you who have never considered it, this is a big deal. This supports that our form of government works. Think about the famous French Revolution which started just after the American Revolution. Since then, France has had seventeen different forms of government compared to our one. One of the French Constitutions lasted just 21 days.
From my knowledge, among the major countries, our Constitution is the only one that is a "Negative Rights Constitution." Simply, our government doesn't give rights to people. The Constitution defines rights that government cannot interfere with. Our Founders believe that governments couldn't create rights for people. If they could, that means government could also take those rights away. Instead, our Republic is meant to limit what rights government can't interfere with. Namely; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property).
Conclusion - What are you doing for the republic?
I have no problem when people use the word "democracy" to explain the freedom of ordinary citizens being able to participate in governmental affairs. The problem we should have is when it's used to attack or expand political agendas. Too often the word is used as a cover up.
There are no documents from our Founding Fathers that speaks of our country as a democracy. Including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. They rightly viewed democracy as dangerous to the rights of minorities.
Alexander Hamilton urged the ratification of the Constitution in New York on June 21, 1788. He wrote the following regarding democracy:
"It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity."
The Founders knew that a democracy is always one step away from tyranny or anarchy. The next time you feel our government is "slow", in gridlock, or doing nothing; that was purposely intended. A government that cannot swiftly make policy based on simply majority alone is a government that is built to protect the rights of all individuals.
Having said that, what are you doing to protect our republic?
Do you reach out to your federal and state congressman on issues you care about? Are you involved in your small town government? Do you attend school board meetings? Is there anything you are doing to help keep our Republic?
I urge you, get involved. As the famous quote that keeps being repeated lately that Benjamin Frankly supposedly said to a women when she asked what form of government they gave us, "A republic... If you can keep it."
Evergreen Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment adviser. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.
Special Thanks to Wallbuilders for their collection of original documents of American history.
1) Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, The Federalist on the New Constitution (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 53, #10, James Madison.
2) 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.
3) Ames, Works, p. 384, “The Dangers of American Liberty,” February 1805.
4) Fisher Ames, Works of Fisher Ames (Boston: T. B. Wait & Co., 1809), p. 24, Speech on Biennial Elections, delivered January, 1788.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) 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.