Republic - Other Meanings - United States

United States

A distinct set of definitions for the word republic evolved in the United States. In common parlance a republic is a state that does not practice direct democracy but rather has a government indirectly controlled by the people. This understanding of the term was originally developed by James Madison, and notably employed in Federalist Paper No. 10. This meaning was widely adopted early in the history of the United States, including in Noah Webster's dictionary of 1828. It was a novel meaning to the term; representative democracy was not an idea mentioned by Machiavelli and did not exist in the classical republics.

The term republic does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, but does appear in Article IV of the Constitution which "guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government." What exactly the writers of the constitution felt this should mean is uncertain. The Supreme Court, in Luther v. Borden (1849), declared that the definition of republic was a "political question" in which it would not intervene. In two later cases, it did establish a basic definition. In United States v. Cruikshank (1875), the court ruled that the "equal rights of citizens" were inherent to the idea of a republic.

However, the term republic is not synonymous with the republican form. The republican form is defined as one in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whom those powers are specially delegated. In re Duncan, 139 U.S. 449, 11 S.Ct. 573, 35 L.Ed. 219; Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162, 22 L.Ed. 627.

Beyond these basic definitions the word republic has a number of other connotations. W. Paul Adams observes that republic is most often used in the United States as a synonym for state or government, but with more positive connotations than either of those terms. Republicanism is often referred to as the founding ideology of the United States. Traditionally scholars believed this American republicanism was a derivation of the liberal ideologies of John Locke and others developed in Europe.

A political philosophy of republicanism that formed during the Renaissance period, and initiated by Machiavelli, was thought to have had little impact on the founders of the United States. In the 1960s and 1970s a revisionist school led by the likes of Bernard Bailyn began to argue that republicanism was just as or even more important than liberalism in the creation of the United States. This issue is still much disputed and scholars like Isaac Kramnick completely reject this view.

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Famous quotes related to united states:

    What lies behind facts like these: that so recently one could not have said Scott was not perfect without earning at least sorrowful disapproval; that a year after the Gang of Four were perfect, they were villains; that in the fifties in the United States a nothing-man called McCarthy was able to intimidate and terrorise sane and sensible people, but that in the sixties young people summoned before similar committees simply laughed.
    Doris Lessing (b. 1919)

    So here they are, the dog-faced soldiers, the regulars, the fifty-cents-a-day professionals riding the outposts of the nation, from Fort Reno to Fort Apache, from Sheridan to Stark. They were all the same. Men in dirty-shirt blue and only a cold page in the history books to mark their passing. But wherever they rode and whatever they fought for, that place became the United States.
    Frank S. Nugent (1908–1965)

    ... the yearly expenses of the existing religious system ... exceed in these United States twenty millions of dollars. Twenty millions! For teaching what? Things unseen and causes unknown!... Twenty millions would more than suffice to make us wise; and alas! do they not more than suffice to make us foolish?
    Frances Wright (1795–1852)

    The real charm of the United States is that it is the only comic country ever heard of.
    —H.L. (Henry Lewis)

    I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother’s side was not an Indian chief.
    Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960)