• Exploring American History

. . . and to the Republic for which it stands . . .

As a child in school, I remember starting each day standing next to my desk with my hand on my chest, my eyes on the American flag as together my class recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all".

I confess, at that time in my life, I gave no thought to the meaning of the words I spoke. I only knew it was something we did at the beginning of each school day. Though I may not have understood the meaning at that time, something inside me still felt the words were special and it made me feel good to say them.

Years later as I learned about the founding of the government, I learned Benjamin Franklin, one of the framers of the Constitution, was asked what type of government the framers had created for the American people. He stated:

A republic; if you can keep it.

When you hear people speak about the government, so many of them state, “. . . our democracy . . .” But wait, Franklin and the pledge both say “republic”. Who’s right? Is there a difference?

As far as who’s right – Franklin and the pledge are. The United States is a republic, not a democracy.

Though many people tend to use the terms interchangeably, there is definitely a difference in the two.

While both terms refer to a form of government, the way in which the governing is handled is quite different.

- In a democracy, the population as a whole holds the power. The voting majority has almost unlimited power when it comes to creating laws in a democracy.

- In a republic, individual citizens do. The people as a group elect individuals to represent them and create the laws under which they live.

Ben Franklin left us with another statement that helps make it easier to understand:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.

Liberty (republic) is a well-armed lamb protesting the vote!

Though the idea of majority rules sounds like the right way to go, there is a major downside to the process. If you are not part of the majority, you have no voice, no rights. There are times when majority rules helps with respect to making decisions – for instance, deciding on where to go for supper or what movie to watch. When it comes to governing a nation, however, that’s a whole different story.

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