The United States of America is not a democracy; it is a Republic. And for that every freedom-loving American should be grateful.
In a true democracy one person gets one vote and the whim of the majority becomes law. If the majority happens to be unreasonable, greedy, bigoted or hostile, there is little those in the minority can do but suffer the consequences.
One of the most democratic meetings in recorded history took place in the Middle East almost 2,000 years ago an unpopular and falsely accused young Hebrew teacher stood before a judge. The young man had committed no crime and the court was unable to find fault in him.
If the scene had taken place in 21st century America the judge would have declared a mistrial and would have released the prisoner. Despite the fact that the young Hebrew was the leader of an unpopular minority group, his rights would have been guaranteed under our Constitution.
Even first century Roman law would have protected Jesus. But Judge Pontius Pilate was a cheap politician who was not above giving the populace wanted if it would curry their favor. In violation of his own government’s high principles, Pilate turned his courtroom into a complete democracy. Everyone got one vote – men, women, children masters, servants – everyone. The verdict came quickly and decisively. “Crucify Him!” Democracy turned to mob-ocracy, and a despised but innocent man was nailed to a cross.
Because the Founding Fathers of our country knew the majority is not always right, they established a republic. The late Chief Justice John Marshall, who presided over the United States Supreme Court for 34 years, was called “the second maker of the Constitution.” He said, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”
The key word in Marshall’s statement is “balanced.” There are many republics in our world, and vast differences separate them. My travels have allowed me to see several of these firsthand. Consider the beautiful Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Occupying the western third of the island is the Republic of Haiti. Here in the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere the majority of the populace is illiterate and superstitious, and the average life expectancy is about 33 years. Although classed as a republic, Haiti has a long history of being ruled by a dictator who cared little about his people.
On the other end of the island, the Dominican Republic is also a poor country, but an elected president and legislature control the government. To travel from one end of the island o the other is to see two totally different worlds, the Dominican Republic having a vastly superior system.
To journey from the People’s Republic of China (Mainland) to the Republic of China (Taiwan) is to go from darkness into light. The People’s Republic of China is a republic in name only. Personal freedom is so limited in this communistic dictatorship that a person gets the feeling he is touring an immense prison camp. The contrast of Taiwan with its free enterprise system is startling to say the least.
So a republic is not necessarily a republic. The United States is distinguished from other republics of the world by our Constitution, which guards every citizen’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. According to the Declaration of Independence, those inalienable rights are given to man not by the government, but by the Creator Himself.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution.”
So stand tall and breathe a prayer of thanksgiving the next time you pledge allegiance to our flag “and to the republic for which it stands, one nation. under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”