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Talk:The United States is a republic, not a democracy

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References[edit]

I'm not a good writer, but I can at least start formatting the references I've collected. Hmmph (talk) 18:51, 18 July 2020 (UTC)

US civics for immigrants: [1] [2] and kids: [3] [4]

By a democracy is meant, that form of government where the highest power of making laws is lodged in the common people, or persons chosen out from them. This is what by some is called a republic, a commonwealth, or free state, and seems to be most agreeable to natural right and liberty.
Providence Gazette, August 9, 1777


For even if the terms “democracy” and “republic” were so distinguished in the eighteenth century, that distinction rapidly disappeared from ordinary usage, and what we mean by “democracy” today obviously includes the possibility of representative government.

However, that particular objection is not only trivial but it is also wrong. Despite Madison’s insistence to the contrary in The Federalist Papers, it is simply not true that “democracy” was consistently used to mean direct assembly government and “republic” to mean representative government.
The Pseudodemocratization of the American Presidency, Dahl, 1988


Even today one still encounters the pseudo-learned argument that the founding fathers intended the United States to be a republic but not a democracy
Adams, W.P. (1980) The First American Constitutions: Republican Ideology and the Making of the State Constitutions in the Revolutionary Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.



The confusion seems to stem from citing Madison, but he specifically defines his terms as direct democracy vs representative democracy: [5]

Hamilton wanted the same thing, but referred to it as "representative democracy".[6]

Dictionaries of the time had multiple definitions

  • Republic = rule by more than one
    • 1720 The new world of English words, 7th edition, Edward Phillips
    • 1755 and 1768 Johnson's Dictionary
    • 1790 A Complete Dictionary of the English Language, Sheridan
  • Republic = a nation governed by democracy
    • 1728 Chambers' Cyclopedia, 1st edition (excludes aristocracies)
  • Republic = a nation where people have the government "in their own hands"
    • 1760 Marchant A New Complete English Dictionary
    • 1773 Encyclopaedia Britannica 3rd ed.
  • Republic = not a monarchy
    • 1755 and 1768 Johnson's Dictionary
    • 1790 A Complete Dictionary of the English Language, Sheridan
  • Republic = rule by elected reps
    • 1806 Webster's Dictionary
  • Democracy = magistrates elected by the people
    • 1656 Glossographia, Thomas Blount ("save onely such as themselves choose")
    • 1717 An English dictionary, Elisha Coles
  • Democracy = supreme authority / sovereign power is lodged in the people (most have no mention of representative or direct)
    • 1720 The new world of English words, 7th edition, Edward Phillips
    • 1728 Chambers' Cyclopedia, 1st edition ("exercise the same by Persons of their own Order", Venice and Dutch are aristocratic republics)
    • 1755 and 1768 Johnson's Dictionary
    • 1760 Marchant A New Complete English Dictionary
    • 1783 English Etymology by George William Lemon
    • 1790 A Complete Dictionary of the English Language, Sheridan
    • 1798 Encyclopedia Britannica, 1st ed US (modern European republics are aristocratic, not democratic)



  1. "About the United States". 2017-08-29. "The United States is a representative democracy" 
  2. "Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test". 2019-02-01. "The United States is a “constitutional democracy” (a democracy with a constitution)." 
  3. "U.S. Constitution: 1789". "The Constitution established a Federal democratic republic. It is the system of the Federal Government; it is democratic because the people govern themselves; and it is a republic because the Government’s power is derived from its people." 
  4. "Glossary". "democracy: A system of government by all eligible people, often through their representatives. ... republic: A state or nation in which the power rests in all the citizens entitled to vote and their elected representatives; a republic also has a President and not a king or other type of monarch." 
  5. Madison, James (November 23, 1787). "The Federalist Papers No. 10". "a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person ... A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place" 
  6. Hamilton, Alexander (May 19, 1777). "From Alexander Hamilton to Gouverneur Morris" (in en). "a representative democracy, where the right of election is well secured and regulated & the exercise of the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, is vested in select persons, chosen really and not nominally by the people"