At its core, a constitutional republic refers to a system of government that derives its authority through a constitution outlining the powers and functions of each branch. This document serves as the foundation for governance, ensuring that citizens have access to knowledge about their government’s structure, principles, and limitations. By establishing clear boundaries and checks and balances between branches, a constitutional republic prevents any single entity from wielding unchecked power. In the United States this is known as the separation of powers doctrine, which applies to state and federal constitutional interpretation:
“A well-known concept derived from the text and structure of the Constitution is the doctrine of what is commonly called separation of powers. The Framers’ experience with the British monarchy informed their belief that concentrating distinct governmental powers in a single entity would subject the nation’s people to arbitrary and oppressive government action. Thus, in order to preserve individual liberty, the Framers sought to ensure that a separate and independent branch of the Federal Government would exercise each of government’s three basic functions: legislative, executive, and judicial.”
As previously mentioned in the preceding article, the United States are a federal republic that is composed of multiple Constitutional Republics at the state level. A federal republic is a form of government that combines the principles of federalism and republicanism. This unique political system can be seen in several countries around the world, most notably the United States. U.S. Federalism is a mode for separate States to unite into an overarching political system while reserving certain aspects of individual sovereignty. Each of the several States is required to maintain their original republican form.
“The power of the people of a State to amend or revise their constitution is so limited by the Constitution of the United States that it cannot abolish the republican form of government. ” Pacific Telephone Co. v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118, 121 (1912)
In a federal republic, the central government and state governments work together to govern the nation. When properly interpreted through the lens of originalism, the former serves as a governing body for the States in their political capacity, while the latter represent governments instituted for the people. Each possesses their individual, unique, and separate features of citizenry.
“There is in our political system a government of each of the several States, and a government of the United States. Each is distinct from the others, and has citizens of its own” United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875)
The constitution outlines clear divisions of power and responsibilities between these two levels of government. Central government authorities may include defense, foreign affairs, and monetary policy, while state governments may be responsible for education, healthcare, and local infrastructure. A federal republic is also marked by its commitment to representative government rather than direct democracy wherein citizens vote on every issue. A federal republic elects representatives to make decisions on their behalf.
“It is true that the United States guarantees to every State a republican form of government…The guaranty is of a republican form of government…The guaranty necessarily implies a duty on the part of the States themselves to provide such a government. All the States had government when the Constitution was adopted. In all the people participated to some extent, through their representatives elected in the manner specially provided. These governments the Constitution did not change. They were accepted precisely as they were, and it is, therefore, to be presumed that they were such as it was the duty of the States to provide. Thus we have unmistakable evidence of what was republican in form, within the meaning of that term as employed in the Constitution.” Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 175-76 (1874)
At its core, a federal republic is a union of states or regions with a central government that holds certain powers, while other powers are reserved for the individual states. In the US, this two-tiered differentiation of authority is to promote mutual respect set forth in the Articles of Confederation while preventing dissolution of the union ordained under the Federal Constitution.
“Indeed, without some provision of the kind removing from the citizens of each State the disabilities of alienage in the other States, and giving them equality of privileges with citizens of those States, the Republic would have constituted little more than a league of States; it would not have constituted the Union which now exists.” United States v. Wheeler, 254 U.S. 281, 295 (1920)
It is necessitous to apprehend that the Federal Constitution did not supplant the Articles of Confederation, which established the United States of America (see Article I), it facilitated the formation of a corporate entity known as “the United States”– a direct democracy that exercises sovereign authority over its constituents.
In this term “citizen of the United States,” are included two fundamental concepts, bound together and interacting, viz., the concept of “the United States” as a corporate entity, exercising full and paramount sovereignty within its constitutional powers over all the persons within its territorial limits, and the concept of the several States as a collective body, retaining all their sovereign powers and activities over the persons within their territorial limits except in so far as those powers have been granted to the collective aggregate. United States v. Wheeler, 254 U.S. 281, 285 (1920)
The majority of American citizens are excluded from the aforementioned constituency and are not legally subject to the corporate entity that is the U.S. Democracy. Tantamount to understanding this notion is grasping the concept that its subjects were established as a matter of congressional policy, and do not possess inherent citizenship of the United States as a member of one of the several state Constitutional Republics.
“Both the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the joint resolution which was later adopted as the Fourteenth Amendment were passed in the first session of the Thirty-Ninth Congress. Frequent references to the Civil Rights Act are to be found in the record of the legislative debates on the adoption of the Amendment. It is clear that in many significant respects the statute and the Amendment were expressions of the same general congressional policy.” Hurd v. Hodge, 334 U.S. 24, 32 (1948)
One key advantage of a constitutional republic over a direct democracy is the protection it offers to minority rights. In a pure democracy, decisions are made based on majority vote without unmovable safeguards for those who may be in the minority. This can lead to what political philosophers term as “tyranny of the majority,” where minority groups are consistently outvoted and marginalized.
“The power of the majority of the people to impose upon a State a democratic form of government, or to adopt institutions violating the republican form, is one of the powers which was not intended to be exercised by anyone but to be wholly annihilated.” Pacific Telephone Co. v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118, 121 (1912)
Suffrage in a democracy is universal– any qualifying member of the populace, from Greek: dēmos, has the ability to vote regardless of race, gender, religion, etc. This statement holds true for the corporate U.S. Democracy. The Founders of the country understood that a democracy would render the constitution irrelevant, as it could be overridden by a majority consensus. This would imply that the fundamental rights of all citizens alter in accordance with public opinion, as dictated by prevailing political correctness, as observed in current times and is unconstitutional.
“Neither the Constitution nor the fourteenth amendment made all citizens voters…The United States has no voters in the States of its own creation…the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon any one”. Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 178 (1874)
In contrast, a constitutional republic provides protection for all citizens by enshrining protection of rights within its constitution that cannot be altered or removed by majority rule. This ensures that even if public opinion shifts against specific groups or ideas, these individuals still have inherent rights lodged behind the protective barrier of the constitution preventing their infringement.
Another critical aspect of a constitutional republic is its emphasis on maintaining the rule of law. Every citizen is subject to the same laws, regardless of their position in government or society at large. This principle emphasizes fairness and equal treatment under the law, preventing political corruption or despotism from taking hold.
In a constitutional republic, politicians and other government officials cannot overstep their roles as defined by the constitution. Should they commit such acts, repercussions would ensue in a similar manner as for any other individual absent immunities of any kind. This exclusive Authority to hold politicians accountable is vested in the descendants of the nation’s Founders in their collective sovereign capacity, who comprise “We the People” of today.