The Compound Republic
6. The limitation of government's power, by a written Constitution adopted by the people (by the electorate), is the main distinguishing characteristic of a Republic. The correct definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution--adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment--with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Each American government, Federal and State, is a Republic; and such a form of government is expressly guaranteed to each State by the United States Constitution. (Article IV, Section 4.) This makes the American system a combination, or federation , of Republics--a compound Republic as noted in The Federalist number 51 by Madison. Although the term "Federal Republic" has sometimes been used to refer both to the central (Federal) government and to the federated system of Republics--including both central government and State governments (all Republics)--it will facilitate clear thinking if this term "Federal Republic" is applied only to the central government while using the phrase "federated system of Republics" or "federation of Republics" to designate the combination, or confederation, of all of these Republics. Clarity of understanding will be best assured by referring to the central government as the central Republic.
The electorate adopt a Constitution as their basic law by utilizing a Constitutional Convention to frame it for their final approval, or ratification, as was done successfully for the first time in history by the people of Massachusetts with regard to its Constitution of 1780; it was so framed by a convention specially chosen by the people for this sole purpose and then submitted to the people for approval. Final adoption, or ratification, may also be effected in behalf of the people by a specially chosen convention for this sole purpose; and later amendments may be so approved for the people or through the regular legislative body--the alternatives specified in the United States Constitution. This Constitution was framed by the Federal (Constitutional) Convention in 1787 and then adopted in 1787-1788 by State Ratifying Conventions especially chosen by the people for this sole purpose; which is the complete and perfect method of Constitution-making. A Constitutional Convention--one chosen by the people for the sole purpose of framing or ratifying a Constitution--is one of America's greatest contributions, to the mechanics of self-government through constitutionally limited government.