- Published: 08 January 2012
That the New Government Be a Republic
The creation of the new, central government by the Constitution in 1787-1788 as a genuine Republic was in fulfillment of public demand for precisely such a government, then designated as such. One of the most interesting pronouncements regarding this topic before the Declaration of Independence was in the "Instructions of the Inhabitants of Malden, Massachusetts to their Representatives in Congress" on May 27, 1776, as follows:
"For these reasons, as well as many others which might be produced, we are confirmed in the opinion, that the present age will be deficient in their duty to God, their posterity and themselves, if they do not establish an American republic. This is the only form of government which we wish to see established; for we can never be willingly subject to any other King than he who, being possessed of infinite wisdom, goodness and rectitude, is alone fit to possess unlimited power . . . if they [the Continental Congress] should declare America to be a free and independent republic, your constituents would support and defend the measure, to the last drop of their blood, and the last farthing of their treasure."
The King referred to here is, of course, Man's Creator: God. The Malden resolution's prescription of a Republic for America was matched by other substantially similar declarations in that Period--for instance that reported in the previously-mentioned "Essex Result" (report of the 1778 Convention of the towns of Essex County, Massachusetts) stating that: "A republican form [of government] is the only one consonant to the feelings of the generous and brave Americans." This was in rejecting this State's first proposed Constitution.
On July 1, 1776, John Adams--on the eve of the Declaration--in a letter to Archibald Bullock, hailed the new prospect in these words: "May Heaven prosper the new-born republic . . ." Realizing that the Articles of Confederation did not and could not satisfy the need, or provide, for a Republic, Hamilton wrote on July 4, 1782 ("The Continentalist," number 6), that: "There is something noble and magnificent in the perspective of a great Federal Republic, closely linked in the pursuit of a common interest, tranquil and prosperous at home, respectable abroad . . ." In the Framing Convention on June 1, 1787, James Wilson asserted that America's manners were "so republican, that nothing but a great confederated Republic would do for it." He commented further on this topic in the Convention: "A confederated republic joins the happiest kind of Government with the most certain security to liberty." He also used the same term, or one comparable such as "Federal Republic," to describe the form of the new government in several instances during his remarks in the debates in the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention. Using the term "republican government" to refer to the form of a Republic, Hamilton stated in the New York Ratifying Convention: "We all, with equal sincerity, profess to be anxious for the establishment of a republican government, on a safe and solid basis. It is the object of the wishes of every honest man in the United States . . ." In The Federalist number 39, Madison--referring to the proposed central government as "strictly republican" (meaning a Republic)--stated:
"It is evident that no other form would be reconcileable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the revolution; or with that honorable determination, which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government."
He also used the terms "republican form" (no. 37) and "a compound republic," "federal republic" and "extended republic" (no. 51).
These examples sufficiently illustrate the point that The Founders and other leaders, as well as many other thoughtful people in that day--such as the inhabitants of Malden and of Essex County mentioned above--well understood the nature of a Republic and were determined that the United States government be a Republic, such as the central government created later by the United States Constitution. (Note also the 1776 Pittsfield Resolution, page 18, ante.)