When Benjamin Franklin was asked in 1787 what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had created, several options were on the table. The Articles of Confederation, which had been barely sufficient during the War of Independence, were found sorely lacking if the 13 colonies were to be united as states.

There were those who were ready to install a benevolent monarchy under King George. Not the guy from the line of Hanover from whom the Declaration of Independence had been declared, but the son of Augustine and Mary who hailed from Virginia. Long live King George of America!

Of course, George and Martha had proven unsuccessful in the “making an heir” department, so the question of “who next” would have no doubt moved rapidly from esoteric debate to spilled blood. Our founders had had quite enough of that.

There were those who wanted a direct democracy. Every question would be subject to a plebiscite. The mob would rule. Slave owners were big on “democracy.” Two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner means mutton every night.

We have, in recent days, watched mobs bent on division and destruction wreak havoc on college campuses. This is the sort of government our founders wanted to avoid.

Monarchy and democracy are two sides of the same coin upon which tyrannies had been built for eons. Both lay claim to a divine right to lord over others by virtue of their own decree. Such governments were built and sustained by might. A ruling class would enforce its dictates by raw force on everyone else, justifying even heinous abuses as a governing necessity.

“Keep your head down” has been the motto of every serf from Nero’s Rome and King John’s England to Hitler’s Third Reich and Xi’s China.

So, something else was created that September in Philadelphia.

“A republic, if you can keep it,” is what Franklin told Philadelphia socialite Elizabeth Willing Powel as the constitutional convention came to an end. (Their conversation occurred during a party in her home, not on the steps of Independence Hall.)

A republic. Yes, the United States would have a king, but the king would be the law: lex rex. Yes, the people would vote, but the passions of the mob were to be tamed by time and process.

Modern exasperation with “gridlock” was considered a key feature of the system devised in the late 1780s. Generally, those who want an efficient, quick-moving government have little regard for the purposefully built safeguards installed by our Founding Fathers.

Liberty is often the first casualty of government efficiency.

The idea of a republic, built to preserve liberty, remains revolutionary. It seems some have grown weary of it, or at least complacent. Generally speaking, it is easier to live under the thumb of a ruling elite than to operate in a self-governing republic. As serfs, we have no obligation but to observe from the sidelines and shrug helplessly at injustice.

As citizens, we must take an active role each day in holding the wolves at bay.

We can keep our republic only to the extent we take personal ownership of—and responsibility for—the rights and liberties endowed to us by God.


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Founding Fathers

Not. A. Democracy.

Monarchy and democracy are two sides of the same coin upon which tyrannies had been built for eons.