Republic (government) (Latin res publica, literally “the public thing”), form of state based on the concept that sovereignty resides in the people, who delegate the power to rule in their behalf to elected representatives and officials. In practice, however, this concept has been variously stretched, distorted, and corrupted, making any precise definition of the term republic difficult. It is important, to begin with, to distinguish between a republic and a democracy.
In the theoretical republican state, where the government expresses the will of the people who have chosen it, republic and emocracy may be identical (there are also democratic monarchies). Historical republics, however, have never conformed to a theoretical model, and in the 20th century the term republic is freely used by dictatorships, one-party states, and democracies alike. Republic has, in fact, come to signify any form of state headed by a president or some similarly titled Much of the confusion surrounding the concept of republicanism may be traced to the writings of Plato and Aristotle.
Plato’s Republic presents an ideal state or, more accurately, an ideal Greek polis (“city-state”). Plato onstructed his republic on what he considered the basic elements or characteristics of the human soul: the appetitive, the spirited, and the philosophical. Accordingly, his ideal republic consisted of three distinct groups: a commercial class formed by those dominated by their appetites; a spirited class, administrators and soldiers, responsible for the execution of the laws; and the guardians or philosopher-kings, who would be the lawmakers.
Because Plato entrusted the guardians, a carefully selected few, with the responsibility for maintaining a harmonious polis, republicanism is requently associated with ends or goals established by a small segment of the community presumed to have a special insight into what constitutes the Aristotle’s Politics provides another republican concept, one that prevails in most of the Western world. Aristotle categorized governments on the basis of who rules: the one, the few, or the many.
Within these categories he distinguished between good and perverted forms of governmentmonarchy (good) versus tyranny, aristocracy (good) versus oligarchythe main difference being whether the rulers governed for the good of the state or Most relevant to republicanism in the Western world, however, is Aristotle’s distinction between democracy, the perverted form of rule by the many, and its opposite polity, the good form.
He believed that democracies were bound to experience turbulence and instability because the poor, who he assumed would be the majority in democracies, would seek an economic and social equality that would stifle individual initiative and enterprise. In contrast, polity, with a middle class capable of justly adjudicating conflicts between the rich and poor, would allow for rule by the many without the problems and chaos associated with democratic regimes.
James Madison, often called the father of the U. S. Constitution, defined a republic in terms similar to those of Aristotle’s polity. In his view, republics were systems of government that permitted direct or indirect control by the people over those who govern. He did, however, warn against the effects of “majority factions” and emphasized the rights of minorities. The Madisonian concept of republicanism parallels Aristotle’s vision of polity in many important dimensions, and both are essentially different from Plato’s.
For several hundred years after the early 8th century BC many of the city-states of Greece were republican in form. Carthage was likewise a republic for more than 300 years until its destruction by the Romans in 146BC. For nearly 500 years Rome itself was a republic in which virtually all free males were eventually franchised. The oldest extant republic is the state of San Marino on the Italian Peninsula, about 225 km (about 140 mi) north of Rome.
According to tradition, it was established as a republic in the second part of the 4th In medieval times the Icelanders established (930) a republic with a more or less democratic form of government that lasted for more than 300 years. The powerful and independent commercial city-states of northern Italy, ruled by the rising bourgeoisie, also found the republican form a more suitable political instrument than the monarchic state controlled by the feudal nobility and the Roman Catholic church.
These Italian republics were for centuries disturbed by power struggles between the aristocracy and the commercial bourgeoisie, in which the latter represented the cause of democratic government and the former that of feudal conservatism. A parallel process took place in the commercial and handicraft communes of the Low Countries. The Hanseatic League was nominally a form of international republican government and a limited democracy. Republican elements were also characteristic of the league of Swiss cantons that eventually formed the Swiss state; the founding of the Swiss republic may
Republican sentiments were cherished by many leaders of the Reformation. Geneva, under the rule (1541-64) of John Calvin, was republican in form, although virtually a theocratic state. Reformist religious and antimonarchic doctrines were also contributory factors in the establishment of the Dutch Republic of the United Provinces (1648-1747) and the short-lived Commonwealth (1649-60) of England, Scotland, and Ireland under Oliver The era of modern republicanism began with the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789.
Elements of republican government were present in the dministrative institutions of the English New World colonies, but republicanism did not become dominant in American political thinking until the colonists declared their independence. The establishment of the United States as a federal republic with a government made up of three coordinate branches, each independent of the others, created a precedent that was subsequently widely emulated in the western hemisphere and elsewhere.
The French Revolution also created a republic based on suffragethe first national republican state among the powers of Europeand like its American predecessor it enunciated fundamental principles of liberty. Although this first French republic was short-lived, its impact on French and European society was virtually continuous. In the view of many historians the Napoleonic Wars that followed were essentially a military extension of the political assault on the remnants of the Continent’s feudal structure and eventually resulted in a new era of republicanism.
During the 19th century republics were established in most instances where revolutionary struggles were waged outside Europe. Thus, all the Latin American republics were products of revolutionary struggles for national independence; many of these governments, however, became military ictatorships. Two African republics, the South African Republic (1852) and the Orange Free State (1854), were finally annexed by Britain after the Boer War (1899-1902).
Both in the United States and other republics, however, the passage of the century was generally marked by democratization of the electoral process through the enlargement of the Two waves of new-state formations occurred in the 20th centurythe first one after World War I, the second after World War II. Most of the newly independent states established themselves as republics, although some of those created in the first wave began monarchies. A new chapter in the history of republicanism began with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent transformation of the Russian Empire into the USSR.
The development of the Soviet Union into a one-party totalitarian state demonstrated once more that republic and democracy are not synonymous, a fact that became even more obvious after World War II, when all the republics of Eastern Europe were fashioned in a similar mold as one-party “people’s republics” under the tutelage of the Of the dozens of new republics that have come into being since World War II, most have, in fact, displayed a definite trend away from democratic deals and instead assumed the nature of oligarchies, single-party states, or military dictatorships.
The many economically and politically developing nations that emerged from the liquidation of European colonial empires posed profound problems for democratic republicans. One was whether truly representative governments could be elected by nonliterate, ill-informed voters. Another was how to establish majority rule in a fundamentally tribal society. The hold of ingrained traditions on the one hand and the introduction of new doctrinaire ideologies on the other added a further element of chaos. The result, most often, was an authoritarian ne-person, one-party, or military rule.
Thus, in the last quarter of the 20th century, although some three-fourths of the nations in the world styled themselves republics, only a very few could be described as democracies. 1 Democratic Party, one of the two main political parties of the United States. Its origins can be traced to the coalition formed behind Thomas Jefferson in the 1790s to resist the policies of George Washingtons administration. This coalition, originally called the Republican, and later the Democratic-Republican Party, split into two factions during the presidential campaign of 1828.
One, the National Republican Party, was absorbed into the Whig Party in 1834; the other became the Democratic Party. In the 1830s, under presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, the Democratic Party developed the characteristics it retained until the end of the century. It was willing to use national power in foreign affairs when American interests were threatened, but in economic and social policy it stressed the responsibility of government to act cautiously, if at all. Democrats argued that the national government should do nothing the states could do for themselves, and the states nothing that localities could
The partys supporters in this period included groups as diverse as southern plantation owners and immigrant workers in northern cities. They all had in common a dislike of government intervention in their lives. The Democrats opponents, the Whigs, on the other hand, believed in using governmental power to promote, regulate, correct, and reform. A major source of the partys cohesion was its strong organization, which enabled it to fight elections effectively, keep the party together between elections, and shape and influence government decisions.
The Democratic organization, with its local, district, and statewide committees, conventions, nd party rallies, spread everywhere to promote the party and its principles and candidates on election day. The organization drew up lists of voters, got them to the polls, and provided ballots for them to cast and the arguments to justify their decisions. Afterward, the party helped select government officers and discipline them while in service. In the years after 1828, party competition was very close. The Democrats won the presidency six out of eight times through 1856 and usually controlled Congress.
Their Whig opponents, however, always waged strong campaigns against them. Van Burens leadership role in the party made him Jacksons successor as nominee and president in 1836, but, defeated in 1840, he had to give way to younger men. These new leaders maintained the commitment to the economic and social principles of the Jacksonian era but added a more aggressive stance in foreign affairs. Territorial expansion and war with Mexico followed under President James K. Polk in the 1840s.
A voter backlash severely changed the partys fortunes in the mid-1850s. The Democratic commitment to limited national power extended to the uestion of whether or not slavery should expand into new territories. Party leaders such as Lewis Cass and Stephen A. Douglas favored local control, or popular sovereignty, rather than congressional regulation. This did not satisfy some party supporters and others outside the party. Southern gains in the territories provoked bitter anger. At the same time, the Democrats long-standing interrelationship with immigrant workers also caused severe problems. Greatly increased immigration in the 1850s transformed many areas of the country and seemed to threaten American values.
The result as an electoral disaster, as many northern Democrats, seeking to punish their leaders and willing to throw aside their party, joined the emerging Republicans. These defections cost the party a large part of its northern support and enhanced the power of the southern wing within party councils Increased southern demands for the protection of slavery and the resistance to it by northern Democrats (out of fear of even further party collapse) caused a split in 1860. This enabled the Republicans under Abraham Lincoln to win the presidency. The partys problems were compounded during the Civil War that followed.
Remaining consistent, Democrats refused to accept the need to increase government power in order to fight the war. They opposed the draft, social changes, and government encroachment into everyday life. They strongly resisted Republican tariff and taxation policies to finance the war. All of this, however, put them on the defensive. The Republicans charged them with disloyalty and made it an effective campaign slogan for the rest of the 19th century. This tactic, known as “waving the bloody shirt,” always hurt the Democrats in close elections until powerful emotional memories faded.
They id not regain control of either house of Congress until 1874 and did not win the presidency again until 1884. Democrats won many local and state elections after 1860 and threatened the Republicans in others. They made especially effective use of the race issue in the North, taking advantage of white hostility to blacks. At the same time, the South became an increasingly solid Democratic voting bloc. Neither was enough, however, and party leaders never found the means to attract enough new voters or to convert enough Republicans to win national power in the generation after the Civil War. Between then and the Great
Depression the Democrats were the minority party in the nation, able to win only when the Republicans were badly split. Factionalism had always existed among Democrats, as different regional, social, and economic groups maneuvered to define the partys stance and candidates; sometimes, as in the realignment of the 1850s, such factionalism cost the party dearly. Late in the 19th century, however, it got entirely out of hand, as three groups fought for control in an increasingly harsh atmosphere. One bloc comprised the traditional Democrats behind New Yorks Grover Cleveland, who was president from 1885 to 1889 and rom 1893 to 1897.
Strong in their memories of Jackson and the Civil War, they still espoused the conventional policies of limited government activities. A second group consisted of the urban political machines, which won the support of immigrants by helping them to adjust to conditions in a new country. A third faction was made up of restive groups in the South and West, reacting against the new industrial and centralized economy. Angry farmers and small-town entrepreneurs, feeling badly squeezed by the new economic forces, wanted a shift of Democratic policies toward more vigorous government intervention in their behalf.
They were strongly resisted by the traditionalists who ignored, were complacent about, or sometimes cooperated with the new forces the agrarians detested. The urban political machines remained at arms length from both, feeling estranged from their values and outlook. In the 1890s the storm broke. The cautious and traditional reaction of Clevelands second administration to the depression after 1893, its hostility to unions and strikes, and its harsh attitudes toward the machines on behalf of civil service reform provoked a revolt by Democratic voters in the South and West.
They found in William Jennings Bryan a presidential candidate who overthrew the Cleveland wing in 1896 and dominated the party for a decade afterward. It did them little good, however. Bryan, although supported by the dissident Peoples Party, was abandoned by many traditional and urban Democrats, who opposed his program and stance, and he was defeated by the Republican William 1920S At the beginning of the 20th century the Democrats minority position among voters remained central to their existence.
The Progressive split in Republican ranks helped elect Woodrow Wilson twice, but the entry of the United States into World War I ended that. The war, popular at first, backfired against the Wilson administration when large numbers of German-Americans and Irish-Americans protested with their votes against U. S. involvement on Englands side. The result was another Republican landslide in 1920, and for the rest of the decade the Democrats remained beset by a new outburst of factionalism.
The national convention in 1924 was raucously stalemated between the urban-ethnic wing and the older Bryanite-southern groups. The 1928 nomination of the Irish Catholic Al Smith broke the solid South, part of which went Republican for the first ime ever in reaction to the social and cultural values that Smith represented in the eyes of the defecting group. In the mid-20th century the basic character of the Democratic appeal began to change, first slowly and then rapidly.
In the 1930s and 40s the Democrats became a party of vigorous government intervention in the economy and in the social realm, willing to regulate and redistribute wealth and to protect those least able to help themselves in an increasingly complex society. The urban political machines had brought to the party a commitment to social welfare legislation in order to help their immigrant constitutents. At first resisted by southern Democrats and the other limited-government advocates of the partys traditional wing, the new look began to win out in the late 1920s.
The depression after 1929 and the coming to power of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his New Deal, solidified and Increasingly, under Democratic leadership, the government expanded its role in social welfare and economic regulation. Given the economic situation, this proved to be electorally attractive. Traditional Democrats surged to the polls, new voters joined, and the party won over groups, such as the blacks, who had been Republicans for generationsat first haltingly, hen enthusiastically and overwhelmingly.
The result was the New Deal coalition that dominated the country for more than 30 years. More people than ever before identified themselves as Democrats. Roosevelt became an even more powerful symbol than Jackson had been, winning four successive terms. In addition, Roosevelts New Deal coalition of southern populists and northern liberals laid the base for the Democrats to control Congress in all but four of the 48 years between 1933 and 1981. Despite defections on the left and right, President Harry Truman won reelection in 1948 running on the New Deal record.
Although the war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower easily won the presidency in 1952 and 1956, the Democrats ran Congress for six of his eight years in office. The Democrats regained the White House with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and passed much vigorous legislation, culminating in the Great Society policies of President Lyndon Johnson. These continued and expanded New Deal social commitments, this time to encompass civil rights and to aid minorities and the unorganized.
As the party solidified its support among blacks, however, it lost southern whites and northern labor and ethnic voters. The country prospered, but conflicts over social and military The Vietnam War (1959-1975) provoked many within the party to challenge it on its anti-Communist foreign policy, which had directly led to involvement in Vietnam. At the same time, the revolt of the young against the draft and on matters of personal behavior and discipline contributed to a strong challenge to party norms and regular patterns of doing business.
The clumsy reactions of party leaders and the Chicago police culminated in street battles between groups of protesters and police units during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. People within the party who tried to come to terms with the new forces of peace and individual liberty lost in 1968 but were able to seize control of the party in 1972. New nominating rules, inspired by the restlessness within the party, and the weakening power of its leaders after 1968 led to the nomination of George McGovern.
His campaign ended in overwhelming defeat, but the party bounced back after the excesses of Watergate and the tapering off of the The nomination of a southerner, Jimmy Carter, in 1976 brought the solid South back into the Democratic camp for the first time since 1944, but only temporarily. The clash of social values, on one hand, and changing economic issues, on the other, shifted the center of gravity within the party and continued to drive many away. Issues such as inflation divided the party badly. Political parties in general were in decline, as fewer voters remained loyal to them or accepted their dictates.
Landslide victories by Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan over Carter in 1980 and Walter Mondale in 1984 further wounded the Democrats, but the party rebounded in 1986 to take control of the U. S. Senate, which had been in Republican hands for six years. The Democrats ntered the fall 1988 presidential campaign more unified than at any time since 1976 but were unable to overcome the portrayal of their nominee, Michael Dukakis, as “out of the mainstream” on social, economic, and defense issues; Republican George Bush won the election.
However, the Democrats did increase their Senate, House, gubernatorial, and state legislative majorities in the 1988 elections. In 1992 the Democratic Party recaptured the presidency after 12 years when Bill Clinton won the election. Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore, pledged to improve the economy, which had been depressed during much f Bushs presidency. Although Clinton was successful in revitalizing the economy, the Democrats lost their majority in Congress in the 1994 Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time in over 40 years after the 1994 elections.
The Democratic president and the Republican Congress often had trouble agreeing on legislation. The Republican Congress passed bills for welfare reform and tax cuts which were both vetoed by President Clinton. In addition, the federal government had two partial shutdowns when the Republicans and Democrats could not agree on a federal budget for the 1996 fiscal year. In 1996 President Clinton and Vice President Gore were reelected. However, Republicans retained their control of Congress.
In the spring of 1997 Clinton and Congress announced that they had agreed on a federal budget plan to eliminate the deficit in five years. However, disagreements about the details of the plan arose between Congress and the president, raising questions In 1997 the Democratic Party came under scrutiny for illegal campaign contributions and fundraising practices. At issue were allegations that the Democratic Party had collected contributions from foreign companies and ndividuals, who under campaign finance rules are not allowed to contribute money to political campaigns.
There were also questions about whether Clinton tried to raise funds by holding coffee groups and allowing donors to spend the night in the White House. Committees formed by both houses of Congress began to investigate if the Democratic Party had accepted illegal campaign contributions and whether these contributions were used as a way for people to gain access to the president. In addition, the Department of Justice began an investigation but refused to appoint an independent council, claiming no conflict of interest.