Round Table Discussion

Is America a “Republic”?

The Most Important Distinction

I entirely agree with the spirit of this roundtable but not with the language of restoring “the Republic.”  The United States is not now and has never been a republic.  It is a federation of states, each of which, in Article IV of the Constitution, is guaranteed a republican form of government.  But a federation of republics is not itself a republic any more than the federation of nations in the United Nations, or in the European Union, is a nation.  A federation is a service agency of the political units that compose it.  Whatever else a republic might be, it is not a service agency of something else.  So instead of talking about “restoring the old Republic,” we should talk of restoring republicanism in a federation of states.  And this can only mean recalling the vast domain of unenumerated powers that the Constitution reserves to the states and which have been usurped by that artificial corporation, known as the United States, created by the states for their welfare.

This is not a quibble with words.  To talk of the Republic inclines one to think of America as a single political society in the manner of Joseph Story, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln.  In this view, the states are service agencies created by the sovereign will of the American people in the aggregate.  That will is expressed through the central government, which, for all practical purposes,...

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