Archived Opinion

No guarantee the republic will survive

No guarantee the republic will survive

To the Editor: 

I’ve been giving much thought recently to what the framers had in mind when contemplating the creation of their new country. It wasn’t as if they were in totally unexplored territory. Civilizations had come and gone; some had succeeded, others failed. Did the framers really not have even an inkling of a premonition that a future leader would try to overthrow his own government, or what to do if one did try? 

I appreciate more and more the question asked of Benjamin Franklin by a Philadelphia hostess, Mrs. Eliza Powel, after the Constitutional Convention: “What manner of government have you (“you” meaning the government of delegates) bequeathed us, Mr. Franklin?” We’re now obliged to value and ponder seriously, his answer: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” It seems the framers surmised more than we have learned. 

We’ve been lulled into believing we live in a functioning democracy, well-managed by “representative” government, guided by a system of “checks and balances,” and safely protected by enforceable common sense laws and principles. That may have been true (or at least more true) at one time, but today’s reality does not reflect (as William Blackstone would say) “the embodiment of the moral sentiments of the people.”

James Madison wrote about the complications of democracies in the Federalist papers. Many of his revelations stand out. For example: “Pure democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Neither the Articles of Confederation nor the Constitution seem to establish democracies directly. Under the Articles, Congress is chosen by state legislatures. Under the Constitution, our leaders are elected or are chosen by elected officials. Giving the framers the benefit of the doubt, I’d like to believe they had the best interests of the people in mind when the Constitution was conceived. On the other hand, they might have been every bit as devious, corrupt and self-serving as many of our politicians are today.  

So ... what would the founders say if they were alive today? What would James Madison say to a President who obstructed Congress, violated his oath of office and betrayed the public trust? What would John Adams say to a President who undermined the Constitution and believed himself above the law? What would Alexander Hamilton say to a President who abused the power of his office, spread lies and disinformation, and poisoned our politics? And what would George Washington say to a President who incited a deadly attack on his own Capitol in a last-ditch effort to overturn a free and fair election he lost? 

One thing’s certain. The men who mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor would not stick their heads in the sand as so many Americans are doing today. 

David L. Snell 


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1 comment

  • Honestly, I could care less what the white, slave-owning men who refused to pay their taxes to Britain believed when it came to the creation of the United States. This is not their country, it's ours, and we are not beheld to their traditions or ideals because *newsflash* they were racist slaveowners so screw them

    posted by JB

    Sunday, 11/14/2021

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