Is America a Democracy or Republic
Written by Peter Boykin on November 14, 2020
Is America a Democracy or a Republic?
Honestly, this might be more of a Republican (Republic) vs Democrat (Democracy) but it is something that is said over again and again. “A Democracy Dies in Darkness” “We Must Save Our Democracy” but has anyone ever really read the Pledge of Allegiance?
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth’s … See More Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.
In its original form it read:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. At this time it read:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
A little history lesson:
It’s true that some Framing-era commentators made arguments that distinguished “democracy” and “republic”; see, for instance, The Federalist (No. 10), though even that first draws the distinction between “pure democracy” and a “republic,” only later just saying “democracy.” But even in that era, “representative democracy” was understood as a form of democracy, alongside “pure democracy”: John Adams used the term “representative democracy” in 1794; so did Noah Webster in 1785; so did St. George Tucker in his 1803 edition of Blackstone; so did Thomas Jefferson in 1815. Tucker’s Blackstone likewise uses “democracy” to describe a representative democracy, even when the qualifier “representative” is omitted.
Ultimately searching for the answer comes up with this: While often categorized as a democracy, the United States is more accurately defined as a constitutional federal republic. Yet the discussion is out there and it can be a bit confusing.