Monday, October 20, 2008
The American Idea (II)
A Republic (if you can keep it)
The United States adopted the constitutional republic as its form of government. To the framers of the Constitution this meant that the source of federal power to govern was from the states and was limited. Structures (Congress, Senate, Presidency, Supreme Court) were specified and limits to power clearly articulated. But the Constitution did another important thing. It described the general form of government to be used by the states. Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution provides: "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government..." This general term republic was everywhere understood to mean "res publica" a government in which the people were involved. The Constitution imposed nothing more upon the states. The idea was that the states would vary, that they could be different and they were. Some states invoked no religion, some had virtually state sponsored religions. Nebraska chose to have only one legislative chamber. Massachusetts chose a commonwealth form. The state's rights to experiment with the government closest to the people within the specific limits set by the US Constitution was regarded as central to the federal union and it is today.