On September 17, 1787, forty men sat down, dipped their quills into ink, and signed the United States Constitution. 230 years later, although America may not be a “perfect union,” the rights granted in that document continue to govern our country.
We have the freedom to speak our mind and engage in lawful assembly. We can travel freely within and out of our state and have the privilege of being tried by an impartial jury made up of ordinary citizens.
Despite surviving for 230 years, our liberty is fragile and there is often talk about the importance of preserving democracy in our great nation.
However, in the entire 4,400-word document that serves as our country’s foundation, there’s one very telling word that does not appear even once: democracy.
Former president James Madison did not mention the word “democracy” at all while writing the outline for America and it doesn’t appear in a single one of the Amendments.
While the Founding Fathers weren’t fans of “taxation without representation,” they foresaw immense problems with the power being entirely in the people’s hands.
Twenty years before its ratification, former President John Adams wrote “An Essay on Man’s Lust for Power,” in which he argued that “democracy will soon degenerate into an Anarchy.”
Democracy is often equated with the ultimate symbol of freedom, but Adams contended that the anarchy it breeds will have each citizen doing “what is right in his own eyes” and therefore no one’s “life,” “property,” “reputation,” or most importantly, “liberty,” will be safe from being taken away.
“It has been observed that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government,“ former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton said during a speech in favor of the Constitution. ”Experience has proved that no position is more false than this.”
Hamilton, who was remarkably intelligent and heavily studied past and present governments of all kinds, claimed that the “very character” of ancient democracies was far from absolute freedom — it was “tyranny.”
The Founding Fathers wanted liberty but knowing what they did about the fate of democracies, they created what is now considered a democratic republic. “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government,” reads Article IV, Section 4.
A group of men who were fed up with being controlled by a king located an ocean away fought for the freedom to create an independent America. Thanks to them, 230 years later, we have a plethora of rights, but democracy is not one.