Our founders, upon declaring American Independence on July 4, 1776, founded our Constitutional Republic on certain unique principles. Robert Welch (1899-1985), founder of the John Birch Society, wrote what is arguably the best description ever of the fundamental differences between a government based upon divine law and one based upon men. His classic “Republics and Democracies,” was first delivered as a speech on September 17 (Constitution Day), 1961. This quote from his speech captures the essence of the unique foundation of freedom, upon which our nation rests.
“Those principles became a part of the very foundation of our republic. And they said that man has certain unalienable rights which do not derive from government at all. Under this theory not only the sovereign conqueror, but the sovereign people, are restricted in their power and authority by man’s natural rights, or by the divine rights of the individual man. And those certain unalienable and divine rights cannot be abrogated by the vote of a majority any more than they can by the decree of a conqueror. The idea that the vote of a people, no matter how nearly unanimous, makes or creates or determines what is right or just becomes as absurd and unacceptable as the idea that right and justice are simply whatever a king says they are. Just as the early Greeks learned to try to have their rulers and themselves abide by the laws they had themselves established, so man has now been painfully learning that there are more permanent and lasting laws which cannot be changed by either sovereign kings or sovereign people, but which must be observed by both. And that government is merely a convenience, superimposed on Divine Commandments and on the natural laws that flow only from the Creator of man and man’s universe.
Now that principle seems to me to be the most important addition to the theory of government in all history.”
Mr. Welch explains this is a foundation stone of our republic. Here is a paraphrase of some of his closing remarks; unchangeable limitations on the power of the people themselves are utterly foreign to the theory of a democracy, and even more impossible in the practice of one. And this principle may ultimately be by far the most significant of all the many differences between a republic and a democracy. For in time, under any government, without that principle slavery is inevitable, while with it slavery is impossible. And the American Republic has been the first great example of that principle at work.
Reading the Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and The Federalist Papers would be a great way for all Americans to understand our wonderful inheritance. I would next recommend reading “Republics and Democracies”.
Happy Independence Day!