In Federalist Paper # 39, James Madison discusses whether or not the framers of the Constitution actually established a republican form of government. In order to actually be defined as a republic, as defined by the principles that were fought for in the Revolution, self-government is both a possibility and a practicality. A republican government is one which gets its power from the people either directly or indirectly. The way that people indirectly get power is through their elected representatives, members of Congress, Senators, and the president. In a true republic, power is not concentrated in the hands of just a few, such as a king or dictator. In the United States, there is a constant struggle between how power is divided between the federal government and the states. This is experienced by some as a sort of split personality, because some people are loathe to grant the federal government much if any power, and are much more focused on the primacy of states’ rights while others are more amenable to the federal government being used in ways that benefit its citizens in a variety of ways.
Nevertheless, in the Federalist papers, Madison and Hamilton reinforced the idea that the United States has a free government that is ruled by a popular majority, and whose power is restricted by the parameters laid out in the Constitution. People who live in this republic have rights as both citizens of their state as well as their federal government. The Constitution is not a federal document, nor a national one but rather “a composition of both” (Madison.) It derived its powers from both the ordinary powers of the government in part, and the operation of such powers from the nation. In this way, the United States is the “republic of republics” in that it is the epitome of self-rule in which people either directly use their voice to vote and express their opinions, or indirectly speak through their elected representatives to pursue their agendas. This was a unique form of government that was established in 1776, since no other country in the world had been formed on such principles.
- Madison, J. (n.d.). The Federalist Papers: Number 39. Retrieved from Yale.edu: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed39.asp