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That form of government in which the administration of affairs is open to all the citizens. A political unit or "state," independent of its form of government.

The word republic, derived from the Latin res publica, or "public thing," refers to a form of government where the citizens conduct their affairs for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of a ruler. Historically republics have not always been democratic in character, however. For example, the ancient Republic of Venice was ruled by an aristocratic elite.

In the U.S. historical tradition, the belief in republicanism shaped the U.S. Revolution and Constitution. Before the revolution, leaders developed many political theories to justify independence from Great Britain. Thomas Paine, in his book Common Sense (1776), called for a representative government for the colonies and for a written constitution. Paine rejected the legitimacy of the monarchy to have a part in government. This attack on the king was echoed the following year in the Declaration of Independence, where Thomas Jefferson proposed that colonists reject the monarchy and become republican citizens. Framers of the U.S. Constitution intended to create a republican government. Article IV, Section 4, states "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…." Though the language was vague, the authors of the Constitution clearly intended to prevent the rise to power of either a monarchy or a hereditary aristocracy. Article I, Section 9, states, "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States," and most state constitutions have similar provisions.

The guarantee of republican government was designed to provide a national remedy for domestic insurrection threatening the state governments and to prevent the rise of a monarchy, about which there was some talk at the time.James Madison, the author of many of the essays included in The Federalist Papers (1787–88), put forward a sophisticated concept of republican government. He explained in Number 10 that a republic must be contrasted with a democracy. In the eighteenth century the term "democracy" meant what is now called a pure or direct democracy, wherein legislation is made by a primary assembly of citizens, as existed in several rural Swiss cantons and in New England towns. In a pure democracy, Madison argued, there is no check on the majority to protect the weaker party or individuals and therefore such democracies "have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention," where rights of personal security and property are always in jeopardy.

By a republic, Madison meant a system in which representatives are chosen by the citizens to exercise the powers of government. In Number 39 of The Federalist Papers, he returned to this theme, saying that a republic "is a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people; and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior." Generally, such leaders as Madison and John Adams believed that republicanism rests on the foundation of a balanced constitution, involving a Separation of Powers and checks and balances.

The republican form of government has remained a constant in U.S. politics. State constitutions follow the federal constitution in dividing powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Likewise, states have adopted the various checks and balances that exist between the three branches, including the executive Veto power and Judicial Review.

The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed out of controversies that involve whether the government of a state is republican in character. For example, in Pacific States Telephone and Telegraph Co. v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118, 32 S. Ct. 224, 56 L. Ed. 377 (1912), the Court declined to rule whether state legislation by initiative and Referendum (legislation approved directly by the people through the ballot) was inconsistent with republicanism. The Court refused to rule because it considered this issue a Political Question outside its jurisdiction. It is now well established that it is the province of Congress and the president, not the courts, to decide whether the government of a state is republican in character.


Constitution of the United States; Federalist Papers; Locke, John.

See: polity

REPUBLIC. A commonwealth; that form of government in which the administration of affairs is open to all the citizens. In another sense, it signifies the state, independently of its form of government. 1 Toull. n. 28, and n. 202, note. In this sense, it is used by Ben Johnson. Those that, by their deeds make it known, whose dignity they do sustain; And life, state, glory, all they gain, Count the Republic's, not their own, Vide Body Politic; Nation; State.

References in classic literature ?
In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude.
In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.
The desire of society for the statesman's advice is taken for granted, Plato in the Republic says that a good constitution is only possible when the ruler does not want to rule; where men contend for power, where they have not learnt to distinguish between the art of getting hold of the helm of state and the art of steering, which alone is statesmanship, true politics is impossible.
So, the young Republic was still within hearing distance of its childhood, in 1876.
Some sort of a slower and lower grade republic we might have, with small industrial units, long hours of labor, lower wages, and clumsier ways.
As it rarely happens that public opinion, in its whimsical flights, does not identify a principle with a man, thus the people saw the personification of the Republic in the two stern figures of the brothers De Witt, those Romans of Holland, spurning to pander to the fancies of the mob, and wedding themselves with unbending fidelity to liberty without licentiousness, and prosperity without the waste of superfluity; on the other hand, the Stadtholderate recalled to the popular mind the grave and thoughtful image of the young Prince William of Orange.
Their national pride held him up as the Mithridates of the Republic.
His definition of virtue as 'the power and desire of attaining things honourable,' like the first definition of justice in the Republic, is taken from a poet.
In the Republic the relation of knowledge to virtue is described in a manner more consistent with modern distinctions.
Neither must we forget that the Republic is but the third part of a still larger design which was to have included an ideal history of Athens, as well as a political and physical philosophy.
The power of the republic has done much to restore peace to these wild scenes, and it is now possible to travel in security, where civilised man did not dare to pass unprotected five-and-twenty years ago.
No visitor can ever have set foot on those shores, with a stronger faith in the Republic than I had, when I landed in America.