Republicanism and the Founding of America - Republican Government May Be Seen as a Middle Path between Monarchy and Democracy

By Cunliffe, Marcus | The World and I, February 2003 | Go to article overview

Republicanism and the Founding of America - Republican Government May Be Seen as a Middle Path between Monarchy and Democracy


Cunliffe, Marcus, The World and I


Marcus Cunliffe is professor of history at George Washington University.

America is sometimes described as the first republic in the modern world. There had been ancient republics like Athens and Rome. Switzerland and Holland were also regarded in the eighteenth century as republics; and there were still some surviving examples among the city- states of Italy, which at the time of the American Revolution was not a unified nation but a patchwork of jurisdictions. The United States, however, was the first new nation to declare itself a republic, repudiating the British monarchy in whose name the American colonies had been governed. Americans saw themselves as pioneers, setting an example for rising democracies all over the world. They were therefore cheered but not surprised when the French Revolution likewise produced a republic, with Vive la Republique! as its patriotic cry in place of Vive le Roi! A few years later, Americans anticipated the emergence of republics in Latin America, as Mexico and other provinces threw off the rule of Spain. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 breathes this spirit of militant and confident republicanism. It announces that henceforth the American hemisphere is not to be subject to colonization by European monarchies; it is envisaged as the realm of New World republicanism.

The Scottish-born American millionaire Andrew Carnegie expressed pride in American republicanism. He cherished an affection for the land of his birth as well as for the country that had brought him fame and riches. He dreamed of a merger that would bring the United States and the British Empire under one flag--though without going into detail as to whose flag it would be. Yet, as Carnegie explained in his book Triumphant Democracy (1886), there was one big problem. Britain remained a monarchy, and for Carnegie this was an expensive, class- ridden, and obsolete form of government, totally incompatible with America. Carnegie announced that he hoped to live to see the day when monarchy was "as extinct as the dodo."

His hopes and predictions did not quite come true, which may be the way with future-guessing. In the main, Carnegie was correct in equating American self-esteem with republicanism. The United States of his era was commonly spoken of "the Republic." or perhaps "the Great Republic." The institution and the nation were nearly synonymous: The one presumed the other.

The idea of republicanism in the twentieth century tended to take second place to democracy. Indeed in the American history books of a generation ago you might well not find republicanism in the indexes, though democracy was very likely to be there. Today the situation is different. Numerous historians seek to show not merely that the Founding Fathers cared a great deal about republicanism, but that the concept continued to matter for at least another hundred years. Republicanism has become a key term in talking about the origins of the United States, and thus deserves our renewed attention. We must deal, though, with some apparent puzzles in the historical record. The first is that at the time of the American Revolution, monarchy was a thriving, "modern" institution. The second is that republicanism was widely regarded as a form of government that, whatever its theoretical charms, was not feasible.

In the world of the late eighteenth century, nearly every known society was ruled by a monarch or single ruler. These rulers went by many different names. But whether they were called kings or emperors or tsars or sultans, from the greatest powers to the lowliest tribes, authority was vested in one individual. Sometimes this authority was more formal than real. There might, in the revealing phrases, be a "power behind the throne," a "kingmaker," a "gray eminence" who wielded considerable influence. But even in these cases, the royal advisers nearly always held office "at the pleasure"--another revealing phrase-- of the sovereign, who could dismiss, imprison, and execute them almost at will. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Republicanism and the Founding of America - Republican Government May Be Seen as a Middle Path between Monarchy and Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.