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“A Republic, If You Can Keep It”

Write of Center - 18 March 2023


Upon exiting the Constitutional Convent of 1787 in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an anxious inquisitor, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin is said to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it?”

In spite of their differences, personal and political, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention were driven by an overarching concern that our nascent nation was in significant disorder and heading to dissolution. The convention delegates worked to implement principles of popular majority rule and develop protections for the rights and liberties of their fellow Americans.

Addressing their concerns, the delegates’ goal was to create a unified nation out of a collection of independent republics, diverse in their economic interests, regional loyalties, and ethnic and religious attachments.

In spite of the ground-out unity of the convention, as well-known university history professor Richard Beeman recorded, “There would be new signs of disorder after 1787 that would remind Americans what an incomplete and unstable national structure they had created: settlers in western Pennsylvania rebelled in 1794 because of taxes on their locally distilled whiskey; in western North Carolina there were abortive attempts to create an independent republic of "Franklin" which would ally itself with Spain to insure its independence from the United States; there was continued conflict with Indians across the whole western frontier and increased fear of slave unrest, particularly when news of the slave-led revolution in Haiti reached American shores.”

What of our condition today? Are we, you and I, defending our republic, or allowing Washington insiders to give it away? To whom do they intend to give it? Is our enemy really Russia or China, or is it an “enemy within?”

We just witnessed the second largest bank failure in history (Silicon Valley Bank) with a 1929 style bank run. Where were the regulators who long ago said, oh such a thing could never happen again. What of the crisis and looming war at our southern border. Where are the so-called leaders who swore at their inauguration to protect and defend our nation. When the current administration entered the White House in January 2021, inflation was a miniscule 1.4 percent. Then, the president signed into the law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and a $1.1 trillion infrastructure package. Shortly thereafter, inflation skyrocketed. What are those very “leaders” who’ve authorized, appropriated, and made law creating the single biggest federal budget in history. What are they doing about curbing their appetite for giving away the hard-earned money you and I have worked so hard to accumulate and live reasonable lives. And puzzle me this; why would we give such egregious amounts of money to a heretofore corrupt government such as that of Ukraine. Is that, no, what in that is in our national interest. Why too have those very questionable characters in Washington weaponized OUR government, a government by the people and for the people; the very government who are working insidiously to treat our children like lab rats, changing their God-given sex and youthful innocence.

The challenges to national unity today are far greater than those challenging America at the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The face of our nation today looks remarkably different. We are a people no longer united by a common language, religion, or culture. Amazingly, given our staggering level of material prosperity, the flaring gulf between rich and poor is very likely the most serious threat to a common definition of the "pursuit of happiness."

Millions of Americans are turned-off by the corrupting effects of money on our political system, i.e. watching the rich get very rich, and the middle class losing its place and effect on the economy and governance. Bombarded with negative advertising about their candidates, too many otherwise well-meaning Americans express their feelings of alienation by staying home on election day. Yet, as citizens of a republic, voting is the least of what we can do, and should do. You know that, and you know what else to do.

Benjamin Franklin’s succinct response, "A republic, if you can keep it," doesn’t underrate its critical intent: democratic republics are not just formed on popular consent. As historian Richard Beeman determined in his studies, democracies are also absolutely dependent upon the informed and active involvement of the people for their continued good health.

This is your call to action. What are you doing to protect our precious republic?

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