Republican Government: Definition & Advantages

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  • 0:00 Definition of a…
  • 1:36 Basic Principles of…
  • 2:11 Advantages of a…
  • 3:24 Republican Government…
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laurel Click

Laurel has taught social studies courses at the high school level and has a master's degree in history.

In a republican government, all power comes from the people. Learn more about the principles of republican government and the advantages of this type of government. Check your understanding with a quiz.

Definition of a Republican Government

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands… Most Americans grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school, but just what is a republic?

The word republic, comes from the Latin res publica, or public thing, and refers to a form of government where the citizens act for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of a ruler or king. A republican government is one in which the political authority comes from the people. In the United States, power is given to the government by its citizens as written in the U.S. Constitution and through its elected representatives.

Belief in republicanism helped bring about the American Revolution and the United States Constitution. The American colonists were influenced by the writings of Thomas Paine. In his 50-page pamphlet Common Sense, written in 1776, Paine made the argument for political independence from Britain, a representative government, and a written constitution for the colonies. Paine felt the monarch had no place in government and that the people themselves were the legitimate authority for government.

Thomas Jefferson borrowed heavily from the ideas of the Enlightenment thinker John Locke when he wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Jefferson urged colonists to part with the monarchy and become republican citizens. The colonists' first attempt at republican government was the Articles of Confederation in 1781, and then the United States Constitution in 1787, which further strengthened the power of the republic.

Basic Principles of Republican Government in The United States

The republican government in the United States has a few basic principles:

  • The power and authority of government comes from the people, not some supreme authority, or king.
  • The rights of the people are protected by a written constitution and through the vote of the people.
  • The citizens give power to elected representatives, based on majority rule, to serve their interests and act on their behalf.
  • The representatives are responsible for helping all the people in the country, not just a few people.
  • The stability of government rests with the people and is dependent on civic involvement.

Advantages of a Republican Government

Have you ever given up your own interests to do something that is good for everyone? In a republican government, selfish interests are given up for the common good of the country. Let's take a look at more advantages of a republican government.

  • Laws made by elected representatives are meant to be fair. If people find laws unfair, they can elect other leaders who can change those laws.
  • A republic allows greater freedom and prosperity. Economic pursuit benefits the entire nation and people are able to live well.
  • When government serves the interests of the entire country, we say it is serving the common welfare.
  • There is wider participation in the political process. According to the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal; therefore, it did not matter if you were a small farmer or a powerful aristocrat. Ordinary people are welcome to participate in government.
  • Leaders emerge based on people's talents, not their birthright.
  • Civic virtue is promoted. Civic virtue includes demonstrating civic knowledge (how government and the political process works), self-restraint, self-assertion, and self-reliance.
  • Change and reform come about by vote, not by force.

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