A Statue of Libertas

“I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world’s best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”

Thomas Jefferson, 03/04/1801

 The Wikipedia article on Republics

The book most referred to by the Founder (U.S.) on the subject of “republics”, de Secondat, Charles, Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws. 2 vols. Originally published anonymously. 1748; Crowder, Wark, and Payne, 1777.

Sections about the form of government called “republic” are scattered through the whole work.


Farrand’s Records of Constitutional Convention 1787

Madison’s Notes from the Constitutional debate/Convention

Northwest Ordinance; July 13, 1787. An Ordinance for the government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio. Very important for Wisconsin. It sets out the requirements for statehood that had to be met by people in this territory for Wisconsin to become a state. Directly affected the structure of education in our state.

“Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.”

James Madison, Letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822


The folks that signed the Declaration of Independence and later wrote the Constitution shared a similar educational background. It was called a “liberal education”, consistent with the philosophy they shared. They also shared a somewhat romanticized view of that greatest of all classical republics, Rome (prior to the empire). As is obvious from our pre-1950’s public architecture in Washington, D.C., it was the past republic that they most wanted to emulate.

For a non-romanticized over view of that republic, this is pretty good.



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