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What is a Republican Form of Government?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A republican form of government is a type of government in which the citizens of a country have an active role in the affairs of the government, and the government is not headed by a hereditary ruler such as a king. This definition leaves a lot of room for wiggle room, as you can see; many governments around the world are considered to be run along the lines of a republican form of government, ranging from dictatorships to representative democracies. Many people think that the republican form of government is a particularly strong and effective form of government.

This type of government takes its name and inspiration from the Roman Republic, which actually involved the input of only a very small number of citizens. Many people in the West idealize Greek and Roman culture, so it is perhaps not surprising that the republican form of government has become so popular. Fans of this form of government argue that when well run, a republic truly represents the will of its people, and it can be easily changed if citizens desire changes.

There are lots of different types of republics. Some are governed by a constitution, for example, in which case they are known as constitutional republics; these governments are often headed by a President, and they may include branches of government which oversee legislation and judiciary matters. Others are collectives of numerous states, as in the case of the United States, and these are known as federal republics. Parliamentary republics have a separate head of state and a head of government who share powers with each other and with a parliament, while Islamic republics are run in accordance with Islamic law.

The strength of the republican form of government relies on the people involved. In some countries, citizens are extremely active in their governments, working to reform things they dislike, participating in elections, and holding officials accountable for their actions. In other nations, people are not as active, either out of a lack of will or understanding or because the officials in the government keep them in a state of fear or confusion. The “people's republics” in some Asian countries are one example of this sort of republican government, which is in theory run for and by the people but is actually run by a small and elite group.

There are lots of ways to set up and administer a republican form of government. The important thing to remember is that such a government is not necessarily a democracy. Democracy as a concept is often integrated into republican forms of government which try to be fair to their citizens, but it is also possible to see abuses of power and a ruling class in a republican form of government.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004852 — On May 03, 2021

Essentially, American citizens elect members of Congress every two years who have the duty to represent their interests in the national legislature of the United States Representatives are elected by the public, as in national elections for the national legislature. Elected representatives may hold the power to select other representatives, presidents, or other officers of the government or of the legislature, as the prime minister in the latter case. indirect representation

By anon1000471 — On Sep 29, 2018

I think it is neither. It's run by mob rule.

By anon961107 — On Jul 15, 2014

I hate learning about government. It's boring. And by the way, is republicanism federal?

By anon322020 — On Feb 25, 2013

The Republic of Cuba. The People's Republic of China. See something familiar? The "republic" simply means that matters of state are a matter of the people, not private property of a king or emperor. The "republic" does not promise how that power will be put into action.

A republic can be a dictatorship or an oligarchy, where a few make all the decisions "on behalf" or "for the benefit" of the people.

By anon297401 — On Oct 15, 2012

Thanks to this site, I can finally finish my plan for my Ch. 3 project! But, to anon154079, the United States of America is a federal republic.

To prove it, think: if the U.S. isn't a federal republic, then why are the President's decisions sometimes rejected by a so-called "lower branch" of the government? Also, if it's a democratic republic, then the people should be the ones who make laws, not the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative branches, right? So, re-think your understanding of the U.S. form of government.

By anon282067 — On Jul 27, 2012

The United States is a corporation, seeking to profit from the people and continually perpetuate its power over the people in every way possible to try and preserve itself, even going as far as naming the people "enemy combatants", or "terrorists".

As it was intended by the founders, this would never have happened, as the solemn duty of the government they formed was there only to protect the rights and freedoms of the people who created it.

During the mid 1800's, not too long after the founding, the system was corrupted and has been allowed to run roughshod over the peoples' rights, with the people never really opposing the encroachment onto their freedoms and rights, believing that the government "knows best".

By anon279753 — On Jul 14, 2012

The Supreme Court has turned this country into something other than a democracy. By giving corporations the same status and powers of a single person, the government bows only to those with the most money and not with the loudest voices.

Our government will only become more corrupt as the power and influence of large amounts of money decides the policies forced upon the people.

All of you can recite whichever historic document or book you wish, but the government today is far from exercising the wants or needs of the American people.

By anon278188 — On Jul 04, 2012

I am from the U.S. I am guilty of not actively participating in the government. A republic is supposed to be run by all citizens actively engaged in the government. The U.S. government has degenerated into a corporation run by other corporations, or interest groups. These lobbyists have selfishly run our system into the ground. They have made our elected officials so blinded by the promise of monetary gain, that the officials' decisions aren't there anymore. Whether there is a "one-world order" I don't know, but if there were, we wouldn't know about it until it was too late. This sort of thing would be created by a secret society without ethics.

Freedom isn't free. The people of the United States of America have forgotten how much blood was paid to secure their freedoms in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. They've been paid off by the seeds of laziness planted by the federal government in the form of welfare, and other socialistic programs.

By anon276460 — On Jun 24, 2012

I think to settle the discussion of are we a Democracy or a Republic, one should recite the United States Pledge of Allegiance, "and to the Republic for which it stands." We are a Constitutional Republic, which employs Democratic processes of operation. Any other view is opinion only and not worth considering.

Ignorance is educable; profound stupidity has no hope.

By anon193387 — On Jul 04, 2011

The right tries to seriously misrepresent democracy (notice the reference to mob rule). A democracy is no more or less than that the citizens vote on their government, either directly on issues or on representatives. The USA is a Democracy. Democracies are Republican forms of government. The USA is Constitutional Republic. It is also a Federal Republic (or it started out as one. As of 1865 it is now a single nation, no longer a union of smaller nations). It is also a representative Democracy. Those who claim otherwise are playing with semantics for political purposes, trying to obfuscate the truth.

The fact is the hard-right are anti-American, trying to weaken the Democratic process and the federal government itself, hoping for Balkinization of the USA so their corporofascist bosses can have easier pickings.

By anon171067 — On Apr 28, 2011

Our "republic" has been stealthily replaced by an oligarchy. Our senators and representatives have become puppets for the true rulers of our nation: a minority of corporations and the billionaires who operate them.

The oligarchy gets fatter with tax cuts and loopholes as they drain our economy with profiteers' wars overseas. In the meantime, we the people become weaker as our benefits, rights and livelihoods are undermined to further engorge the oligarchy with superfluous wealth.

By anon157396 — On Mar 02, 2011

I don't know where any of you people are from, but your lack of understanding of the United States and her constitutional republic is appalling. (My apologies if you are not American. If you are American, your teacher is an indoctrinating progressive fool.) And this one takes the cake:

"All Powers are vested in and are derived from the people; that they then give up as gifts certain limited powers to their elected representatives to handle for them..." Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The people do not 'give' their representatives anything. It is their duty as elected officials to represent and be the voice of the people, not be the shareholder of the people's power and rights. The powers to all representatives are strictly limited, regardless of what a "democratic majority" wants.

The United States Constitution forbids and protects the citizens from democracy - majority mob rule. If the majority wanted socialism, communism, or any other form of government, they cannot have it because the United States Constitution protects the rights of all citizens equally (protecting the minority from democratic mob rule), making the implementation of those other forms of government against the law because anything other than a constitutional republic infringes on and or impedes the rights of American citizens who may be of the minority.

The U.S. is not a democracy first. The U.S. is, first and foremost, a constitutional republic that "uses" democracy to elect representatives. And the U.S. Constitution always applies first, where the U.S. Constitution does not specifically address an issue relative to that specific state, that is when states sovereignty applies.

I'd tell you people to read a book, but I think all the legitimate and accurately written books on United States history and the U.S. Constitution have been removed and or burned. Shame such a wonderful vibrant country is being turned into a progressive slave pit.

By anon154079 — On Feb 19, 2011

The United States is not a federal republic. A federal republic is a country which does not have a monarch. Instead, it has a division of power between the National government and the government of the divisions within the country. An example of a federal republic is Germany.

The U.S. is a democratic republic. It is a democracy first and foremost, which is a government by the people. It is a republic second by having a division between the federal government and the states. The states have sovereignty when the Constitution doesn't apply, and the federal government has the power when its scope is at a national level, such as security.

By anon149231 — On Feb 03, 2011

i think the republic form of government requires a constitution. A democratic republic allows involvement by the citizens.

All powers are limited by the constitution.

By anon110488 — On Sep 12, 2010

Must be from the U.S. and unable to see that 'the officials in the government keep them in a state of fear or confusion' also applies to the country most likely to invade another.

By anon53106 — On Nov 18, 2009

This republican form of government is used in many countries like USA and UK yes? If so, why do the countries that have republican forms of government don't have the title republic of in front of it?

By pengaines — On Mar 01, 2009

Your definition (republican form of government) states that such a form are found in other countries. Yet, there is no other than the one created by the people in 1789, which was similar to the form of Virginia's State Government formed in 1776 and the Virginia Plan was used for the Federal Government. A Republican Form of Government requires many steps to be taken over many years before the people can create such a government. The steps began in 1612 in Virginia, expanded in 1624 to other States.

For a people to form such a government, they must have had the means in their free society to initiate and embed all their powers, prerogatives and privileges, including their rights and freedoms, to reach the stage: All Powers are vested in and are derived from the people; that they then give up as gifts certain limited powers to their elected representatives to handle for them, which can be returned to them if they are perverted. All other powers remain with the people and at their will, and the people retained the right to utilize real democracy within the means of the society to determine and prevent the maladministration of government,and their inalienable, indubitable and indefeasible right to reform, alter or even abolish it. There are other parts of the elements of this form of government, if interested.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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