The following is an expert from "The Anti-Federalist Papers and the
Constitutional Convention Debates" authored by Ralph Ketcham

Republicanism In The 1780's

As the Federal Convention assembled in May of 1787 it's members did agree, though, on some basic principles and use of terms. All believed in government by consent, which in eighteenth century understanding included (1) constitutional monarchy, where the monarch's powers were limited and where the government included an assembly elected by the people; (2) a republic, meaning some form of representative government without a hereditary executive; and (3) democracy, which meant either town meeting style democracy, or simply the direct voice of the people within a government. The Revolutionary struggle against the government of George III left even constitutional monarchy in ill-repute in America. (Many letters, however, including at times John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, continued to think it theoretically the form most likely to insure freedom and good government). Equally discredited was "mere democracy" which still meant, as Aristotle had taught, rule by the passionate, ignorant, demagogue-dominated "voice of the people". This was sure to produce first injustice, then anarchy, and finally tyranny. Hence, virtually all shades of opinion reviled monarchy and democracy, and, publicly at least, affirmed republicanism. (This republicanism of the 1780's was not in principle different from what in Britain and America by mid-nineteenth century was generally called representative democracy. The founders would not have been opposed to modern connotations of the word "democracy", nor would they have used the word "republic" to mark out a distinction from those connotations. In scorning "democracy", eighteenth-century theorists had in mind Aristotle's picture of a heedless, emotional, manipulated populace that would still be denigrated by most modern democratic theorists).

In 1787, republicanism then was positioned between monarchy and "mere democracy". As it benefited from experience of the years after 1776 and struggled to contain the tension between "inalienable rights", and majority rule, republicanism became both more moderate and more intricate. A broadly based lower house of a legislature continued to be basic to government by consent, but increasingly, the election of other officials came to be regarded as good republican practice. Also, mindful of colonial experience, and following the arguments of Montesquieu, the idea that the legislative, executive, and judicial powers had to be "separated", made to "check and balance" each other in order to prevent tyranny, gained wide acceptance. This often validated devices of government that would restrain or "refine" the will of the majority in order to protect rights, or "higher law".

Thus, while eighteenth-century American republicanism was committed to the sovereignty of the people, it was also a complicated approach to government. It opposed traditional monarchical tyranny, but was equally hostile to mob rule. It also sought balancing and refining devices that would at once restrain the power of rulers, encourage the better judgment of the people, and enable the union to defend itself in a dangerous world. Edmund Burke stated the problem succinctly. "To make a government requires no great prudence; settle the seat of power, teach obedience, and the work is done. To give freedom is still more easy. It is not necessary to guide; it is only necessary to let go the rein. But to form a free government, that is, to temper together the opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one conscious work, requires much thought; deep reflection; a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind."