A republic (Latin: res publica) is a form of government in which the
country is considered a "public matter", not the private concern or
property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a
republic are not inherited. It is a form of government under which the
head of state is not a monarch.
In American English, the definition of a republic refers specifically
to a form of government in which elected individuals represent the
citizen body and exercise power according to the rule of law under
a constitution, including separation of powers with an elected head of
state, referred to as a constitutional republic or
representative democracy. 
As of 2017[update], 159 of the world's 206 sovereign states use the
word "republic" as part of their official names – not all of these
are republics in the sense of having elected governments, nor is the
word "republic" used in the names of all nations with elected
governments. While heads-of-state often tend to claim that they rule
only by the "consent of the governed", elections in some countries
have been found to be held more for the purpose of "show" than for the
actual purpose of in reality providing citizens with any genuine
ability to choose their own leaders.
The term republic was first coined c. 500 BC in Rome, but over time
the term has undergone several changes in meaning. Initially the Latin
term res publica signified the earlier "partial form of democracy" as
found in Rome from c. 500 BC until c. 27 BC. In this early Roman
partial-democracy, the power of the aristocratic or patrician class
who held all of the seats in the Roman Senate, was checked by the
institution of the consulship, whose two consul/vice-rulers were
elected annually by the free citizens or plebes of Rome. The ancient
Roman definition of the word differs from the modern use of the term,
where no leadership positions are held to be restricted to only the
Most often a republic is a single sovereign state, but there are also
sub-sovereign state entities that are referred to as republics, or
that have governments that are described as "republican" in nature.
For instance, Article IV of the
United States Constitution
"guarantee[s] to every State in this Union a Republican form of
Government". In contrast, the former Soviet Union, which described
itself as being a group of "Republics" and also as a "federal
multinational state composed of 15 republics", was widely viewed as
being an authoritarian form of government and not as a republican form
of government. It was seen as authoritarian, as its electoral system
was structured so as to automatically guarantee the election of
2.1 Classical republics
2.2 Other ancient republics
2.3 Indian subcontinent
2.4 Icelandic Commonwealth
2.5 Mercantile republics
2.5.1 Mercantile republics outside Europe
2.7 Liberal republics
2.9 Socialist republics
2.10 Islamic republics
3 Head of state
3.4 Sub-national republics
4 Other meanings
4.1 Political philosophy
4.2 United States
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
The term originates as the Latin translation of Greek word politeia.
Cicero, among other Latin writers, translated politeia as res publica
and it was in turn translated by Renaissance scholars as "republic"
(or similar terms in various western European languages).[citation
The term politeia can be translated as form of government, polity, or
regime and is therefore not always a word for a specific type of
regime as the modern word republic is. One of Plato's major works on
political science was titled
Politeia and in English it is thus known
as The Republic. However, apart from the title, in modern translations
of The Republic, alternative translations of politeia are also
However, in Book III of his Politics (1279)
Aristotle was apparently
the first classical writer to state that the term politeia can be used
to refer more specifically to one type of politeia: "When the citizens
at large govern for the public good, it is called by the name common
to all governments (to koinon onoma pasōn tōn politeiōn),
government (politeia)". Also amongst classical Latin, the term
"republic" can be used in a general way to refer to any regime, or in
a specific way to refer to governments which work for the public
In medieval Northern Italy, a number of city states had commune or
signoria based governments. In the late Middle Ages, writers such as
Giovanni Villani began writing about the nature of these states and
the differences from other types of regime. They used terms such as
libertas populi, a free people, to describe the states. The
terminology changed in the 15th century as the renewed interest in the
Ancient Rome caused writers to prefer using classical
terminology. To describe non-monarchical states writers, most
importantly Leonardo Bruni, adopted the Latin phrase res publica.
While Bruni and
Machiavelli used the term to describe the states of
Northern Italy, which were not monarchies, the term res publica has a
set of interrelated meanings in the original Latin. The term can quite
literally be translated as "public matter". It was most often used
by Roman writers to refer to the state and government, even during the
period of the Roman Empire.
In subsequent centuries, the English word "commonwealth" came to be
used as a translation of res publica, and its use in English was
comparable to how the Romans used the term res publica. Notably,
The Protectorate of
Oliver Cromwell the word commonwealth was
the most common term to call the new monarchless state, but the word
republic was also in common use. Likewise, in Polish the term was
translated as rzeczpospolita, although the translation is now only
used with respect to Poland.
Presently, the term "republic" commonly means a system of government
which derives its power from the people rather than from another
basis, such as heredity or divine right.
While the philosophical terminology developed in classical Greece and
Rome, as already noted by
Aristotle there was already a long history
of city states with a wide variety of constitutions, not only in
Greece but also in the Middle East. After the classical period, during
the Middle Ages, many free cities developed again, such as Venice.
Main article: Classical republic
A map of the Roman Republic
The modern type of "republic" itself is different from any type of
state found in the classical world. Nevertheless, there are a
number of states of the classical era that are today still called
republics. This includes ancient Athens and the Roman Republic. While
the structure and governance of these states was very different from
that of any modern republic, there is debate about the extent to which
classical, medieval, and modern republics form a historical continuum.
J. G. A. Pocock has argued that a distinct republican tradition
stretches from the classical world to the present. Other
scholars disagree. Paul Rahe, for instance, argues that the
classical republics had a form of government with few links to those
in any modern country.
The political philosophy of the classical republics have in any case
had an influence on republican thought throughout the subsequent
centuries. Philosophers and politicians advocating for republics, such
as Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Adams, and Madison, relied heavily on
classical Greek and Roman sources which described various types of
Aristotle's Politics discusses various forms of government. One form
Aristotle named politeia, which consisted of a mixture of the other
forms. He argued that this was one of the ideal forms of government.
Polybius expanded on many of these ideas, again focusing on the idea
of mixed government. The most important Roman work in this tradition
is Cicero's De re publica.
Over time, the classical republics were either conquered by empires or
became ones themselves. Most of the Greek republics were annexed to
Empire of Alexander. The
Roman Republic expanded
dramatically conquering the other states of the Mediterranean that
could be considered republics, such as Carthage. The Roman Republic
itself then became the Roman Empire.
Other ancient republics
The term "republic" is not commonly used to refer to pre-classical
city states, especially if outside
Europe and the area which was under
Graeco-Roman influence. However some early states outside Europe
had governments that are sometimes today considered similar to
In the ancient Near East, a number of cities of the Eastern
Mediterranean achieved collective rule.
Arwad has been cited as one of
the earliest known examples of a republic, in which the people, rather
than a monarch, are described as sovereign.[unreliable source?]
Israelite confederation of the era before the
United Monarchy has
also been considered a type of republic. In Africa the Axum
Empire was organized as a confederation ruled similarly to a royal
republic. Similarly the Igbo nation of what is now Nigeria.
Vaishali was the capital of the Vajjian Confederacy, an early republic
from ancient India.
Indian subcontinent had a number of early republics among
Mahajanapadas were 16 in number and consisted of
both oligarchic republics and monarchies, of which
became the most powerful Mahajanapada and founded Magadhan
Mahajanapadas existed during the sixth centuries BCE to fourth
centuries BCE. Some Indian scholars, such as K. P. Jayaswal,
have argued that a number of states in ancient India had republican
forms of government. While there are no surviving
constitutions or works of political philosophy from this period in
Indian history, surviving religious texts do refer to a number of
states having sabhās or gaṇa sangha, a type of republic or
council-based, as opposed to monarchical, government. Ancient Greek
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great encountering city states and
regions where a council of elders ruled with paramount authority.
Commonwealth was established in 930 AD by refugees from
Norway who had fled the unification of that country under King Harald
Commonwealth consisted of a number of clans run by
chieftains, and the
Althing was a combination of parliament and
supreme court where disputes appealed from lower courts were settled,
laws were decided, and decisions of national importance were taken.
One such example was the
Christianisation of Iceland
Christianisation of Iceland in 1000, where
Althing decreed, in order to prevent an invasion, that all
Icelanders must be baptized, and forbade celebration of pagan rituals.
Contrary to most states, the Icelandic
Commonwealth had no official
In the early 13th century, the Age of the Sturlungs, the Commonwealth
began to suffer from long conflicts between warring clans. This,
combined with pressure from the Norwegian king Haakon IV for the
Icelanders to re-join the Norwegian "family", led the Icelandic
chieftains to accept Haakon IV as king by the signing of the Gamli
sáttmáli ("Old Covenant") in 1262. This effectively brought the
Commonwealth to an end. The Althing, however, is still Iceland's
parliament, almost 800 years later.
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Neptune offers the wealth of the sea to
Venice, 1748–1750. This painting is an allegory of the power of the
Republic of Venice.
Europe new republics appeared in the late
Middle Ages when a number
of small states embraced republican systems of government. These were
generally small, but wealthy, trading states, like the Italian
city-states and the Hanseatic League, in which the merchant class had
risen to prominence. Knud Haakonssen has noted that, by the
Europe was divided with those states controlled by a
landed elite being monarchies and those controlled by a commercial
elite being republics.
Europe a wealthy merchant class developed in the important
trading cities. Despite their wealth they had little power in the
feudal system dominated by the rural land owners, and across Europe
began to advocate for their own privileges and powers. The more
centralized states, such as France and England, granted limited city
Beginning of the
Republic of Metz. Election of the first Head-Alderman
in 1289, by Auguste Migette.
Metz was then a free imperial city of the
Holy Roman Emperor.
In the more loosely governed Holy Roman Empire, 51 of the largest
towns became free imperial cities. While still under the dominion of
Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor most power was held locally and many adopted
republican forms of government. The same rights to imperial
immediacy were secured by the major trading cities of Switzerland. The
towns and villages of alpine
Switzerland had, courtesy of geography,
also been largely excluded from central control. Unlike Italy and
Germany, much of the rural area was thus not controlled by feudal
barons, but by independent farmers who also used communal forms of
government. When the
Habsburgs tried to reassert control over the
region both rural farmers and town merchants joined the rebellion. The
Swiss were victorious, and the
Swiss Confederacy was proclaimed, and
Switzerland has retained a republican form of government to the
Italy was the most densely populated area of Europe, and also one with
the weakest central government. Many of the towns thus gained
considerable independence and adopted commune forms of government.
Completely free of feudal control, the
Italian city-states expanded,
gaining control of the rural hinterland. The two most powerful
Venice and its rival the
Republic of Genoa. Each
were large trading ports, and further expanded by using naval power to
control large parts of the Mediterranean. It was in Italy that an
ideology advocating for republics first developed. Writers such as
Bartholomew of Lucca, Brunetto Latini, Marsilius of Padua, and
Leonardo Bruni saw the medieval city-states as heirs to the legacy of
Greece and Rome.
Two Russian cities with powerful merchant class—Novgorod and
Pskov—also adopted republican forms of government in 12th and 13th
centuries, respectively, which ended when the republics were conquered
by Muscovy/Russia at the end 15th – beginning of 16th century.
The dominant form of government for these early republics was control
by a limited council of elite patricians. In those areas that held
elections, property qualifications or guild membership limited both
who could vote and who could run. In many states no direct elections
were held and council members were hereditary or appointed by the
existing council. This left the great majority of the population
without political power, and riots and revolts by the lower classes
were common. The late
Middle Ages saw more than 200 such risings in
the towns of the Holy Roman Empire. Similar revolts occurred in
Italy, notably the
Ciompi Revolt in Florence.
Mercantile republics outside Europe
Following the collapse of the
Seljuk Sultanate of Rum
Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and
establishment of the Turkish Anatolian Beyliks, the
fraternities established a state centered on
Ankara that is sometimes
compared to the Italian mercantile republics.
See also: European wars of religion
While the classical writers had been the primary ideological source
for the republics of Italy, in Northern Europe, the Protestant
Reformation would be used as justification for establishing new
republics. Most important was
Calvinist theology, which developed
in the Swiss Confederacy, one of the largest and most powerful of the
John Calvin did not call for the abolition of
monarchy, but he advanced the doctrine that the faithful had the duty
to overthrow irreligious monarchs. Advocacy for republics appeared
in the writings of the
Huguenots during the French Wars of
Calvinism played an important role in the republican revolts in
England and the Netherlands. Like the city-states of Italy and the
Hanseatic League, both were important trading centres, with a large
merchant class prospering from the trade with the New World. Large
parts of the population of both areas also embraced Calvinism. During
Dutch Revolt (beginning in 1566), the
Dutch Republic emerged from
rejection of Spanish Habsburg rule. However, the country did not adopt
the republican form of government immediately: in the formal
declaration of independence (Act of Abjuration, 1581), the throne of
king Philip was only declared vacant, and the Dutch magistrates asked
the Duke of Anjou, queen Elizabeth of England and prince William of
Orange, one after another, to replace Philip. It took until 1588
before the Estates (the Staten, the representative assembly at the
time) decided to vest the sovereignty of the country in themselves.
In 1641 the
English Civil War
English Civil War began. Spearheaded by the
funded by the merchants of London, the revolt was a success, and King
Charles I was executed. In England James Harrington, Algernon Sidney,
John Milton became some of the first writers to argue for
rejecting monarchy and embracing a republican form of government. The
Commonwealth was short lived, and the monarchy soon restored.
Dutch Republic continued in name until 1795, but by the mid-18th
century the stadtholder had become a de facto monarch. Calvinists were
also some of the earliest settlers of the British and Dutch colonies
of North America.
Liberal republics in early modern Europe
An allegory of the French
Republic in Paris
Septinsular Republic flag from the early 1800s
A revolutionary Republican hand-written bill from the Stockholm riots
during the Revolutions of 1848, reading: "Dethrone Oscar he is not fit
to be a king: Long live the Republic! The Reform! down with the Royal
house, long live Aftonbladet! death to the king /
Brunkeberg this evening". The writer's identity is
Along with these initial republican revolts, early modern
saw a great increase in monarchial power. The era of absolute monarchy
replaced the limited and decentralized monarchies that had existed in
most of the Middle Ages. It also saw a reaction against the total
control of the monarch as a series of writers created the ideology
known as liberalism.
Most of these Enlightenment thinkers were far more interested in ideas
of constitutional monarchy than in republics. The Cromwell regime had
discredited republicanism, and most thinkers felt that republics ended
in either anarchy or tyranny. Thus philosophers like Voltaire
opposed absolutism while at the same time being strongly pro-monarchy.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau and
Montesquieu praised republics, and looked on
the city-states of Greece as a model. However, both also felt that a
nation-state like France, with 20 million people, would be impossible
to govern as a republic. Rousseau admired the republican experiment in
Corsica (1755–1769) and described his ideal political structure of
small, self-governing communes.
Montesquieu felt that a city-state
should ideally be a republic, but maintained that a limited monarchy
was better suited to a large nation.
American Revolution began as a rejection only of the authority of
British Parliament over the colonies, not of the monarchy. The
failure of the British monarch to protect the colonies from what they
considered the infringement of their rights to representative
government, the monarch's branding of those requesting redress as
traitors, and his support for sending combat troops to demonstrate
authority resulted in widespread perception of the British monarchy as
United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence the leaders of the
revolt firmly rejected the monarchy and embraced republicanism. The
leaders of the revolution were well versed in the writings of the
French liberal thinkers, and also in history of the classical
John Adams had notably written a book on republics
throughout history. In addition, the widely distributed and popularly
read-aloud tract Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, succinctly and
eloquently laid out the case for republican ideals and independence to
the larger public. The
Constitution of the United States, ratified in
1789, created a relatively strong federal republic to replace the
relatively weak confederation under the first attempt at a national
government with the Articles of
Confederation and Perpetual Union
ratified in 1783. The first ten amendments to the Constitution, called
United States Bill of Rights, guaranteed certain natural rights
fundamental to republican ideals that justified the Revolution.
French Revolution was also not republican at its outset. Only
Flight to Varennes
Flight to Varennes removed most of the remaining sympathy
for the king was a republic declared and Louis XVI sent to the
guillotine. The stunning success of France in the French Revolutionary
Wars saw republics spread by force of arms across much of
Europe as a
series of client republics were set up across the continent. The rise
Napoleon saw the end of the
French First Republic
French First Republic and her Sister
Republics, each replaced by "popular monarchies". Throughout the
Napoleonic period, the victors extinguished many of the oldest
republics on the continent, including the
Republic of Venice, the
Republic of Genoa, and the Dutch Republic. They were eventually
transformed into monarchies or absorbed into neighbouring monarchies.
Europe another group of republics was created as the
Napoleonic Wars allowed the states of Latin America to gain their
independence. Liberal ideology had only a limited impact on these new
republics. The main impetus was the local European descended Creole
population in conflict with the Peninsulares—governors sent from
overseas. The majority of the population in most of Latin America was
of either African or
Amerindian descent, and the Creole elite had
little interest in giving these groups power and broad-based popular
sovereignty. Simón Bolívar, both the main instigator of the revolts
and one of its most important theorists, was sympathetic to liberal
ideals but felt that Latin America lacked the social cohesion for such
a system to function and advocated autocracy as necessary.
In Mexico this autocracy briefly took the form of a monarchy in the
First Mexican Empire. Due to the Peninsular War, the Portuguese court
was relocated to Brazil in 1808. Brazil gained independence as a
monarchy on September 7, 1822, and the
Empire of Brazil lasted until
1889. In the other states various forms of autocratic republic existed
until most were liberalized at the end of the 20th century.
European states in 1815
European states in 1914
European states in 1930
European states in 1950
European states in 2015
French Second Republic
French Second Republic was created in 1848, but abolished by
Napoleon III who proclaimed himself Emperor in 1852. The French Third
Republic was established in 1870, when a civil revolutionary committee
refused to accept
Napoleon III's surrender during the Franco-Prussian
War. Spain briefly became the
First Spanish Republic
First Spanish Republic in 1873–74, but
the monarchy was soon restored. By the start of the 20th century
San Marino remained the only republics in
Europe. This changed when, after the 1908 Lisbon Regicide, the 5
October 1910 revolution established the Portuguese Republic.
A 1920s poster that commemorates the permanent
President of the
Republic of China
Yuan Shikai and the provisional
President of the
Republic Sun Yat-sen
In East Asia, China had seen considerable anti-Qing sentiment during
the 19th century, and a number of protest movements developed calling
for constitutional monarchy. The most important leader of these
efforts was Sun Yat-sen, whose
Three Principles of the People
Three Principles of the People combined
American, European, and Chinese ideas. Under his leadership the
Republic of China was proclaimed on January 1, 1912.
Republicanism expanded significantly in the aftermath of World War I,
when several of the largest European empires collapsed: the Russian
Empire (1917), German
Empire (1918), Austro-Hungarian
Empire (1922) were all replaced by republics. New states
gained independence during this turmoil, and many of these, such as
Finland and Czechoslovakia, chose republican forms of
government. Following Greece's defeat in the Greco-Turkish War
(1919–22), the monarchy was briefly replaced by the Second Hellenic
Republic (1924–35). In 1931, the proclamation of the Second Spanish
Republic (1931–39) resulted in the
Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War that would be
the prelude of World War II.
Republican ideas were spreading, especially in Asia. The United States
began to have considerable influence in East Asia in the later part of
the 19th century, with
Protestant missionaries playing a central role.
The liberal and republican writers of the west also exerted influence.
These combined with native
Confucian inspired political philosophy
that had long argued that the populace had the right to reject unjust
government that had lost the Mandate of Heaven.
Two short-lived republics were proclaimed in East Asia, the Republic
of Formosa and the First Philippine Republic.
A map of the
In the years following World War II, most of the remaining European
colonies gained their independence, and most became republics. The two
largest colonial powers were France and the United Kingdom. Republican
France encouraged the establishment of republics in its former
colonies. The United Kingdom attempted to follow the model it had for
its earlier settler colonies of creating independent Commonwealth
realms still linked under the same monarchy. While most of the settler
colonies and the smaller states of the Caribbean retained this system,
it was rejected by the newly independent countries in Africa and Asia,
which revised their constitutions and became republics.
Britain followed a different model in the Middle East; it installed
local monarchies in several colonies and mandates including Iraq,
Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman,
Yemen and Libya. In subsequent decades
revolutions and coups overthrew a number of monarchs and installed
republics. Several monarchies remain, and the Middle East is the only
part of the world where several large states are ruled by monarchs
with almost complete political control.
People's Republic and Socialist state
In the wake of the First World War, the Russian monarchy fell during
the Russian Revolution. The
Russian Provisional Government
Russian Provisional Government was
established in its place on the lines of a liberal republic, but this
was overthrown by the
Bolsheviks who went on to establish the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics. This was the first republic established
Communism was wholly opposed to
monarchy, and became an important element of many republican movements
during the 20th century. The
Russian Revolution spread into Mongolia,
and overthrew its theocratic monarchy in 1924. In the aftermath of the
Second World War the communists gradually gained control of Romania,
Hungary and Albania, ensuring that the states
were reestablished as socialist republics rather than monarchies.
Communism also intermingled with other ideologies. It was embraced by
many national liberation movements during decolonization. In Vietnam,
communist republicans pushed aside the Nguyễn Dynasty, and
monarchies in neighbouring
Cambodia were overthrown by
communist movements in the 1970s.
Arab socialism contributed to a
series of revolts and coups that saw the monarchies of Egypt, Iraq,
Yemen ousted. In Africa Marxist-Leninism and African
socialism led to the end of monarchy and the proclamation of republics
in states such as
Burundi and Ethiopia.
Main article: Islamic republic
Islamic political philosophy has a long history of opposition to
absolute monarchy, notably in the work of Al-Farabi.
Sharia law took
precedence over the will of the ruler, and electing rulers by means of
Shura was an important doctrine. While the early caliphate
maintained the principles of an elected ruler, later states became
hereditary or military dictatorships though many maintained some
pretense of a consultative shura.
None of these states are typically referred to as republics. The
current usage of republic in Muslim countries is borrowed from the
western meaning, adopted into the language in the late 19th
century. The 20th century saw republicanism become an important
idea in much of the Middle East, as monarchies were removed in many
states of the region.
Iraq became a secular state. Some nations, such
Indonesia and Azerbaijan, began as secular. In Iran, the 1979
revolution overthrew the monarchy and created an Islamic republic
based on the ideas of Islamic democracy.
Head of state
With no monarch, most modern republics use the title president for the
head of state. Originally used to refer to the presiding officer of a
committee or governing body in Great Britain the usage was also
applied to political leaders, including the leaders of some of the
Thirteen Colonies (originally Virginia in 1608); in full, the
President of the Council". The first republic to adopt the title
United States of America. Keeping its usage as the head of a
President of the Continental Congress was the leader of
the original congress. When the new constitution was written the title
President of the
United States was conferred on the head of the new
If the head of state of a republic is also the head of government,
this is called a presidential system. There are a number of forms of
presidential government. A full-presidential system has a president
with substantial authority and a central political role.
In other states the legislature is dominant and the presidential role
is almost purely ceremonial and apolitical, such as in Germany and
India. These states are parliamentary republics and operate similarly
to constitutional monarchies with parliamentary systems where the
power of the monarch is also greatly circumscribed. In parliamentary
systems the head of government, most often titled prime minister,
exercises the most real political power.
have a president as an active head of state, but also have a head of
government with important powers.
The rules for appointing the president and the leader of the
government, in some republics permit the appointment of a president
and a prime minister who have opposing political convictions: in
France, when the members of the ruling cabinet and the president come
from opposing political factions, this situation is called
In some countries, like Switzerland,
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina and San
Marino, the head of state is not a single person but a committee
(council) of several persons holding that office. The Roman Republic
had two consuls, elected for a one year-term by the comitia
centuriata, consisting of all adult, freeborn males who could prove
In liberal democracies presidents are elected, either directly by the
people or indirectly by a parliament or council. Typically in
presidential and semi-presidential systems the president is directly
elected by the people, or is indirectly elected as done in the United
States. In that country the president is officially elected by an
electoral college, chosen by the States, all of which do so by direct
election of the electors. The indirect election of the president
through the electoral college conforms to the concept of republic as
one with a system of indirect election. In the opinion of some, direct
election confers legitimacy upon the president and gives the office
much of its political power. However, this concept of legitimacy
differs from that expressed in the
established the legitimacy of the
United States president as resulting
from the signing of the
Constitution by nine states. The idea that
direct election is required for legitimacy also contradicts the spirit
of the Great Compromise, whose actual result was manifest in the
clause that provides voters in smaller states with slightly more
representation in presidential selection than those in large states.
In states with a parliamentary system the president is usually elected
by the parliament. This indirect election subordinates the president
to the parliament, and also gives the president limited legitimacy and
turns most presidential powers into reserve powers that can only be
exercised under rare circumstance. There are exceptions where elected
presidents have only ceremonial powers, such as in Ireland.
The distinction between a republic and a monarchy is not always clear.
The constitutional monarchies of the former British
Empire and Western
Europe today have almost all real political power vested in the
elected representatives, with the monarchs only holding either
theoretical powers, no powers or rarely used reserve powers. Real
legitimacy for political decisions comes from the elected
representatives and is derived from the will of the people. While
hereditary monarchies remain in place, political power is derived from
the people as in a republic. These states are thus sometimes referred
to as crowned republics.
Terms such as "liberal republic" are also used to describe all of the
modern liberal democracies.
There are also self-proclaimed republics that act similarly to
monarchies with absolute power vested in the leader and passed down
from father to son. North Korea and Syria are two notable examples
where a son has inherited political control. Neither of these states
are officially monarchies. There is no constitutional requirement that
power be passed down within one family, but it has occurred in
There are also elective monarchies where ultimate power is vested in a
monarch, but the monarch is chosen by some manner of election. A
current example of such a state is
Malaysia where the Yang di-Pertuan
Agong is elected every five years by the
Conference of Rulers
Conference of Rulers composed
of the nine hereditary rulers of the
Malay states and the Vatican
City-State, where the pope is selected by cardinal-electors, currently
all cardinals under a specific age. While rare today, elective
monarchs were common in the past. The Holy Roman
Empire is an
important example, where each new emperor was chosen by a group of
electors. Islamic states also rarely employed primogeniture, instead
relying on various forms of election to choose a monarch's successor.
Commonwealth had an elective monarchy, with a
wide suffrage of some 500,000 nobles. The system, known as the Golden
Liberty, had developed as a method for powerful landowners to control
the crown. The proponents of this system looked to classical examples,
and the writings of the Italian Renaissance, and called their elective
monarchy a rzeczpospolita, based on res publica.
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In general being a republic also implies sovereignty as for the state
to be ruled by the people it cannot be controlled by a foreign power.
There are important exceptions to this, for example, republics in the
Soviet Union were member states which had to meet three criteria to be
be on the periphery of the
Soviet Union so as to be able to take
advantage of their theoretical right to secede;
be economically strong enough to be self-sufficient upon secession;
be named after at least one million people of the ethnic group which
should make up the majority population of said republic.
It is sometimes argued that the former
Soviet Union was also a
supra-national republic, based on the claim that the member states
were different nations.
Yugoslavia (and earlier names) was a
federal entity composed of six republics (Socialist
Republic of Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and
Slovenia). Each republic had its parliament, government, institute of
citizenship, constitution, etc., but certain functions were delegated
to the federation (army, monetary matters). Each republic also had a
right of self-determination according to the conclusions of the second
session of the AVNOJ and according to the federal constitution.
States of the
United States are required, like the federal government,
to be republican in form, with final authority resting with the
people. This was required because the states were intended to create
and enforce most domestic laws, with the exception of areas delegated
to the federal government and prohibited to the states. The founding
fathers of the country intended most domestic laws to be handled by
the states. Requiring the states to be a republic in form was seen as
protecting the citizens' rights and preventing a state from becoming a
dictatorship or monarchy, and reflected unwillingness on the part of
the original 13 states (all independent republics) to unite with other
states that were not republics. Additionally, this requirement ensured
that only other republics could join the union.
In the example of the United States, the original 13 British colonies
became independent states after the American Revolution, each having a
republican form of government. These independent states initially
formed a loose confederation called the
United States and then later
formed the current
United States by ratifying the current U.S.
Constitution, creating a union of sovereign states with the union or
federal government also being a republic. Any state joining the union
later was also required to be a republic.
Main article: Republicanism
The term republic originated from the writers of the Renaissance as a
descriptive term for states that were not monarchies. These writers,
such as Machiavelli, also wrote important prescriptive works
describing how such governments should function. These ideas of how a
government and society should be structured is the basis for an
ideology known as classical republicanism or civic humanism. This
ideology is based on the
Roman Republic and the city states of Ancient
Greece and focuses on ideals such as civic virtue, rule of law and
This understanding of a republic as a distinct form of government from
a liberal democracy is one of the main theses of the Cambridge School
of historical analysis. This grew out of the work of J. G. A.
Pocock who in 1975 argued that a series of scholars had expressed a
consistent set of republican ideals. These writers included
Montesquieu and the founders of the United States
Pocock argued that this was an ideology with a history and principles
distinct from liberalism. These ideas were embraced by a number of
different writers, including Quentin Skinner, Philip Pettit and
Cass Sunstein. These subsequent writers have further explored the
history of the idea, and also outlined how a modern republic should
Republicanism in the United States
A distinct set of definitions for the word republic evolved in the
United States. In common parlance, a republic is a state that does not
practice direct democracy but rather has a government indirectly
controlled by the people. This understanding of the term was
originally developed by James Madison, and notably employed in
Federalist Paper No. 10. This meaning was widely adopted early in the
history of the United States, including in Noah Webster's dictionary
of 1828. It was a novel meaning to the term; representative democracy
was not an idea mentioned by
Machiavelli and did not exist in the
classical republics. There is also evidence that contemporaries of
Madison considered the meaning of the word to reflect the definition
found elsewhere, as is the case with a quotation of Benjamin Franklin
taken from the notes of
James McHenry where the question is put forth,
Republic or a Monarchy?".
The term republic does not appear in the Declaration of Independence,
but does appear in Article IV of the
Constitution which "guarantee[s]
to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government." What
exactly the writers of the constitution felt this should mean is
uncertain. The Supreme Court, in
Luther v. Borden
Luther v. Borden (1849), declared
that the definition of republic was a "political question" in which it
would not intervene. In two later cases, it did establish a basic
United States v. Cruikshank (1875), the court ruled
that the "equal rights of citizens" were inherent to the idea of a
However, the term republic is not synonymous with the republican form.
The republican form is defined as one in which the powers of
sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people,
either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to
whom those powers are specially delegated. In re Duncan, 139 U.S. 449,
11 S.Ct. 573, 35 L.Ed. 219; Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.)
162, 22 L.Ed. 627.
Beyond these basic definitions the word republic has a number of other
connotations. W. Paul Adams observes that republic is most often used
United States as a synonym for state or government, but with
more positive connotations than either of those terms.
Republicanism is often referred to as the founding ideology of the
United States. Traditionally scholars believed this American
republicanism was a derivation of the classical liberal ideologies of
John Locke and others developed in Europe.
A political philosophy of republicanism that formed during the
Renaissance period and initiated by
Machiavelli was thought to have
had little impact on the founders of the United States. In the 1960s
and 1970s, a revisionist school led by the likes of
Bernard Bailyn began to argue that republicanism was just as or even
more important than liberalism in the creation of the United
States. This issue is still much disputed and scholars like Isaac
Kramnick completely reject this view.
List of republics
Republics of Russia
Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution
^ Bohn, H. G. (1849). The Standard Library Cyclopedia of Political,
Constitutional, Statistical and Forensic Knowledge. p. 640. A
republic, according to the modern usage of the word, signifies a
political community which is not under monarchical government ... in
which one person does not possess the entire sovereign power.
^ a b "Definition of Republic". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved
2017-02-18. a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch
... a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens
entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and
representatives responsible to them and governing according to
^ "The definition of republic". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens
entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly
or indirectly by them. ... a state in which the head of government is
not a monarch or other hereditary head of state.
^ Woodburn, James Albert. The American
Republic and Its Government: An
Analysis of the Government of the United States, G. P. Putnam, 1903:
the constitutional republic with its limitations on popular government
is clearly involved in the
United States Constitution, as seen in the
election of the President, the election of the Senate and the
appointment of the Supreme Court.
^ Scheb, John M. An Introduction to the American Legal System. Thomson
Delmar Learning 2001. p. 6
^ Allan, T. R. S. (2003-01-01). Constitutional Justice: A Liberal
Theory of the Rule of Law. Oxford University Press.
ISBN 9780199267880. When the idea of the rule of law is
interpreted as a principle of constitutionalism, ...
^ Peacock, Anthony Arthur (2010-01-01). Freedom and the Rule of Law.
Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780739136188. The rule of law is
fundamental to all liberal constitutional regimes...
^ Founders Online: From Alexander Hamilton to Gouverneur Morris, 19
May 1777, 2018-01-28
But a representative democracy, where the right of election is well
secured and regulated & the exercise of the legislative, executive
and judiciary authorities, is vested in select persons, chosen really
and not nominally by the people, will in my opinion be most likely to
be happy, regular and durable.
^ North Korea Elections: A Sham Worth Studying Time magazine. By Emily
Rauhala. Mar 10, 2014.
^ How Democratic Was the Roman Republic? History of the Ancient
World.com. By Allen M. Ward. 2004.
^ Definition of
Republic Dictionary.com. 2017.
^ "Transcript of the
Constitution of the
United States – Official
Democracy and Democratization: Processes and Prospects in a Changing
World Pg 15. By Georg Sorensen. 2008. Westview Press.
^ Bloom, Allan. The Republic. Basic Books, 1991. pp. 439–40
^ Rubinstein, Nicolai. "
Machiavelli and Florentine Republican
Republicanism Cambridge University
^ a b c d e "Republic"j, New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed.
Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons,
2005. p. 2099
^ Lewis, Charlton T.; Charles Short (1879). "res, II.K". A Latin
Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved August 14,
^ a b Haakonssen, Knud. "Republicanism." A Companion to Contemporary
Political Philosophy. Robert E. Goodin and Philip Pettit. eds.
Cambridge: Blackwell, 1995.
^ Everdell (2000) p. xxiii.
^ "Encyclopedia Britannica".
^ Nippel, Wilfried. "Ancient and Modern Republicanism." The Invention
of the Modern
Republic ed. Biancamaria Fontana. Cambridge University
Press, 1994 p. 6
^ Reno, Jeffrey. "republic." International Encyclopedia of the Social
Sciences p. 184
^ Pocock, J.G.A. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political
Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (1975; new ed. 2003)
^ Paul A. Rahe, Republics, Ancient and Modern, three volumes,
University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1994.
^ Martin Bernal, Black Athena Writes Back (Durham: Duke University
Press, 2001), p. 359.
^ a b Everdell (2000)
^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Aksum".
^ "Concepts of
Democracy and Democratization in Africa Revisited".
Paper presented at the Fourth Annual Kent State University Symposium
on Democracy. by Apollos O. Nwauwa
Mahajanapadas – Sixteen Mahajanapadas, 16 Maha Janapadas India,
Maha Janapada Ancient India. Iloveindia.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
^ Anguttara Nikaya I. p. 213; IV. pp. 252, 256, 261.
^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval
India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Delhi: Pearson
Education. pp. 260–64. ISBN 978-81-317-1120-0.
^ http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9074639/Vaisali Vaisali,
^ Kulke, Hermann; Dietmar Rothermund (2004). A history of India.
Routledge. p. 57. ISBN 0-415-32919-1.
^ Sharma, RS. Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient
India. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1999 p. xxix
^ Altekar, Anant Sadashiv (1 April 2002). State and Government in
Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. pp. 36–40.
ISBN 978-81-208-1009-9. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
^ Chu, Henry (April 2, 2011). "Iceland seeks to become sanctuary for
free speech". Los Angeles Times.
^ a b Finer, Samuel. The History of Government from the Earliest Times
Oxford University Press, 1999. pp. 950–55.
^ Ferdinand Joseph Maria Feldbrugge. Law in Medieval Russia, IDC
^ Finer, pp. 955–956.
^ Finer, Samuel. The History of Government from the Earliest Times.
Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 1020.
^ "Republicanism." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment p. 435
^ "Introduction." Republicanism: a Shared European Heritage. By Martin
van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner. Cambridge University Press, 2002 p.
^ "Republicanism." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment p. 431
^ "Latin American Republicanism" New Dictionary of the History of
Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 2005.
^ The Ottoman
Empire and Russian
Empire are counted amongst Europe.
Counted as republics are the Swiss Confederation, the Free Cities of
Hamburg, Bremen, Lübeck and Frankfurt, the Most Serene
San Marino, the
Republic of Cospaia, the
Septinsular Republic and the
German Confederation; however, member states of the German
Confederation are also separately counted (35 monarchies).
^ The Ottoman
Empire and Russian
Empire are counted amongst Europe.
Turkey is counted amongst Europe, the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics as a single republic, the Irish Free State
as an independent monarchy (see also Irish head of state from 1936 to
Vatican City as an elective monarchy, the Kingdom of
a nominal monarchy.
Turkey is counted amongst Europe, the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics as a single republic, the Free Territory of
Trieste as an independent republic,
Vatican City as an elective
Spanish State as a nominal monarchy.
Turkey is counted amongst Europe, the Russian
Federation as a single republic, the
Republic of Kosovo
Republic of Kosovo (recognised by
most other European states) as an independent republic, Vatican City
as an elective monarchy. The
Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia
Kazakhstan are not shown on this map and excluded from the count.
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey)
and all other unrecognised states are excluded from the count.
^ Anderson, Lisa. "Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the
Middle East." Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 106, No. 1 (Spring,
1991), pp. 1–15
^ Bernard Lewis. "The Concept of an Islamic Republic" Die Welt des
Islams, New Series, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (1955), pp. 1–9
^ OED, s. v.
^ "Presidential Systems" Governments of the World: A Global Guide to
Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities. Ed. C. Neal Tate. Vol. 4.
Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. pp. 7–11.
^ Article VII,
Constitution of the United States
^ Article II, Para 2,
Constitution of the United States
^ The novelist and essayist
H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells regularly used the term
crowned republic to describe the United Kingdom, for instance in his
work A Short History of the World.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem
Idylls of the King.
^ Dunn, John. "The Identity of the Bourgeois Liberal Republic." The
Invention of the Modern Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University
^ "Republicanism" Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Jun 19, 2006
^ McCormick, John P. "
Machiavelli against Republicanism: On the
Cambridge School's 'Guicciardinian Moments'" Political Theory, Vol.
31, No. 5 (Oct., 2003), pp. 615–43
^ Pocock, J. G. A The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political
Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition Princeton: 1975, 2003
^ Philip Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government,
NY: Oxford U.P., 1997, ISBN 0-19-829083-7; Oxford: Clarendon
^ Everdell (2000) p. 6
Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790). Respectfully Quoted: A
Dictionary of Quotations. 1989".
^ GOVERNMENT (Republican Form of Government) – One in which the
powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by
the people ... directly ... Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, p.
^ W. Paul Adams "
Republicanism in Political Rhetoric Before 1776."
Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Sep., 1970), pp.
^ Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.
Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.
^ Kramnick, Isaac.
Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism: Political
Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America. Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1990.
Speech of U.S. Senator against the Mexican–American War
characterizing it as imperialist and presidential.
Martin van Gelderen & Quentin Skinner, eds., Republicanism: A
Shared European Heritage, v. 1,
Early Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., 2002
Martin van Gelderen & Quentin Skinner, eds., Republicanism: A
Shared European Heritage, v. 2, The Values of
Republicanism in Early
Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2002
Willi Paul Adams, “
Republicanism in Political Rhetoric before
1776,” Political Science Quarterly 85(1970), pp. 397–421.
Joyce Appleby, “
Republicanism in Old and New Contexts,” in William
& Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 43 (January, 1986), pp. 3–34.
Joyce Appleby, ed., “Republicanism” issue of American Quarterly 37
Sarah Barber, Regicide and Republicanism: Politics and Ethics in the
English Republic, 1646–1649, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,
Quentin Skinner & Maurizio Viroli, eds., Machiavelli
and Republicanism, Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1990.
Everdell, William R. (2000), The End of Kings: A History of Republics
and Republicans (2nd ed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Eric Gojosso, Le concept de république en France (XVIe – XVIIIe
siècle), Aix/Marseille, 1998, pp. 205–45.
James Hankins, "Exclusivist
Republicanism and the Non-Monarchical
Republic," Political Theory 38.4 (August 2010), 452–82.
Frédéric Monera, L'idée de République et la jurisprudence du
Conseil constitutionnel – Paris: L.G.D.J., 2004 Fnac, LGDJ.fr
Philip Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government,
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997, pp. x and 304.
J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political
Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition, Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1975
J. G. A. Pocock, “Between Gog and Magog: The Republican Thesis and
the Ideologia Americana,” Journal of the History of Ideas 48 (1987),
J. G. A. Pocock, "The Machiavellian Moment Revisited: A Study in
History and Ideology” Journal of Modern History 53 (1981)
Paul A. Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism
and the American Revolution, 3 v., Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina
Press 1992, 1994.
Jagdish P. Sharma, Republics in ancient India, c. 1500 B.C.–500
David Wootton, ed., Republicanism, Liberty, and Commercial Society,
1649–1776 (The Making of Modern Freedom series), Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 1994.
• Thomas Corwin, Senate Speech Against the Mexican War-Congressional
William R. Everdell, “From State to Freestate: The Meaning of the
Republic from Jean Bodin to John Adams” (7th ISECS, Budapest,
7/31/87) in Valley Forge Journal, June, 1991
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