“The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republican Form of Government, …” Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution
When drafting this new Constitution to replace the old and ineffective Articles of Confederation, the Founders conceived the “Guarantee Clause” (Article 4, Section 4), which affirms that each state shall be guaranteed a republican form of government. They required that each state, to remain in the Union, must have a system of governance that is representative in structure.
With the intention of preserving both the union’s strength and state’s rights, they did not want the states to “wander” into any other type of government; not a monarchy, not a dictatorship, not even a democracy where, by plebiscite, a direct vote of an entire electorate is taken on important public questions.
The Founders wanted to ensure that state governments recognized that any power resides originally with the people, and immediately from God, and that the process is governed by checks and balances, not subject to the whimsical fancy of a few. Essentially, the Founders wanted to be able to control the influence of “factions”, or what we today call “special interest groups”.
In Federalist Paper 10, authored by James Madison in support of the new Constitution, he examined the self-serving and dangerous influence of factions, and the nature and benefits of a republican form of government.
To remove factions, Madison proposed, liberty would have to be limited or abolished because “liberty is to faction what air is to fire.” In other words, freedom nourishes faction. He noted that as long as people have the freedom to exercise reason “other opinions will be formed.”
Madison concluded that since faction’s causes cannot be eliminated in a free society, they must be controlled. After all, freedom was the very concept they were attempting to codify and enshrine in the Constitution. He contended that a pure democracy provides no cure for faction because here a majority can always tyrannize the minority.
However, the Constitution offers the solution where the influence of faction is mitigated by the republican principle of representative government. In a republic, the natural rights of all, including the minority, are protected.