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It is first necessary to look at the principle of a republic form of government to understand republicanism.

  • A republic is a form of government. The origin of the word is the Latin phrase Res Publica. It means “the public thing” or “public affair.”
  • The fundamental principle of a republic is that citizens elect their rulers. The rulers reign the state through the right granted by the citizens. In a monarchy, the right to rule is hereditary. Hence, the head of state is a president, not a monarch. 
  • For the republic to truly work, democracy is essential. Democracy allows free elections. Hence, people can freely elect their rulers. However, not every republic is a democracy.
United States Capitol, home of the Republic

About republicanism

In short, republicanism is a political theory supporting republics. It believes that this form of government is most suitable for the citizens. Thus, that is is best if people actively participate in who and how runs the country. That is, of course in, a contrast to monarchism – the idea of a hereditary transfer of power.

Rationally, the theory is older than the form of government itself. Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Cicero, Homer, or Plato are some of the first promoters of this belief. While many believe that the Roman republic was the first, there were a few examples in Ancient India. But, the idea went silent after the fall of the Roman republic in 27 BC. 

The concept reemerged in the 16th century with the Dutch Republic, Florence, and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. But, these efforts were minor. After the USA declared independence in 1776 and the French Revolution, things started to change. From the beginning of the 19th century, more and more countries became republics. The driving force of modern republicanism is to break down monarchies.

Among European promoters of the theory belong thinkers and leaders such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Oliver Cromwell, Montesquieu, and others. The sympathizers of American republicanism are Benjamin Franklin, James MadisonAlexander Hamilton, John Adams, and more. While the Americans distinguish democracy and republic, other nations believe the two go hand in hand.