The terms “democracy” and “republic” are sometimes interchangeably used, but the Founders were clear about what they wanted the newly formed nation of America to be.
They created a constitutional republic. As the Pledge of Allegiance states, written more than 100 years after the Constitutional Convention: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands …”
But many Democrats don’t like the word “republic” because it reminds Americans that it is the Constitution, not majority rule on any given day, that governs us.
It is the Constitution that maintains checks and balances between branches of government, protects the rights of all people regardless of minority or majority status, and stands for the rule of law.
On Saturday, New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen appeared so keen to forget that we are a republic that she altered a famous Benjamin Franklin quote that should be known to every lawmaker in order to fit her idea of what she would prefer.
“Three years ago, insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the legitimate 2020 election results,” Shaheen wrote, referring to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol incursion. “They assaulted and injured police officers. They threatened the lives of elected officials. They put our democracy in jeopardy.”
“‘A democracy, if you can keep it,” said Ben Franklin,'” Shaheen added, botching the well-known quote, which, as anyone with a basic knowledge of history knows, actually reads, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
“A democracy, if you can keep it,” said Ben Franklin.
January 6, 2021, was a stark reminder of just how fragile our democracy is.
It is on each and every one of us to never forget the actions that led to that day so we ensure history does not repeat itself.
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) January 6, 2024
Users of the social media platform X had a few choice words for Shaheen in response to her substituting the word “democracy” for the word “republic” in the Franklin quote.
“That’s not Franklins quote, and you know it,” one user wrote. “We are not a ‘Democracy’ by the design of our Founders who knew that democracy leads to mob rule on any given day and fails. We are a Constitutional Republic. Franklin’s famous quote is: A Republic if you can keep it. Quit misleading people.”
That’s not Franklins quote, and you know it. We are not a “Democracy” by the design of our Founders who knew that democracy leads to mob rule on any given day and fails. We are a Constitutional Republic. Franklin’s famous quote is: A Republic if you can keep it.
— Jellenne 🇺🇸🌵🌞 (@jellen805) January 6, 2024
Others just mocked the senator for her apparent lack of knowledge of a widely well-known quote.
“You should be deported for being this stupid,” wrote Tom Elliott, founder of conservative media aggregator Grabien.
You should be deported for being this stupid
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 7, 2024
Nick Freitas, a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, compared Shaheen to Claudine Gay, the ousted Harvard president who lost her job in a scandal over her own plagiarism and anti-Semitism on the Ivy League school’s campus.
“Did Claudine Gay send you that Franklin quote?” Freitas asked.
Did Claudine Gay send you that Franklin quote?
— Nick Freitas (@NickJFreitas) January 7, 2024
The actual story surrounding the famous Franklin quote is a little foggy.
According to the quotation site Bartleby, it was published in 1906 in The American Historical Review, which was making public notes from the Constitutional Convention by Dr. James McHenry, a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention who went on to become George Washinington’s secretary of war. (Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, the setting for the battle that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was named after him.)
But the story was clearly in circulation long before 1906.
In his diary entry from Sept. 18, 1787, McHenry described the conversation as being between Franklin and a “lady,” who asked Franklin, “well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”
“A republic,” Franklin responded. “If you can keep it.”
The National Park Service identifies that “lady” as Elizabeth Wiling Powell, a prominent woman of the Revolutionary Era whom the library of George Washington’s estate, mountvernon.org, describes as a friend of George and Martha Washington who moved in the same circles as the likes of John and Abigail Adams and the Marquis de Lafayette.
The quote is:
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) January 6, 2024
“Newspapers and a few publications reprinted this story in the early nineteenth century, adding that this interaction either happened when Benjamin Franklin left the state house, or ‘walked into the room,’” mountvernon.org noted.
Regrettably, according to mountvernon.org, Mrs. Powell couldn’t quite recall Franklin’s words themselves, writing in 1814 that “I have no recollection of any such conversations… Yet I cannot venture to deny after so many Years have elapsed that such conversations had passed. I well remember to have frequently associated with the most respectable, influential Members of the Convention that framed the Constitution, and that the all-important Subject was frequently discussed at our House.”
So, the actual circumstances surrounding Franklin’s words might not be crystal clear, but the words themselves haven’t changed since Dr. McHenry set them down in his diary.
“A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin said.
From the separation of powers across branches to judges appointed via representation, not popular vote, America has always been a republic.
And despite every attempt of the Democrat party to alter that reality, the American people have not forgotten.
We are a republic, and we intend to keep it that way.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.