In my recent letter to the editor “Don’t be fooled by free market talk,” I stated, “as a consequence of the American Revolutionary War, a representative democracy was established (Amendment XVII to the Constitution).”
A confused writer responded, “Has our Pledge of Allegiance been altered?” He continued that the last time he checked, the pledge still said something about pledging allegiance to a republic.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a socialist minister who defined a republic as liberty, justice for all (1892). Originally, the Founding Fathers gave us a republic, but there’s a wide interpretation of what constitutes a republic — including who can vote.
The Constitution did not define who could vote. Each state established voting rights.
In most states only white men, owning a certain amount of property, were permitted voting privileges. The first Congress that met in 1789 represented a republic, but with only a fragment of democratic representation.
To succeed in the American Revolutionary War, the entrenched elite needed help. Their speeches and pamphlets about freedom and equality led ordinary people to demand voting rights.
Effectively, the 14th Amendment extended the vote to all adult, white men. But the amendment that brought about a true representative democracy was the 17th Amendment, which took effect in 1913 (21 years after the pledge was written). That made our government constitutionally a representative democracy, as well as being a republic of laws.
Sun City Hilton Head