Republic, Liberal republics

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Summary

A republic is a form of government in which power resides in the people, and the government is ruled by elected leaders run according to law (from ), rather than inherited or appointed (such as through inheritance or divine mandate). In modern times the definition of a republic is also commonly limited to a government which excludes a monarch. Currently, 135 of the world's 206 sovereign states use the word "republic" as part of their official names.

Details

Along with these initial republican revolts, early modern Europe also 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.

The American Revolution began as a rejection only of the authority of the 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 tyrannical. With the 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 republics. 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 the United States Bill of Rights, guaranteed certain natural rights fundamental to republican ideals that justified the Revolution.

The French Revolution was also not republican at its outset. Only after the 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 of Napoleon saw the end of the French First Republic, and his eventual defeat allowed the victorious monarchies to put an end to many of the oldest republics on the continent, including Venice, Genoa, and the Dutch.

Outside of 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 decent, 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.

The French Second Republic was created in 1848, and the French Third Republic in 1871. Spain briefly became the First Spanish Republic, but the monarchy was soon restored. By the start of the 20th century France, Switzerland, and San Marino remained the only republics in Europe. Before World War I, the Portuguese Republic, established by the revolution of October 5, 1910, was the first of the 20th century. This would encourage new republics in the aftermath of the war, when several of the largest European empires collapsed. The German Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire were then replaced by republics. New states gained independence during this turmoil, and many of these, such as Ireland, Poland, Finland and Czechoslovakia, chose republican forms of government. In 1931, the Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939) turned into a 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. China had seen considerable anti-Qing sentiment, 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 combined American, European, and Chinese ideas. The Republic of China was proclaimed on January 1, 1912.

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