- A system of government in which the rights of citizens are protected by a constitution and the populace elects officials to establish laws and a head leader to run the state; or, a nation run by such a government.
- Any group or organization of individuals with equal liberties who are engaged in a common pursuit
Throughout history, the idea of a republic has held appeal for many societies. From ancient Rome to the United States of America, and indeed to the galactic commonwealth in Star Wars, republics have been valued as a system of government for their ability to represent the wants and needs of communities and to protect the liberties of private citizens.
A government is referred to as a republic if it is run by officials chosen by democratic election. In such an administration, periodic elections are held in which civilians have an equal vote in deciding who will run the state. In this way, power is meant to rest in the hands of the people, ensuring that no one's rights are infringed upon, that the needs of the many (or at least of the majority) are met, and that no authority becomes dictatorial. To further protect the people from tyranny, a republic is guided by a central charter or constitution which lays out and makes immutable the fundamental liberties of its citizens.
This type of government is usually much more attractive to ordinary civilians than, say, a monarchy or despotism, in which absolute power belongs to a central governing figure – a situation which often breeds corruption. Usually, a republic is headed by a single official, such as a president, or a small group, such as a congress, and includes a legislative body which establishes laws. This system also often includes a judicial branch that is responsible for interpreting laws and maintaining order, as is the case in the United States. Besides referring to this type of democratic government, the term republic can also be used to describe a nation that is led by such an administration.
In the nonpolitical realm, republic is sometimes used to refer to an official organization of like-minded individuals. These individuals are understood to have equal voices within their organization, and they sometimes hold elections to determine who will make decisions and run the group's everyday affairs. Such a republic is usually formed of people working together to accomplish a specific purpose or serve certain duties. For example, a group of people determined to bring readers closer to vocabulary words might form a republic of lexicographers.
Example: Before becoming a part of the United States, California spent a few weeks as an independent republic after a group of American citizens rebelled against the Mexican government.
Example: A local group of historians formed a republic with the intent of appreciating and preserving town landmarks.
One of the most common derivatives of republic is republican, a noun used to describe someone who advocates for the aforementioned form of government. Many political systems also include officials known as Republicans (note the capitalization) who are sometimes part of Republican parties; however, the specific implications of such labels vary among different nations. Sometimes, republican is used as an adjective to describe something as being characteristic of a democratic, representative form of government.
In turn, the word republican has given rise to its own set of derivatives. Republicanism is a political school of thought which can focus on the formation and activity of either a republic or a Republican party. By the same token, republicanize is a verb which refers to the action of shaping something in the form of a republic.
The basis of republic lies in the Latin roots res, which means "affair," "situation," "event," or "thing," and publica, a cognate of "public." This combination was used in Latin to indicate formal political matters which were handled by public decision. The word was adopted in Middle French in the fifteenth century as république, a term that referred to a government in which power resided in the hands of the populace. Republic took its place in English in the early 1600s as a word to describe a government in which civilians were represented by elected officials.
From Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls:
I put great illusion in the Republic. I believe firmly in the Republic and I have faith. I believe in it with fervor as those who have religious faith believe in mysteries.
Here, the character Pilar is expressing her devotion to a fair representative government, even going so far as to compare her passion to religious faith.
- A republic represents the public.
Anspach, Jacob, et al. "Democracy vs. Republic." Diffen.com. Diffen LLC
Dubroff, M. Dee. "What Is the Difference between a Republic and a Democracy?" WiseGeek. Ed. O. Wallace. Conjecture