The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article IV, Section 4: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government….” This provision in the Constitution is known as the “Guarantee Clause” and guaranteed that each State would have “freely elected representative government” – even if the federal government had to intervene in the affairs of the State.
“A republican form of government is one in which the people are governed by freely elected representatives. It is also presumed to be one in which political power is divided, balanced, and limited, much as in the arrangement set forth in the United States Constitution. The people of a state would therefore not be allowed to set up a dictatorship even with popular support.
“The two greatest threats to the survival of a republican form of government are invasion and insurrection.” (See W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 639.)
Robert G. Natelson of The Heritage Foundation explained: “This section is called the Guarantee Clause, because by its terms the federal government makes certain guarantees to the states…. [One of those guarantees was] that the federal government will assure the states `a Republican Form of Government.’ The guarantee of protection from domestic violence may be treated as part of the republican guarantee….”
Natelson continued by explaining that the Founders believed “the `Republican Form’ of government” had three criteria, “the lack of any of which would render a government un-republican.” The three criteria are: 1) “popular rule … political decisions had to be made by a majority … of voting citizens.” 2) “no monarch … monarchy, even constitutional monarchy, was inconsistent with republican government.” 3) “the rule of law. Ex post facto laws, bills of attainder, extreme debtor-relief measures – most kinds of retroactive legislation, for example, were deemed inconsistent with the rule of law, and therefore un-republican.” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 283-284.)