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  • International Organizations & DemocracyToward a Global "Guarantee Clause"
  • Morton H. Halperin (bio) and Kristen Lomasney (bio)

As democracy spreads throughout the globe, many people are rediscovering a truth understood by the Framers of the United States Constitution: a true world order requires that all constituent states be ruled by governments that both derive their legitimacy from the consent of the people and are limited in power. Indeed, because the Framers believed that the states of the new Union could not coexist peacefully unless they all possessed political institutions based on the principle of representation, the delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 inserted into the new Constitution a clause compelling the federal government to ensure "a Republican Form of Government" to every state. Today, as we move toward a new world order, the international community must be willing to make this same commitment: a guarantee of constitutional democracy to every nation that has already established this modern equivalent of a republican government.

The movement toward an international guarantee clause is already underway; indeed, according to legal scholar Thomas Franck, governments worldwide have begun to realize that their legitimacy in the international arena "depends on meeting a normative expectation of the community of states"—namely, that "those who seek the validation of their empowerment patently govern with the consent of the governed." In conformity with this principle of entitlement, the international community has recently begun to support and nurture a "right to democratic governance" by intervening against "illegitimate" regimes: one such example is the imposition of economic sanctions against Peru following President Alberto Fujimori's suspension of that country's [End Page 60] constitution in April 1992. Thus in recent international behavior, one can already discern "the outlines of this new world in which citizens of each state will look to international law and organization to guarantee their democratic entitlement."1

Indeed, because national legitimacy is becoming increasingly intertwined with international law, the guarantee clause of the U.S. Constitution provides a useful model for the kind of commitment that the international community should offer to any people which is struggling to establish or maintain a constitutional democracy.

The Views of the Framers

Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution states: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government," and further requires the United States to protect each state against "Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or the executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

The first half of Section 4, the guarantee clause, is unique in many respects as compared to other constitutional provisions. First, the clause is the only constitutional restriction on the organization of state government. Second, this clause does more than create a right to act, as do most constitutional provisions. Rather, it charges the federal government with a positive obligation to suppress state insurrections and to forestall relapses to nonrepublican forms of government—a striking exception to the Constitution's general principle of nonintervention.

Third, the guarantee clause is the only constitutional obligation entrusted to the federal government as a corporate whole; the Constitution explicitly assigns the responsibility to superintend the acts and structure of state government to the United States, rather than to Congress, the president, or the judiciary in particular.2

Fourth, the guarantee clause must be considered as a pledge to the people of every state, for only individuals would benefit from such a provision. The section specifies "every state," but what protection would the state government need against its own subversive actions? One can only conclude that the Founders intended the clause to serve the citizens of every state, a reasoning supported by contemporary usage of the word. In the eighteenth century, "state" boasted a variety of meanings, including "territory," "government," and "the people of a nation." Yet the frequent use of "state" as a synonym for the people of a state, and James Madison's determination to preserve minority rights as well as majority rule, support the interpretation that sees the guarantee clause as creating a positive federal duty to protect individual citizens from nonrepublican state governance.3

According to the Founders, republicanism meant more than just...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 60-69
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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