We hear it all the time: "we live in a republic, not a democracy." And like many sayings, they have a deeper meaning that is usually unknown.
So what is the difference? According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a democracy is where the sovereignty is in the hands of the people, for the people and by the people as a whole. But like Thomas Carlyle, the founding fathers didn't believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance, so they established a republic.
This idea can be found in Article IV of the U.S Constitution, where it says in part, “the United States shall guarantee to every state a Republican form of government.” In fact, democracy is not mentioned anywhere in the United States Constitution; then what is a republic? According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, a republic is where the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and can be exercised by the people, either directly or through representatives chosen by the people, to whom those powers are specially delegated. (See Minor v. Happersett on Republican Government.)
If we were to study every state constitution, we would find that in all of them, the first thing established is sovereignty. Essentially, the two forms of government are the same; the only difference is in sovereignty. In a democracy the sovereignty is in the entire group of people. In a republic the sovereignty is in each one of the people. It only takes one to keep the idea of self-government alive.