Q – What does Article IV, Section 4 really mean?

Article 4, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution is commonly called the Guarantee Clause. It reads, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.” This clause guarantees that the federal government will assure and provide these three protections to all State governments:

1. Republican Form of Government;
2. Protection Against Invasion; and
3. Protection of Legislatures and Executive from domestic Violence.

The first assurance is more complicated because the term “Republican Form of Government” is not defined in the Constitution and was not widely written on during the Ratification Debates. However, they did establish seven basic principles necessary to constitute a Republican form of government:

1. There is a strict separation of powers, horizontally and vertically.
2. The government is run by officers governing for a term and only during good behavior.
3. Offices are selected by our election, and not by the appointment of the government itself.
4. The government recognizes that power resides originally in the People (immediately from God).
5. There is a deliberativeness in action and that it is, by the checks and balances, not subject to the whimsical fancy of a few.
6. The government acknowledges the final right of the People to alter or abolish it whenever it usurps the rights for which it was instituted by the People to administer God’s Law.
7. The government does not grant entitlements.


These principles must be maintained so that the form of government does not “wander” into another type of government – like monarchy, dictatorship, oligarchy, democracy or worse, totalitarian. For a detailed analysis of what the Guarantee Clause means regarding Republican Form of Government, please read the article “What is a Republic Anyway?” by Scott Whiteman, Esq. which is included below.

Protection against invasion was a continuation of an established centralized foreign policy and defense under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Framers understood that protection of the borders was essential to both the security of the people and the viability of the economy. The clause assures that a president cannot refuse to defend certain parts of the nation from foreign attack. Sadly today, this understanding has been lost on our national government officials who want to “sell out” the citizens by granting “amnesty” to those who illegally enter the States of the union.

The final assurance is protection of legislatures and the executive from domestic Violence which again is a vague term used without being properly defined in the document. It has commonly accepted that this protection is against local uprisings or insurrections. However, as noted in the essay by Mr. Whiteman, most State Constitutions include articles in the Declaration of Rights which reserve to the people the right to establish a new government whenever the government oppresses the people. The Maryland Declaration of Rights in Article 6 states, “That all persons invested with the Legislative or Executive powers of Government are the Trustees of the Public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct: Wherefore, whenever the ends of Government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the People may, and of right ought, to reform the old, or establish a new Government; the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.