From the Library of Law, W.B. Allen writing, well worth reading in full:
To try to create within oneself that same resonance, one might recall that self government does not mean majority rule – for any of the American Founders. While it certainly does include the processes of majority rule ultimately, that is only a mechanism, a means – not what was being aimed at. What he meant by self government was rather more a moral conception, such as he expressed in his Farewell, when he eulogized the people as “now” loving to be “one people,” and now governing themselves. At that moment, at least, they became in Washington’s eyes a republic, and had also to accept the responsibility for its perpetuation. Washington’s Farewell is truly a masterpiece in literary craftsmanship.
In modern times we have nearly completely lost the idea of republican virtue. It’s not something even really thought about anymore, but the Founders thought it was essential if the United States was going to succeed. You will hardly ever hear politicians use the term “private morality.” Both the left and right believe in public morality, but merely differ in what they believe public morality is. But before libertarians get too pleased, I believe there are many things about libertarian philosophy that the Founders would likewise find to be unvirtuous. Like I said, republican virtue seems to be a bit of a lost concept.