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Pre-cursor to The New Galactic Republic, this well-known group was ultimately the solution for the problems that ailed the Old Galactic Republic.
Its roots can be traced directly back to the objections of the senators belonging to the Delegation of 2000, who insisted through a formal petition that then-Chancellor Palpatine's wartime policies had become too anti-democratic.
Many of these Senators, upon being denuded of their powers through a process of gradual decentralization, would also be deprived of their lives. A few, however, managed to go underground and keep one step ahead of the newly-born empire. Three of them in particular--Bail Organa, Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis--would grow their own versions of resistance groups. In time, these three leaders brought their separate factions together via the instrument of the The Corellian Treaty, a document akin to the American Declaration of Independence. Having not been heard by the Petition of the 2000, they used the Treaty as an open letter to Emperor Palpatine, in which they specified why they found his rule objectionable, and what they intended to do about it.
At this point, the legal backing for the Rebel Alliance becomes murky, because it's not quite clear whether the Treaty serves as both declaration of independence and constitution for the government of the Rebel Alliance, or whether there was some other document that spelled out how the Alliance would be governed. In any event, it is fairly clear that even from the earliest stages, the Alliance was meant to be a "reformed Republic". The legitimate problems with the Old Republic, which Palpatine had used as his own springboard to power, were addressed by the government-in-exile that was the Rebel Alliance. Perhaps through necessity, the bureaucracy of the Old Republic was torn down by the leaders of the Rebel Alliance, and a new, more democratic model of governance was instituted over those areas in rebellion. Mon Mothma, voted the first leader of the Alliance, did put herself up for some kind of periodic elections throughout the course of the War, and she was re-selected up to and past the point at which the Rebel Alliance became the New Republic.
The Rebel Alliance, like the American revolutionaries, were not fighting simply against Palpatine, but also for the core value system of the Old Republic. The transition from the wartime "Rebel Alliance" to the peacetime "New Republic" was thus a swift one, as many of the leaders felt as though they represented the legitimate Galactic government, anyway. Indeed, the core of the Alliance was one of seasoned political professionals and their heirs--not the "rabble" that the Empire would suggest to its military leadership. Moreover, it's probably important to note that some, like Mon Mothma herself, did not see a division between "Old" and "New" Republic, as the Rebel Alliance was, to them, the legitimate government-in-exile. Yes, it was a more streamlined version of that former government, but ironically it was closer to the responsive, action-oriented government that Palpatine had promised than his own bureaucratic Empire.
In addition to being hardened by the stubborn belief that it represented the people's interests better, and that it was fighting for the stronger cause in the war, the thing that brought greatest strength to the movement was the truth. Many of the top leaders of the Alliance, thanks to Bail Organa's close ties with the two remaining Jedi, saw what many ordinary citizens of the Galaxy could not: the Clone Wars had been a sham, a "magic show" by which Palpatine "duped" his way to power.
Both the calm demeanor of Mon Mothma, and the righteous indignation of Leia Organa probably derive from the earliest meeting of any kind between members of the Rebel Alliance. Holding what was probably the first Rebel meeting of any kind, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa performed a sort of "post mortem" on the Clone Wars aboard the Tantive IV and there decided to separate Luke and Leia Skywalker and go into hiding until a more propitious moment presented itself in the affairs of the Galaxy. With this simple discussion, Organa planted the seeds of future victory and discovered that all he had feared of Palpatine was indeed true. Any doubt about the rectitude of his cause, and the willingness to lay down his life for it, were thus removed, replaced, perhaps, only by the regret that he hadn't started earlier. It is a matter of little doubt that this lesson was passed on to his adopted daughter, Leia, his political ally, Mothma, and from them to the rest of the Rebel Alliance.
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