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It is absolutely important that we have knowledge of history in order to preserve our constitution against the deceptive actions of ambitious tyrants. One book that imparts useful historical wisdom to us is The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, originally published in 1776 by Edward Gibbon. There are many parallels I have seen in Gibbon’s description of what happened to the Roman Republic, and what is currently happening here in America. I’ll only go over a few examples here.
In Chapter 3, he discusses the constitution of that Roman Empire. On preserving constitutions, he says,
a martial nobility and a stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against the enterprises of an aspiring prince.
The founders of our constitution knew what was necessary, and that is why our right to bear arms is undeniably protected by the second amendment. According to Gibbon, we must be vigilant about that right as well as “tenacious” of our property rights. And when Gibbon says “constitutional assemblies,” what first comes to my mind is the state government. Our states are each constitutional republics themselves, which must maintain their sovereignty in order to check the power of the federal government.
As the tyrants of Rome were consolidating power and overturning the constitution, the people “demanded only bread and public shows, and were supplied with both by the liberal hand of Augustus.” Again, the parallels here are obvious. If people in America continue to be distracted by sports and entertainment, the constitution will continue to be shredded. It is our responsibility to our posterity that we turn off the televisions and instead be jealous guardians of liberty. We can’t expect those in government to do that for us.
Later in the same chapter, Gibbon states that Emperor Augustus was correct in thinking “that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured, that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom.” Clearly there are some in the federal government today who constantly assure us that America is not slipping into a tyranny, and that we are still “land of the free.”
However, with the Federal Reserve printing fiat currency, a federal income tax, the admission we are constantly being spied on, the indefinite detention provision of the NDAA, and much more examples, Americans are simply not truly enjoying the liberties that Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and others stood for.
As the Republic transformed into tyranny, the confused people of ancient Rome “attacked the person of the tyrant, without aiming their blow at the authority of the emperor.” Does this not represent the left-right paradigm Americans are trapped in? Instead of attacking the specific individuals, the people should unite and condemn the fact that so much authority is being granted to the executive branch. That unconstitutional authority will never be a good thing, regardless of whether the President is a republican or a democrat.
An understanding of history shows that there is no worse threat than government taking our liberty, regardless of what fear is exploited to justify taking that freedom. We must continue to be mindful of history to better understand what liberty truly is, and how we can defend our rights.
- Lessons from Machiavelli and The Greatest Threat to National Security - July 15, 2014
- The Role of Government, and Where Liberty Comes From - May 29, 2014
- Parallels of the Roman Empire and the American Republic - May 14, 2014