America & Rome



The United States of America was the world’s earliest real democracy. For all the classical myths about Athenian democracy, the vote was possessed by a small fraction of the people who live there; in the USA that was not so. The blot there, as with Athens, was that there was a system of slavery, where slaves got no votes, but as the 1860s showed decisively, slavery could not long co-exist with democracy

No one wandering around Washington DC can miss the references back to the one successful example of a Republic in the ancient world – Rome. The parallels are striking. Like the Roman Republic, America was a state where the citizens served under arms when needed, and where men of quality served the State as part of what a good citizen did, before going back to cultivate their estates; Washington, Jefferson and Adams would have been at home on ancient Rome. These were men for whom the concept of the ‘res-publica’ – that is the public good, was a reality; it was something they were willing to put before their own personal interests. They had a concept of proportion and restraint; they built for the longer term, not the shorter, able to do so because of the unique genius of the American Constitution.

America is not an unmediated democracy; it is a constitutional one, built on the notion of checks and balances; the founders of the Republic learnt from the British experience. They had their own version of a king, but this king was elected, and his powers were checked and balanced by a bi-cameral legislature. Back then the Senate was not directly elected, it was a model of the House of Lords which worked, where, again, men of quality (who would not have stood for election) could be selected by their State to serve; the purely popular part of the constitution, the House, was subject to short terms so that its members could not long ignore the interests of their constituents. This was, and remains, even with an elected Senate, a very clever system.

For all the attention paid to President’s Obama’s words about acting where he could on his own initiative, he knows, as do those critics using the words for partisan purposes, that there is actually very little he can do. He certainly knows it, and the words are more a tribute to the effectiveness of the work of some dead white men than he may realise (although being half-white himself, he might want to pat himself on the back for the work of his mother’s ancestors).

The Founders knew all about Kings and their ambitions – such men were part of their history as British subjects. They knew, before Lord Acton enunciated the dictum, that power tended to corrupt, and that absolute power tended to do so absolutely; they did their best to ensure that no King George, no King John and no Henry VIII would emerge on the shores of the Republic. This has often been a source of grief to Presidents: from Woodrow Wilson, through FDR, Nixon and Obama, inhabitants of the White House have grumbled. The answer to this is ‘good, that means the constitution is working’.

The ‘imperial presidency’ model that has been in fashion since FDR has brought with it the risks which imperial ambitions did to the Roman Republic. States with a large military need a lot of tax revenue; they are also apt to plead the necessities of war as excuses for suspending normal democratic procedures.From Vietnam through the revelations of Edward Snowden, two things are clear: that this temptation has been given in to by many Presidents; and that built into the American DNA is the refusal to let this happen without protest.

I see the arguments against what Snowden did and think him foolish in the extreme in the way he wet about doing what he did; but I think he was right to protest, and that had he shown more faith in the justice system of his own country, he would have been more effective, and right. Democracy is not owned by either of the American political parties, although they both act, at times, as though that were the case. It is the common property of the people of the Republic. In the end, it is best to acknowledge that no Party has a monopoly on wisdom, and that compromise is of the essence of democracy. And for those who forget that, there is the Constitution to remind them of it. No President, and no party, can govern without the consent of all Americans, and that consent is mediated through the messiness of Congress.

However frustrating that might be at times, it is something in which all Americans should glory, and of which they should be rightly proud. The Founding Fathers built well, and built for all time. In this, Rome and America were not alike – thank God.

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About JessicaHof
Anglo-Catholic Christian, facilitator, reader of books, multi-tasker

37 Responses to America & Rome

  1. Where are Marcus Aurelius and Theodore Roosevelt when we need them ?

    • JessicaHof says:

      Probably watching the Superbowl :)

      • NEO says:

        Of course they are.
        1st LT Alicia Quaco

        LT Alicia Quaco, USAF, wouldn’t have it any other way. :-)

        • JessicaHof says:

          Do you have a ready supply of these gorgeous women, dearest friend? :)

        • NEO says:

          Unfortunately no. :-)

          Only pictures.

        • Btw, I was going to say NEO, that at our age (for me over 60/64…and you over 70/72)…pictures of gorgeous women is much better! ;)

        • Of course I am somewhat kidding, I haven’t seen a Playboy in years! Though I bet now the older ones would be a kick to see! ;)

  2. Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.

  3. For all the attention paid to President’s Obama’s words about acting where he could on his own initiative, he knows, as do those critics using the words for partisan purposes, that there is actually very little he can do.

    Unfortunately, there are at least the following problems:

    The Congress has got into the habit of passing extraordinarily lengthy “comprehensive” legislation read by few who vote on it. Even for those who might otherwise bother to read it, that is very difficult due to multiple cross references to other statutes as well as to administrative regulations which the various agencies, commissions and departments are authorized to adopt, change or waive for reasons upon which they choose to rely. Sometimes, even the ordinarily required comment and review process — whereby proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register and comments and reply comments are solicited for review — can be waived or truncated to permit prompt agency action. Commonly, regulations issued under color of legislation (often, as in the case of ObamaCare, by multiple different agencies) are far greater in volume than the authorizing legislation. The Congress has delegated much of its legislative power to non-elected bureaucrats, commonly political appointees. As indicated below, such actions are often not subject to effective judicial review.
    When the Federal Government is thought to have exceeded its powers under the Constitution, it is possible to seek intervention from the Federal courts. However, to get judicial review it is necessary for the complainant to demonstrate “standing,” i.e. that he is adversely and directly (not merely incidentally) affected by the governmental action taken or not taken. That is often difficult to do. If the complainant’s standing is demonstrated successfully, the relevant agency merely has to show that there is “some rational basis” for what it did. Agency actions are given every benefit of the doubt in that regard. There is also a classic phrase often used by the courts: “busy agencies don’t have time to dot every i and cross every t” — meaning that procedural irregularities can be overlooked.
    President Obama has chosen — often successfully — to decline to enforce statutory requirements. For example, when Arizona tried to enforce Federal immigration laws which the Federal Government had chosen not to enforce, the Supreme Court held that immigration law is the exclusive province of the Federal Government. That’s correct. However that authority, combined with the increasingly used power of the Federal Government to decide which of its own laws to enforce and which not to enforce, gives the Executive branch great power to proceed as it wishes, without regard to congressional intent.

    Until (if ever) the Congress regains its proper place in our three branch system of Government, the legislative power of the Executive will continue to increase and that of the Congress will continue to wither. Hence, there is substantially more than “very little” that a President can do if he wishes, for political, ideological or other reasons.

    • NEO says:

      I’ve been thinking along these lines as well. It seems to me that putting the executive in place to do the Congress’ work (of regulating, if that is the concept) is exactly why the SCOTUS found the original Interstate Commerce Act (1889 or thereabouts) unconstitutional. Wouldn’t that apply to anything that gives the executive input into regulatory business. Of course we have a living constitution now, so it probably doesn’t matter.

      • Of course we have a living constitution now, so it probably doesn’t matter.



        How about a “dying Constitution?”

        • NEO says:

          It’s certainly deathly ill. Not the best of times for the Republic.

        • The American Constitution is not dying per se, as the American people and their conscience and moral judgment therein! I say this sadly, for my little brother.. who is now an American citizen, is really wondering where he fits in? He’s not a Dem for sure, or even.. as he says a Republican, but more of an Independent perhaps. And btw the Brit’s have a Libertarian party too! (Very small however)

      • Posted without comment.

    • JessicaHof says:

      Excellent points, and we have a not dissimilar situation here in the UK. Too much legislation means that far too much of it is not properly scrutinised. It would be a good idea of our legislators paid more attention.

  4. America the Beautiful! (And I’m talking about the LT! ;) ) Btw, Snowden simply cannot be supported in my opinion, his “protest” needed to be within the proper channels, and not in what he did! He must have taken some kind of oath? He brought shame on his country and himself, if not treason! But that’s the way this old Brit sees it.

    • NEO says:

      I’m pretty much with Jess on this but conflicted. If he had stuck with the NSA and domestic stuff, and hung around, he could be defended as a whistleblower. But when he wandered off to China and Rusia with foreign intel, he crossed a bright wide line and went well beyond the pale. In truth NSA bothered me back when it was a wholly ‘black’ agency.

      • He’s a coward in my book, plain and simple, the facts seen in where he has run to proves this point! Much more than some “whistleblower”, but an overt liberal & traitor who has taken, as you say.. “foreign intell” (of the US) to America’s enemies! Gads seems plain to me, but then I am an old military guy. The NAS itself (bad or good) is really secondary here to my mind.

        • NEO says:

          That’s my problem as well, the forint part, and it is unforgivable.

          In the end, I end up with Amb. Bolton, a rope and a tall oak tree.

        • Oh, your one time Ambassador Bolton is a “brain” for sure! Love the guy! He should be in some important place for sure again! I was thinking of the old Confederate Calvary Maj. Gen. JEB Stuart, the Virginian, and of the Army of Northern Virginia, he would have hung old Snowden for sure! Yes, I like to read about the American Civil War! ;) I have a few first editions about the American Civil War, like: They Met at Gettysburg, by Edward J. Stackpole, (1956)

        • If I could regress, but I was looking at some older military versions of the “Bird Dog” that I have seen for sale. Yes, I have a commercial pilots license, but I did not choose to fly in the military, but I like to fly some. (Chasing my father’s image did get old!) I would like to somewhat restore one! I was just the other day reading about the old and first, OY-1 “Sentinel,” a two-seat single-wing light observation and liaison aircraft. Of course later from here came the Cessna OE series of observation aircraft. Of course too the American Marines flew the old OY-1 in Korea, in fact as I have read, the OY’s flew spotting missions and directed fire on enemy concentrations during the Marine Chosin Reservoir epic breakout (VMO-6). Then came the OE-1’s (Cessna-built), and the “Bird Dog” was born! (1951?) I have pictures of a civilian version (OY-1), that my father owned and flew, from about 1947, as the pictures are dated on the back. My father owned and flew several airplanes!

          Sorry to regress here!

        • Btw NEO, am I right that the term “Bird Dog” came from the Korean War (for these O1’s)? Or did it come from WW II, and the OY’s?

        • Sorry, I should have put these back over in the other and proper blog!

      • JessicaHof says:

        I agree with you both. Snowden seems a narcissist. If he had reported what he knew and got nowhere, then perhaps he might have been justified in leaking to the American press; but what he did was a crime and he should pay the penalty.

        • NEO says:

          Indeed he should. Email on the way.

        • I was in Intell some as well as Recon as RMC. There is no such thing as “leaking” information, ever! Only, and if retired, and then again “only”.. no secrets given! The code ya know, of serving in that depth for one’s country, especially our democracies! There can be no doubt Snowden knew the drill here, but as you say, being a “narcissist” himself, as so many in his age and culture, he just could not keep his mouth shut! I bet ‘fame & fortune’ got the best of him! Well he might have something of the former, but not and never the latter! He is now a man without a country!

          Sorry, just very strong feelings and convictions here!

        • JessicaHof says:

          I understand that Father. I was just thinking that what do you do if you (as he didn’t) go to your superiors and tell them something is wrong and they cover-up?

        • @Jessica: Well the nature of that job is also a duty, so one can only pass along his/her feelings within the chain-of-command, and must leave what happens there alone. If one for conscience-sake cannot accept that, then they should resign! But to expose that at the NSA level, is not for someone like Snowden’s position, i.e. his job. That’s how I see it at least!

        • JessicaHof says:

          I am sure you are right, Father :) x

        • Well Jessica, I am just old school, and some say I am an old fossil! ;) But we can only do what our heart, mind and conscience tell us! Thanks :)

        • JessicaHof says:

          Well, Father, they are very rude – I think you are lovely :) xx

        • Wow Jessica, that just might be the nicest thing someone has said to me on the old blog! Your a sweetheart! :) O

          *Btw, love your wee avatar! As I am sure NEO does also! :)

        • JessicaHof says:

          I am so happy, in that case, that justice has been done :)

          Yes, the avatar is from something done for me – and Neo does, indeed, like it too :) xx

        • Yes, ‘Justice the True and Only Mercy’! And thank you Jessica! :)

  5. Mustang.Koji says:

    I agree with many of your thoughts. I feel strongly that the CONCEPTS laid down as a foundation for our country has been diced and sliced Ad infinitum by the freaking lawyers going amok and as directed by progressive policies. Lawyers have taken over this country…to the point that enforcing these laws becomes a pick and choose free for all for enforcement and with LEOs being scrutinized as they work to the point of being handcuffed themselves.

    The worst scenario is Obama and that damn pen. Why have this burgeoning pile of law when he can just say go away?

    • JessicaHof says:

      Thank you. Yes, I agree, lawyers, whilst valuable servants, makes bad masters for the Republic.

  6. Jack Curtis says:

    Anerica was designed and built upon the shoulders of Christianity; as John Adams wrote; its Constitution requires a religious and moral people. If the ongoing rejection of that foundation cannot be reversed, this version of a republic seems to me, destined to join its predecessors.

    The test will accompany growing economic turmoil; we must hope that Americans can summon the will to pass it…

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