Every year on Independence Day SLL tries to post at least one article pointing out that Americans are hardly independent, and the government we’ve got is light years from what the founders envisioned. This year Bill Bonner saves us the trouble of writing that article. From Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:
The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is one of the most remarkable things in nature. The animal apparently digests itself, using enzymes triggered by hormones. Then, from the pupa, a whole new animal develops – one with wings.
Time and growth produce changes in institutions, too. Sometimes, they merely get bigger and older. Sometimes, they go through a metamorphosis and change into something very different.
We recently moved back to France for the summer. We lived here for nearly 20 years… and still have a house in the country, to which we retire every summer.
Here, we find our old friends and acquaintances… our old clothes and shoes… our tools and workshop… our tractor… and our favorite office.
And what a pleasure… there, on the table next to the bed, was a copy of Michel De Jaeghere’s great book, Les Derniers Jours: La Fin de l’Empire Romain d’Occident (The Last Days: The End of the Roman Empire in the West).
We picked it up and found where we left off a year ago… page 321.
Many of the founders of the American Republic were readers and scholars. “I can’t live without books,” said Jefferson.
He, Monroe, Madison, Adams, and others were much more aware of Roman history than our leaders today. Most had studied Latin and/or Greek.
They had read Plutarch, Seneca, Sallust, Suetonius, and Cicero.
Much was known about the Roman era… and much was discussed. People believed they could learn from it and do better.
In the same year that the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his masterpiece, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The Founding Fathers were well aware of the transition – natural, and perhaps inevitable – from republic to empire. They had studied it in the Roman example. They had seen how it drew power into a few hands… and corrupted them.
They tried to prevent it from happening in the New World, putting in place limits… circuit breakers… and checks and balances… to keep the government from becoming too big, too ambitious, or too powerful.
Even then, they were doubtful that it would stick. “We give you a republic…” Franklin wrote to posterity, “if you can keep it.”
America did keep it… for nearly 100 years. Maybe a few more. Then, the metamorphosis occurred. And, like Rome, it was not very pretty.
To continue reading: Would the Founding Fathers Recognize Modern America?