The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The American Founders' Study of History

"The founders’ immersion in ancient history had a profound effect upon their style of thought. They developed from the classics a suspicious cast of mind. They learned from the Greeks and Romans to fear conspiracies against liberty. Steeped in a literature whose perpetual theme was the steady encroachment of tyranny on liberty, the founders became virtually obsessed with spotting its approach, so that they might avoid the fate of their classical heroes. It has been said of the American Revolution that never was there a revolution with so little cause. Whatever his faults, George III was hardly Caligula or Nero; however illegitimate, the moderate British taxes were hardly equivalent to the mass executions of the emperors. But since the founders believed that the central lesson of the classics was that every illegitimate power, however small, ended in slavery, they were determined to resist every such power. Even legitimate authority should be exercised
sparingly, lest it grow into illegitimate powers. (pp. 118-19) Prof. Carl Richard, The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment

Quoted in:

(Hat tip John Enright)

No comments: