This excerpt is adapted from the book The Perils of The Republic of The United States of America by Percy Magan Tilson,1899
Among the great nations of ancient times the republic of Rome is at once the most gigantic and striking figure. In the history of mankind only two republics have ever risen to a pitch of grandeur and prominence sufficient to entitle them to a rank in the galaxy of “great world-powers.” Of these the republic of the Romans is one, and that of the United States of America is the other. PRUS 137.1
Aside from the Anglo-Saxon race, no people have ever possessed the faculty of self-government to such an extent as the Roman nation. Theirs was a commonwealth, which, as Cicero, one of their own greatest orators, said, ought to be immortal, and forever renew its youth. His words contain a truth, but sad to state, a truth unrealized beneath the sun. Republican forms of government have proved even less enduring than the other systems which have been devised for the ruling of mankind. This constitutes no criticism of the principle on which republics are based. Popular government is an experiment upon the heart of man; a higher, that is, a more self-sacrificing, grade of citizenship is required from the individual in order that the higher form of national life may survive and prosper. It is possible for a monarchy to continue to exist, even although great crimes are committed in the name of the state; even though justice and the rights of men and peoples are mired beneath the mailed heel of arbitrary authority. In the doing of these things a monarchy violates no natural law of its being or its life. It is not so with a republic. This is founded upon right, not power; this is laid in righteousness, not iniquity. When once power is substituted for right, and iniquity for righteousness, the republic, in the nature of things, is transformed by these very acts into a despotic grade of government. It may continue to wear the insignia and badge of freedom, but the life, the sacred fire, has flickered and gone out in darkness. The image may remain, but ‘t is only a death mask; the vital breath has fled. If republics endure, their citizens must not only know the right, but they must do the right. This the people of the Roman republic, in early days, knew and appreciated. Hence, they worshiped the virtues. They built temples, and offered sacrifices “to the highest human excellences,’ to ‘Valor,’ to ‘Truth’ to ‘Good Faith,’ to ‘Modesty,’ to ‘Charity’ to ‘Concord.’” Hence it was that they said to every man: “You do not live for yourself. If you live for yourself, you shall come to nothing. Be brave, be just, be pure, be true in word and deed; care not for your enjoyment, care not for your life; care only for what is right. So, and not otherwise, it shall be well with you. So the Maker of you has ordered, whom you will disobey at your peril.” 1 These words give at least a strong intimation of how even the people of that “elder day” regarded popular government as being an experiment on the heart. When once the heart is unchained and personal or national ambition is allowed to have full sway, then freedom’s rule is at an end. “Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” 2 PRUS 137.2
From being a republic, Rome was converted into a military empire. The cause of this conversion is of remarkable interest to the people of the United States. This cause is well understood by all students of history, and has been stated in a few masterly sentences by James Anthony Froude:— PRUS 138.1
“In virtue of their temporal freedom the Romans became the most powerful nation in the known world; and their liberties perished only when Rome became the mistress of conquered races, to whom she was unable or unwilling to extend her privileges…. If there is one lesson which history clearly teaches, it is this, that free nations can not govern subject provinces. If they are unable or unwilling to admit their dependencies to share their own constitution, the constitution itself will fall in pieces from mere incompetence for its duties.”
Rome became imperial because she was unable or unwilling to extend the privileges of her constitution to the nations which she conquered. This was the cause of her imperialism. The result to the Roman people themselves was that “their own liberties perished.” In refusing the privileges of her constitution to the peoples whom she had conquered, Rome denied a fundamental law of her own governmental being, and nothing else could logically follow but ruin of her government, of her constitution; that is, the ruin of the republic of Rome.
To-day the republic of the United States is coursing over the same track to the same goal. But when the tape at the end of the track is reached, the dead line of republican life will have been passed. The nation is riding for a fall just as certainly as did ancient Rome, that other great republic of the West. The one lesson which history teaches, “that free nations can not govern subject provinces,” is now being ignored and scoffed at, as if it were the veriest fairy-tale, totally unworthy of contemplation by reflective and intelligent minds. It is now being seriously urged that this nation is not “unwilling,” but only “unable,” to extend her privileges to the “conquered races.” This inability is said to be caused, not by any inherent weakness or lack upon the part of the conqueror; but because of the conditions and circumstances of the conquered. Precisely the same thing was argued in the Roman times; but such arguments availed nothing to prevent loss of liberty to the people of Rome themselves, and ruin to her constitution. Rome violated a natural law of her being, and all violations of natural law, governmental as well as physical, bring, by nature, punishment upon the transgressor In the Declaration of Independence this nation declared that she “assumed among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitled her.” The very foundation stones of this nation then are laid in natural law. That natural law is “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The United States is now engaged in a war, the avowed purpose of which is to deprive a poor people of “liberty,” their “unalienable right.” But the natural law by means of which this nation came into existence and being declares that “to secure this right,”—liberty,—“governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But now, the government of the United States is being “instituted among men,”—the Filipinos,—not to “secure” to them, but to “deprive” them of their “rights.” If this is not the violation of a natural law of our own national being, then there never has been such a thing in the history of the world.
“Goethe compares life to a game at whist, where the cards are dealt out by destiny, and the rules of the game are fixed; subject to these conditions, the players are left to win or lose, according to their skill or want of skill. The life of a nation, like the life of a man, may be prolonged in honor into the fulness of its time, or it may perish prematurely, for want of guidance, by violence or internal disorders. And thus the history of national revolutions is to statesmanship what the pathology of disease is to the art of medicine. The physician can not arrest the coming on of age. Where disease has laid bold upon the constitution, he can not expel it; but he may check the progress of the evil if he can recognize the symptoms in time. He can save life at the cost of an unsound limb. He can tell us how to preserve our health when we have it; he can warn us of the conditions under which particular disorders will have us at disadvantage. And so with nations: amid the endless variety of circumstances there are constant phenomena which give notice of approaching danger; there are courses of action which have uniformly produced the same results; and the wise politicians are those who have learned from experience the real tendencies of things, unmisled by superficial differences, who can shun the rocks where others have been wrecked, or from foresight of what is coming can be cool when the peril is upon them.”
In so many ways the times when Rome fell from her lofty estate as a republic and degenerated into a military empire are akin to our own. No historian has discerned this so clearly as Froude, and his delineation of that drama is powerful beyond description. He says:—
“With such vividness, with such transparent clearness, the age stands before us of Cato and Pompey, of Cicero and Julius Cæsar; the more distinctly because it was an age in so many ways the counterpart of our own, the blossoming period of the old civilization, when the intellect was trained to the highest point which it could reach; and on the great subjects of human interest, on morals and politics, on poetry and art, even on religion itself, and the speculative problems of life, men thought as we think, doubted where we doubt, argued as we argue, aspired and struggled after the same objects. It was an age of material progress and material civilization; an age of civil liberty and intellectual culture; an age of pamphlets and epigrams, of salons and dinner parties, of senatorial majorities and electoral corruption. The highest offices of state were open in theory to the meanest citizen; they were confined, in fact, to those who had the longest purses, or the most ready use of the tongue on popular platforms. Distinctions of birth had been exchanged for distinctions of wealth. The struggles between plebeians and patricians for equality of privilege were over, and a new division had been formed between the party of property and the party who desired a change in the structure of society. The free cultivators were disappearing from the soil. Italy was being absorbed into vast estates and held by a few favored families, and cultivated by slaves, while the old agricultural population was driven off the land, and was crowded into towns. The rich were extravagant, for life had ceased to have practical interests except for its material pleasures; the occupation of the higher classes was to obtain money without labor, and to spend it in idle enjoyment. Patriotism survived on the lips, but patriotism meant the ascendency of the party which would maintain the existing order of things, or would overthrow for a more equal distribution of the good things which alone were valued. Religion, once the foundation of the laws and rule of personal conduct, had subsided into opinion. The educated, in their hearts, disbelieved it. Temples were still built with increasing splendor; the established forms were scrupulously observed. Public men spoke conventionally of Providence, that they might throw on their opponents the odium of impiety; but of genuine belief that life had any serious meaning, there was none remaining beyond the circle of the silent, patient, ignorant multitude. The whole spiritual atmosphere was saturated with cant-cant moral, cant political, cant religious; an affectation of high principle which had ceased to touch the conduct, and flowed on in an increasing volume of insincere and unreal speech. The truest thinkers were those who, like Lucretius, spoke frankly out their real convictions, declared that Providence was a dream, and that man and the world he lived in were material phenomena generated by natural forces out of cosmic atoms, and into atoms to be again dissolved.
“Tendencies now in operation may a few generations hence land modern society in similar conclusions, unless other convictions revive meanwhile and get the mastery over them; of which possibility no more need be said than this, that unless there be such a revival, in some shape or other, the forces, whatever they be, which control the forms in which human things adjust themselves, will make an end again, as they made an end before, of what are called free institutions. Popular forms of government are possible only when individual men can govern their own lives on moral principles, and when duty is of more importance than pleasure, and justice than material expediency.”
Then it was that there came upon the Romans that extraordinary spirit of expansion, which led them to believe that theirs was a manifest destiny to rule the entire world; and in a few short years, from being a snug little country, locked in the arms of twin seas, Rome was transformed into an imperialism, set for the despoliation of every conquerable nation. On this point Froude has said:—
“Italy had fallen to them by natural and wholesome expansion; but from being sovereigns of Italy, they became a race of imperial conquerors. Suddenly and in comparatively a few years after the one power was gone which could resist them, they became the actual or virtual rulers of the entire circuit of the Mediterranean. The southeast of Spain, the coast of France from the Pyrenees to Nice, the north of Italy, Illyria and Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, and the Greek islands, the southern and western shores of Asia Minor, were Roman provinces, governed directly by Roman magistrates. On the African side, Mauritania (Morocco) was still free. Numidia (the modern Algeria) retained its native dynasty, but was a Roman dependency. The Carthaginian dominions, Tunis and Tripoli, had been annexed to the empire. The interior of Asia Minor up to the Euphrates, with Syria and Egypt, were under sovereigns, called allies, but like the native princes in India, subject to a Roman protectorate. Over this enormous territory, rich with the accumulated treasures of centuries, and inhabited by thriving, industrious races, the energetic Roman men of business had spread and settled themselves, gathering into their hands the trade, the financial administration, the entire commercial control of the Mediterranean basin. They had been trained in thrift and economy, in abhorrence of debt, in strictest habits of close and careful management. Their frugal education, their early lessons in the value of money, good and excellent as these lessons were, led them, as a matter of course, to turn to account their extraordinary opportunities. Governors with their staffs, permanent officials, contractors for the revenue, negotiators, bill-brokers, bankers, merchants, were scattered everywhere in thousands. Money poured in upon them in rolling streams of gold. The largest share of the spoils fell to the Senate and the senatorial families. The Senate was the permanent council of state, and was the real administrator of the empire. The Senate had the control of the treasury, conducted the public policy, appointed from its own ranks the governors of the provinces. It was patrician in sentiment, but not necessarily patrician in composition. The members of it had virtually been elected for life by the people, and were almost entirely those who had been quæstors, ædiles, prætors, or consuls; and these offices had been long open to the plebeians. It was an aristocracy, in theory a real one, but tending to become, as civilization went forward, an aristocracy of the rich. How the senatorial privileges affected the management of the provinces will be seen more and more particularly as we go on. It is enough at present to say that the nobles and great commoners of Rome rapidly found themselves in possession of revenues which their fathers could not have imagined in their dreams; and money, in the stage of progress at which Rome had arrived, was convertible into power.”
This is a good description of the territory of Rome’s expansion, and what she did with it, when once it fell into her possession. The next question that calls for solution is, How did Rome get started in her “expansion policy”? The answer is short, simple, and, with the sound of recently uttered phrases still ringing in our ears, perhaps familiar: the expansion of Rome, which also means the imperialism of Rome, began in a “war for humanity, in the cause of humanity, solely for humanity.” This is the story.
When the second Punic war came to an end, with such a disastrous issue for the Carthaginians, and such a favorable outcome for the Romans, the latter determined immediately to crush the power of Philip, king of Macedon. True, peace had been concluded with him two or three years before, “yet the grounds of a new quarrel were soon discovered.” He was accused of having attacked the Athenians and some of the other friends of Rome. At this time the southern part of Greece was divided into a number of small republics, all of which paid more or less tribute to Philip of Macedon. Rome was a republic, a great and a strong republic, and she considered it her duty to assist these poor, little, weak, struggling republics against the tyranny of the king of Macedonia. “The war was undertaken by the Romans chiefly, as was pretended, on their [the small republics of Greece] account.” It was “under pretext of an invitation from the Athenians to protect them from the king of Macedon that the ambitious republic secured a foothold in Greece.” To all appearances this was a piece of disinterestedness not common among nations; but it was only “to all appearances.” “The barbarous tribes on the north and west of Macedonia were also led, by the temptation of plunder, to join the confederacy; and their irruptions served to distract the councils and the forces of Philip.”
The parallel or analogy between that war “solely for humanity” and the one through which the United States has just passed, is quite complete. The little republics of Southern Greece stood related to Philip of Macedon much the same as Cuba, Porto Rico, and other places stood related to Spain at the time when this nation, “solely in the cause of humanity,” declared war in their behalf. And, moreover, it may not be out of the way to compare “the barbarous tribes on the north and west of Macedonia,” who were led to join the confederacy, and whose irruptions served to distract the councils and forces of Philip,-it may not be out of the way to compare-these to Aguinaldo and his “barbarous” hordes of Negritos, who, by a United States consul and a commodore of the United States navy, were led to “join the confederacy,” and whose “irruptions served to distract the councils and forces of Spain.”
At the battle of Cynocephale, in 197 b. c., Philip was signally defeated, his country was exposed to invasion, “and he was reduced to accept peace on such terms as the Romans thought proper to dictate.”
“These, as usual, tended to cripple the power of the vanquished party, and at the same time to increase the reputation of the Romans, by appearing more favorable to their allies than to themselves.
“Philip was obliged to give up every Greek city that he possessed beyond the limits of Macedonia, both in Europe and in Asia; a stipulation which deprived him of Thessaly, Achaia, Phthiotis, Perrhæbia, and Magnesia, and particularly of the three important towns of Corinth, Chalcis, and Demetrias, which he used to call the fetters of Greece.” 9 In other words, Philip of Macedon lost all his outlying dependencies; and this is just about what happened to Spain at the treaty of Paris. Both alike were stripped of by far the greater part of their territory outside of the home land. PRUS 145.3
“All these states were declared free and independent, except that the Romans (pretending that Antiochus, king of Syria, threatened the safety of Greece) retained, for the present, the strong places of Chalcis and Demetrias in their own hands.” 10 PRUS 145.4
The war had been waged by Rome at an infinite cost of blood and treasure to herself. Freely she had sacrificed the blood of her sons, and caused the tears of her daughters to be shed, in this war, “solely for humanity.” She had marshaled her armies, and mobilized her fleets, put the former in the field, and the latter in the sea, solely and only for the purpose of bringing liberty to these small and distressed dependencies, the little sister republics, who were struggling for their freedom. She asked no money nor land for all this; her cup of joy was full to the overflowing, because she had done such a great act of disinterested kindness “in the cause of humanity.” In a striking proclamation she published to the world the liberty of these people, won by her valor at arms, and freely given to them:— PRUS 145.5
“The senate and people of Rome, and Titus Quintius the general, having conquered Philip and the Macedonians, do set at liberty from all garrisons, imposts, and taxes, the Corinthians, the Locrians, the Phocians, the Phthiot-Achaians, the Messenians, the Thessalians, and the Perrhebians, declare them free! and ordain that they shall be governed by their respective customs and usages. PRUS 145.6
“Then followed the memorable scene at the Isthmian games, when it was announced to all the multitude assembled on that occasion, that the Romans bestowed entire freedom upon all those states of Greece which had been subject to the kings of Macedonia. The Greeks, unable to read the future, and having as yet had no experience of the ambition of Rome, received this act with the warmest gratitude; and seemed to acknowledge the Romans in the character they assumed, of protectors and deliverers of Greece.” 11
Following this was a war with Antiochus, king of Syria. He was reduced to the condition of a suppliant in b. c. 190, by the event of the battle of Magnesia. Philip of Macedon had helped the Romans in their campaigns against him. This king seems “vainly to have hoped that by a faithful and a zealous observance of the treaty of peace, he might soften the remorseless ambition of the Romans.” The Ætolians fell before the Roman arms, and then the Galatians, and now the way was open for Rome to continue her ambitious designs against Perseus, king of Macedon. At the battle of Pydna his army was overthrown, and his power broken. This was in b. c. 168. “Macedonia was then divided into four districts, each of which was to be under a republican government. Half of the tribute formerly paid to the king was henceforward to be paid to the Romans, who also appropriated to themselves the produce of all the gold and silver mines of the kingdom. The inhabitants were forbidden to fell timber for ship-building; and all intermarriages and sales of land between the people of the several districts were forbid den. With these marks of real slavery, they were left, for the present, nominally free; and Macedonia was not yet reduced to the form of a Roman province.” PRUS 146.2
Then, says Arnold, and his words are pregnant with deepest instruction for the people of the United States at the present time:— PRUS 146.3
“It is curious to observe, how, after every successive conquest, the Romans altered their behavior to those allies who had aided them to gain it, and whose friendship or enmity was now become indifferent to them. Thus, after their first war with Philip, they slighted the Ætolians; after they had vanquished Antiochus, they readily listened to complaints against Philip; and now the destruction of Macedon enabled them to use the language of sovereigns rather than of allies to their oldest and most faithful friends, Eumenes, the Rhodians, and the Achaians. The senate first tampered with Attalus, the brother of Eumenes, hoping that he might be persuaded to accuse his brother, and to petition for a share of his dominions; but when they found him deaf to their temptations, they retracted some promises which they had made him, in the hope that he would listen to them. Afterward, when Eumenes himself landed in Italy on his way to Rome, with a view to removing the suspicions entertained against him, the senate, aware of his purpose, issued an order that no king should be allowed to come to Rome; and despatched one of the quæstors to announce it to him at Brundusium, and to command him to leave Italy immediately. The Rhodians had offended by declaring openly ‘that they were tired of the war with Perseus; that he, as well as the Romans, was the friend of their commonwealth; that they should wish to see the contending parties reconciled; and that they would themselves declare against those whose obstinacy should be an impediment to peace.’ This declaration, which was received at Rome most indignantly, had been privately recommended by Q. Marcius, the Roman consul, to one of the Rhodian ambassadors, who had visited him in his camp in Macedonia, during the preceding year; and Polybius reasonably conjectures that Marcius, confident of a speedy victory over Perseus, gave this advice to the Rhodians, with the treacherous purpose of furnishing the senate with a future pretense for hostility against them. However, their fault was punished by the loss of Lycia and Caria, which the senate now declared independent; and the individuals who were accused of favoring Perseus were given up to the Romans, or at the instigation of Roman officers were put to death by the Rhodian government. Nor should it be omitted that a general inquiry was instituted throughout Greece into the conduct of the principal men in the several states during the late war. Those who were accused by their countrymen of the Roman party of having favored Perseus were summoned to Rome to plead their cause as criminals; and some were even put to death. But if the mere opinions and inclinations of individuals were thus punished, the states which had actually taken part with Macedon met with a still heavier destiny. Let it be forever remembered that by the decree of the senate seventy towns of Epirus were given up to be plundered by the Roman army, after all hostilities were at an end; that falsehood and deceit were used to prevent resistance or escape; and that in one day and one hour seventy towns were sacked and destroyed, and one hundred and fifty thousand human beings sold for slaves. The instrument employed on this occasion was L. Emilius Paulus, the conqueror of Macedon, and one of those whom we are taught to regard as models of Roman virtue. There is no reason to doubt his sincere affection for his country, his indifference to money, and his respectability as a citizen, husband, son, and father. But it is useful to see what dreadful actions the best men of ancient times were led unhesitatingly to commit, from the utter absence of a just law of nations, and the fatal habit of making their country the supreme object of their duty. Nor is it possible that these evils should be prevented, unless truer notions have insensibly established themselves in the minds of men, even of those who are least grateful to the source from which they have derived them; and if modern Europe be guided by purer principles, the Christian historian can not forget from what cause this better and happier condition has arisen. PRUS 146.4
“It remains now that we speak of the conduct of the Romans toward the Achaians. The early history of the Achaian League, and the leaning of its councils toward a friendly connection with Macedon, has been already noticed. In the war between the Romans and Philip, however, the Achaians were persuaded to join with the former, a step which Polybius describes as absolutely necessary for their safety; whether it were altogether equally honorable we have hardly the means of deciding. But their new connection, whatever may be thought of its origin, was ever afterward faithfully observed, insomuch that the Romans, though sufficiently adroit in finding matter of complaint, when they were disposed to do so, and though offended by the free and independent tone which the Achaian government always maintained toward them, could yet obtain no tolerable pretext for attacking them. There was, however, a traitor among the Achaians, named Calicrates, who, jealous of the popularity of the ruling party in the councils of his country, endeavored to supplant them through the influence of Rome; and to ingratiate himself with the senate by representing his opponents as despisers of the Roman authority, which he and his friends vainly endeavored to uphold. After the Macedonian war, his intrigues were carried to a greater extent than ever. He accused a great number
After the Macedonian war, his intrigues were carried to a greater extent than ever. He accused a great number of the most eminent of his countrymen of having favored the cause of Perseus; and although the conduct of the Achaian government toward Rome had been perfectly blameless, and nothing was found among the papers of the king of Macedon which confirmed the charge, even against any of its individual citizens, yet, on the demand of the Romans, more than a thousand of the most eminent men in the commonwealth were arrested and sent into Italy, under pretense that they should be tried for their conduct at Rome. On their arrival in Italy, they were confined in the different cities of Tuscany, and there remained nearly seventeen years. The senate repeatedly refused the petition of the Achaian government, that they might either be released or else be brought to trial. It is added that whoever among them were at any time detected in endeavoring to escape were invariably put to death. At last, after most of them had died in captivity, the influence of Cato, the censor, was exerted in behalf of the survivors, at the request of Scipio Æmilianus, who was anxious to serve one of their number, his own familiar friend, the historian Polybius. But the manner in which Cato pleaded their cause deserves to be recorded. He represented the Achaian prisoners as unworthy of the notice of the senate of Rome. ‘We sit here all day,’ said he, ‘as if we had nothing to do, debating about the fate of a few wretched old Greeks, whether the undertakers of Rome or of Achaia are to have the burying of them.’ We have dwelt the more fully on this treatment of the Achaians, because it sets in the clearest light the character of the Roman government; and enables us to appreciate the state of the world under the Roman dominion, when such men as Polybius were subject to the worst oppression and insolence from a nation which boasted of Cato the censor as one of its greatest ornaments. PRUS 148.1
“Hitherto, however, Achaia and the rest of Greece still enjoyed a nominal independence, notwithstanding the real supremacy of the Roman power. But within little more than twenty years from the overthrow of Perseus, even these poor remains of freedom were destroyed.” 12 PRUS 149.1
Into the details of this it is not necessary to go; suffice it to say that the same course of treachery, duplicity, and base perfidy which had marked the course of Rome in other cases also marked her trail in this one. Achaia was one of the last allies of Rome, in whose behalf she had entered upon war “solely in the cause of humanity,” but with other enemies or friends, as the case might be, disposed of, it was decided that her hour for destruction was now arrived. The Achaian league was dissolved, and Greece was henceforth treated as a province, was subjected to tribute, and was governed by a Roman proconsul, or prætor. PRUS 150.1
Such are the military facts connected with the story of the “expansion” and “imperialism” of Rome. Upon them, the historian Rollin has written some “Reflections on the conduct of the Romans with regard to the Græcian states, and the kings both of Europe and Asia.” His reflections contain the wisest philosophy on these events that the writer has ever discovered. His words are full of instruction concerning that time; but they are also full of truths applicable to all times and places, and the present crisis in the United States, perhaps more than any other. He says:— PRUS 150.2
“The reader begins to discover, in the events before related, one of the principal characteristics of the Romans, which will soon determine the fates of all the states of Greece, and produce an almost general change in the universe; I mean, a spirit of sovereignty and dominion. This characteristic does not display itself at first in its full extent; it reveals itself only by degrees; and it is only by insensible progressions, which at the same time are rapid enough, that it is carried at last to its greatest height.
“It must be confessed that this people, on certain occasions, show such a moderation and disinterestedness as (judging them only from their outside) exceed everything we meet with in history, and to which it seems inconsistent to refuse praise. Was there ever a more delightful or more glorious day than that in which the Romans, after having carried on a long and dangerous war, after crossing seas, and exhausting their treasures, caused the heralds to proclaim in a general assembly that the Roman people restored all the cities to their liberty, and desired to reap no other fruit from her victory than the noble pleasure of doing good to nations, the bare remembrance of whose ancient glory sufficed to endear them to the Romans? The description of that immortal day can hardly be read without tears, and without being affected by a kind of enthusiasm of esteem and admiration. PRUS 150.4
“Had this deliverance of the Græcian states proceeded merely from a principle of generosity, void of all interested motives; had the whole tenor of the conduct of the Romans never belied such exalted sentiments,-nothing could possibly have been more august, or more capable of doing honor to a nation. But, if we penetrate ever so little beyond this glaring outside, we soon perceive that this specious moderation of the Romans was entirely founded upon a profound policy; wise indeed, and prudent, according to the ordinary rules of government, but, at the same time, very remote from that noble disinterestedness, so highly extolled on the present occasion. It may be affirmed that the Græcians had abandoned themselves to a stupid joy; fondly imagining that they were really free, because the Romans declared them so. PRUS 151.1
“Greece, in the times I am now speaking of, was divided between two powers; I mean the Græcian republics and Macedonia; and they were always engaged in war, the former to preserve the remains of their ancient liberty, and the latter to complete their subjection. The Romans, being perfectly well acquainted with this state of Greece, were sensible that they needed not to be under any apprehensions from those little republics, which were grown weak through length of years, intestine feuds, mutual jealousies, and the wars they had been forced to support against foreign powers. But Macedonia, which was possessed of well-disciplined troops, inured to all the toils of war, which had continually in view the glory of its former monarchs; which had formerly extended its conquests to the extremities of the globe; which harbored ardent, though chimerical desire of attaining universal empire; and which had a kind of natural alliance with the kings of Egypt and Syria, sprung from the same origin, and united by the common interest of monarchy,-Macedonia, I say, gave just alarms to Rome, which, from the time of the ruin of Carthage, had no obstacle left with regard to their ambitious designs, but those powerful kingdoms that shared the rest of the world between them, and especially Macedonia, as it lay nearer to Italy than the rest. PRUS 151.2
“To balance, therefore, the power of Macedon, and to dispossess Philip of the aid which he flattered himself he should receive from the Greeks, which, indeed, had they united all their forces with his, in order to oppose this common enemy, would perhaps have made him invincible with regard to the Romans; in this view, I say, this latter people declared loudly in favor of those republics, made it their glory to take them under their protection, and that with no other design in outward appearance than to defend them against their oppressors; and further to attach them by a still stronger tie, they hung out to them a specious bait (as a reward for their fidelity); I mean liberty, of which all the republics in question were inexpressibly jealous; and which the Macedonian monarchs had perpetually disputed with them. PRUS 152.1
“The bait was artfully prepared, and swallowed very greedily by the generality of the Greeks, whose views penetrated no farther. But the most judicious and most clear sighted among them discovered the danger that lay concealed beneath this charming bait; and accordingly they exhorted the people from time to time, in their public assemblies to beware of this cloud that was gathering in the west, and which, changing on a sudden into a dreadful tempest, would break like thunder over their heads, to their utter destruction. PRUS 152.2
“Nothing could be more gentle and equitable than the conduct of the Romans in the beginning. They acted with the utmost moderation toward such states and nations as addressed them for protection; they succored them against their enemies, took the utmost pains in terminating their differences, and in suppressing all commotions which arose among them, and did not demand the least recompence from their allies for all these services. By this means their authority gained strength daily, and prepared the nations for entire subjection. PRUS 152.3
“And, indeed, upon pretense of offering them their good offices, of entering into their interests, and of reconciling them, they rendered themselves the sovereign arbiters of those whom they had restored to liberty, and whom they now considered, in some measure, as their freedmen. They used to depute commissioners to them, to inquire into their complaints, to weigh and examine the reasons on both sides, and to decide their quarrels; but when the articles were of such a nature that there was no possibility of reconciling them on the spot, they invited them to send their deputies to Rome. Afterward, they used, with plenary authority, to summon those who refused to be reconciled, obliged them to plead their cause before the senate, and even to appear in person there. From arbiters and mediators being become supreme judges, they soon assumed a magisterial tone, looked upon their decrees as irrevocable decisions, were greatly offended when the most implicit obedience was not paid to them, and gave the name of rebellion to a second resistance; thus there arose, in the Roman senate, a tribunal which judged all nations and kings, from which there was no appeal. This tribunal, at the end of every war, determined the rewards and punishments due to all parties. They dispossessed the vanquished nations of part of their territories, in order to bestow them on their allies, by which they did two things from which they reaped a double advantage; for they thereby engaged in the interest of Rome such kings as were in no way formidable to them, and from whom they had something to hope; and weakened others, whose friendship the Romans could not expect, and whose arms they had reason to dread.
“We shall hear one of the chief magistrates in the republic of the Achaians inveigh strongly in a public assembly against this unjust usurpation, and ask by what title the Romans are empowered to assume so haughty an ascendent over them; whether their republic was not as free and independent as that of Rome; by what right the latter pretended to force the Achaians to account for their conduct; whether they would be pleased, should the Achaians, in their turn, officially pretend to inquire into their affairs, and whether matters ought not to be on the same footing on both sides? All these reflections were very reasonable, just, and unanswerable; and the Romans had no advantage in the question but force.
“They acted in the same manner, and their politics were the same in regard to their treatment of kings. They first won over to their interest such among them as were the weakest, and consequently the least formidable; they gave them the title of allies, whereby their persons were rendered in some measure sacred and inviolable; and it was a kind of safeguard against other kings more powerful than themselves; they increased their revenues, and enlarged their territories, to let them see what they might expect from their protection. It was this which raised the kingdom of Pergamus to so exalted a pitch of grandeur. PRUS 153.2
“In the sequel the Romans invaded, upon different pretenses, those great potentates who divided Europe and Asia, and how haughtily did they treat them, even before they had conquered! A powerful king, confined within a narrow circle by a private man of Rome, was obliged to make his answer before he quitted it; how imperious was this! But then how did they treat vanquished kings? They command them to deliver up their children, and the heirs to their crown, as hostages and pledges of their fidelity and good behavior; oblige them to lay down their arms; forbid them to declare war, or conclude any alliance, without first obtaining their leave; banish them to the other side of the mountains; and leave them, in strictness of speech, only an empty title, and a vain show of royalty, divested of all its rights and advantages. PRUS 154.1
“We are not to doubt but that Providence had decreed to the Romans the sovereignty of the world, and the Scriptures had prophesied their future grandeur; but they were strangers to those divine oracles; and besides, the bare prediction of their conquest was no justification of their conduct. Although it be difficult to affirm, and still more difficult to prove, that this people had from their first rise formed a plan, in order to conquer and subject all nations, it can not be denied but that, if we examine their whole conduct attentively, it will appear that they acted as if they had a foreknowledge of this, and that a kind of instinct determined them to conform to it in all things. PRUS 154.2
“But be this as it will, we see by the event, to what this so much boasted lenity and moderation of the Romans was confined. Enemies to the liberty of all nations, having the utmost contempt for kings and monarchy, looking upon the whole universe as their prey, they grasped, with insatiable ambition, the conquest of the whole world; they seized indiscriminately all provinces and kingdoms, and extended their empire over all nations; in a word, they prescribed no other limits to their vast projects, than those which deserts and seas made it impossible to pass.”
The expansion fever which laid such firm hold upon the people of the Roman republic has come upon the people of the republic of the United States. In both cases the game of the despoliation of nations and peoples has opened with a war “solely in the cause of humanity.” In the former instance, the Romans did declare the people of the small Greek republics free and independent. The United States has not yet even done this much. The republics of Greece never became free. The “war for humanity” never gave them their liberty. They soon found, and that to their bitter disappointment, that they had only exchanged masters, and that the little finger of Rome was thicker than the loins of Philip of Macedon, and that if the king had chastised them with whips, the republic chastised them with scorpions. They soon found to their intense sorrow that in the “war for humanity” there had been a transfer made, and that they had been the subject of barter. It did not take them long to discover that they had only acquired a slavery more abject and complete than that which they had endured under their previous ruler. It was as much more complete as Rome was more powerful than Macedon.
For more reading: https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/1619.730#771
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