“A Little Piece of Ancient History Which Is Also Modern” American Sentinel 13, 27, pp. 419, 420.

IN considering the new and “imperial” career that is being opened before the United States, and sanctioned by so many in high positions, we have remarked that there was one republic that had passed over this ground once before in the history of the world. That republic was Rome. It is interesting to read the statements made to-day concerning this “colonial policy” and “colonial career” that is opening up before “imperial America,” and compare it with what has long been written of the course of Rome as she passed over the same ground. It is now claimed on behalf of the new, “Imperial America,” that she must accept this great responsibility that has fallen upon her of extending the blessings of liberty to the world. And that she must discharge this sacred office by beginning to deliver from the oppressive rule of Spain, the people of the Phillipines [sic.], San Juan, Cuba, perhaps the Carolines and so on to the other oppressed peoples of the world. It is said that America will thus extend the blessing of liberty, just because of the blessing of liberty, she will bestow freedom, entirely from love of human freedom as far as possible to all the world.

All this is precisely what Rome proposed to do. Rome claimed that she never wished to make any conquests of any people, nor to control any territory, outside of her own boundaries of Italy. All that she ever did outside of Italy was altogether out of pure benevolence and solely to extend to oppressed peoples the blessings of liberty, of which the Romans were the exemplars before the world, and in behalf of the world, and which they so sincerely loved that they couldn’t be content at all so long as any other people were not enjoying this wonderful liberty. Therefore they would man fleets and raise armies, send them over seas at great sacrifice and immense expense to fight battles for strange peoples, only that those peoples might have the blessing of liberty of which Rome was the world’s conservator.

One example will illustrate this whole subject. The Romans had sent an army into Macedonia to fight against Philip the Second in behalf of the States of Greece and to save them from being oppressed by Philip. The Roman army was successful, Philip was thoroughly conquered and a treaty of peace was concluded, but “all Greece was in uncertainty” as to what should be their fate, now that the Roman power was predominant in both Greece and Macedonia. It was the time when the Isthmian games were celebrated in which all Greece participated and where vast crowds were assembled to witness the contests, then “the multitude being assembled in the stadium to see the games, a herald came forward and published with a loud voice” the following proclamation:—

“The senate and people of Rome, and Titus Quintius, their general, having overcome Philip and the Macedonians, ease and deliver from all garrisons, taxes and imposts, the Corinthians, the Locrians, the Phocians, the Euboeans, the Phthiot Achaeans, the Magnesians, the Thesslians, and the Perrhoebians; declare them free, and ordain that they shall be governed by their respective laws and usages.”

“At these words, which many heard but imperfectly, because of the noise that interrupted them, all the spectators were filled with excess of joy. They gazed upon and questioned one another with astonishment, and could not believe either their eyes or ears; so like a dream was what they then saw and heard. It was thought necessary for the herald to repeat the proclamation which was now listened to with the most profound silence, so that not a single word of the decree was lost. But now, fully assured of their happiness, they abandoned themselves again to the highest transport of joy and broke into such loud and repeated acclamations that the sea resounded them to a great distance; and some ravens which happened to fly at that instant over the assembly fell down in the stadium; so true it is, that of all the blessings of this life, none are so dear to mankind as liberty! The games and sports were hurried over with neglect and disregard; for so great was the general joy upon this occasion that it extinguished every other thought.

“The games being ended, all the people ran in crowds to the Roman general, and every one being eager to see his deliverer, to salute him, to kiss his hand, and to throw crowns and festoons of flowers over him, he would have run the hazard of being pressed to death by the crowd, had not the vigor of his years, for he was not above thirty-three years old, and the joy which so glorious a day gave him, sustained and enabled him to undergo the fatigue.

“The remembrance of so delightful a day, and of the valuable blessings then bestowed, was continually renewed, and for a long time formed the only subject of conversation at all times and in all places. Every one cried in the highest transports of admiration, and a kind of enthusiasm, that there was a people in the world who, at their own expense and the hazard of their lives, engaged in a war for the liberty of other nations; and that not for their neighbors or people situated on the same continent; but who crossed seas and sailed to distant climes to destroy and extirpate unjust power from the earth, and to establish universally law, equity, and justice. That by a single word, and the voice of a herald, liberty had been restored to all the cities of Greece and Asia. That a great soul only could have formed such a design; but that to execute it was the effect at once of the highest good fortune and the most consummate virtue.

“They called to mind all the great battles which Greece had fought for the sake of liberty. ‘After sustaining so many wars,’ said they, ‘never was its valor crowned with so blessed a reward as when strangers came and took up arms in its defense. It was then that almost without shedding a drop of blood, or losing scarce one man, it acquired the greatest and noblest of all prizes for which mankind can contend. Valor and prudence are rare at all times; but of all virtues, justice is most rare. Agesilaus, Lysander, Nicias, and Alcibiades had great abilities for carrying on war, and gaining battles both by sea and land; but then it was for themselves and their country, not for strangers and foreigners, they fought. That height of glory was reserved for the Romans.’”

Honest old Rollin’s “reflections” upon this, are important to-day, as the United States seems about to start [420] in this same identical path. These reflections run thus:—

“The reader may perceive in the events above related one of the principal characteristics of the Romans which will soon determine the fate 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 by degrees; and it is only by insensible progress which at the same time is sufficiently rapid, that we see it carried at last to its greatest height.

“It must be confessed, that this people, on some occasions, show a moderation and disinterestedness, which from a superficial view, seem to exceed everything we meet with in history, and to which it seems inconsistent to refuse praise.

“Was there ever a 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 a herald 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 their victory than the noble pleasure of doing good to nations, the bare remembrance of whose ancient glory sufficed to endear them to the Romans?

“Had this deliverance of the Grecian states proceeded 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 which has been so highly extolled on the present occasion. It may be affirmed that the Grecians then abandoned themselves to a stupid joy: fondly imagining that they were really free because the Romans declared them so.

“The Romans declared loudly in favor of those republics [of Greece]; 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 still stronger tie, they held 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.

“The bait was artfully prepared, and was eagerly swallowed very greedily by the generality of the Greeks, whose views penetrated no further. But the most judicious and most clear-sighted among them, discovered the danger that lay 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.

“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 [422] them against their enemies; took the utmost pains in terminating their differences and in suppressing all commotions which arose amongst them; and did not demand the least recompense for all these services done for their allies. By this means, their authority gained strength daily and prepared the nations for entire subjection.

“Under the pretense of manifesting their good will, of entering into their interests, and of reconciling them, they rendered themselves as 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, but afterwards they used 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, having 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, and from which there was no appeal.

“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 conquests 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.”

This extract will be good to keep, and to read along with much spread-eagleism that has been and that will be manifested upon “Imperial America,” “our colonial policy,” and “our obligations to extend the blessings of liberty to oppressed peoples” and “to all the world.”

A. T. J.

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