The New Rubicon

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In 49 BC Julius Caesar led the 13th Legion across the Rubicon, a small river in northern Italy. This seemingly insignificant event heralded the end of a several hundred year old democracy, the Roman Republic, and the beginning of the Roman Empire. The Empire lasted for several hundred years longer, sometimes ruled effectively by intelligent leaders and sometimes ruled by madmen like Nero who “fiddled” while Rome burned (golf hadn’t been invented yet).


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The founders of the United States, luminaries such as Washington and Jefferson based their government on the Roman Republic. Government consisted of a consul (read “president”) a proconsul (or “vice-president”), a Senate and an elected Popular Assembly (read “congress”) which was led by a Tribune of the People (read “speaker of the house”). The ancient Romans even had their own Democrats (“Populares”) and Republicans (the “Patricians”) appealing for votes from the same population demographic as their modern day American counterparts. Anyone who doubts this should take a look at the city of Washington, DC. The Jefferson Memorial is a copy of the Roman Pantheon and the Lincoln Memorial is very like the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, which leads to the interesting factoid that the seat of US government is called “The Capitol” Building after the very same hill in Rome.

Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial

After the successful 1776 revolution against the British, there were calls for George Washington to become king of the newly formed republic, the United States of America. Monarchy was totally against the beliefs of America’s founding fathers and a system of “checks and balances” with independent Executive, Legislative and Judiciary which was enacted to avoid a dictator or emperor hijacking the US government. Major changes to American law requires two independent elected bodies to agree and even then the Executive branch could temporarily delay legislation by using their veto. One could say that the USA had a “sound constitution” which has so far served the country well for several centuries.

Unfortunately many people seem to have lost track of this. If allowed, by the right combination of appointments to the judiciary and support by the deluded (or totalitarian minded) elected members of the legislature the USA could end up crossing its own Rubicon. The problem is that once you do there is no going back.

Let’s hope that Americans, regardless of party affiliation, will see the irrevocable danger to the heart of their very system and take action.

Photo Credit

Photo is Creative Commons from Wikimedia and is by Joe Ravi

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