|Born||January 3rd, 106 BC|
|Died||December 7th, 43 BC|
|Famous Quote||“In times of war, the law falls silent.”-Pro Milone|
|Reason For Fame||Pioneered natural law, liberty, free market, and the three-branch system of government.|
|Area Of Influence||Europe, Rome, North America|
|Further Reading||The 5 Reasons Why Roman History Is Important Today and Montesquieu: His 3 Influences In Creating The U.S Constitution|
Many people have heard of the ancient Roman statesman Cicero, however many are not aware that he is responsible for several of the democratic principles found in the U.S today. For example, the concept of liberty (freedom) comes from Cicero’s work on the ideal nation-state. Below are the 3 ways in which Cicero influenced the development of the United States.
Cicero existed during the time of the late Roman Republic. He was best known as a cunning orator, politician, statesman, and political philosopher. Cicero existed during a tumultuous time when a republican form of government slowly transitioned into an authoritarian one.
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Without further ado, here are the 3 ways in which Cicero influenced the development of the United States of America (U.S).
1: Cicero Fused Natural Law And Government Creating The U.S Legal System
One of Cicero’s lasting impacts upon the United States (U.S) has been the application of natural law to our modern theories of government.
Natural law is best described as an unbiased examination of human nature. The prime example of this in Cicero’s work is the Pro Milone. Cicero was a shrewd man who believed that all governments were built around national order and law.
The Pro Milone was a defense speech given by Cicero to defend his friend Milo in court. Milo had killed a man and was caught red-handed. This would result in Milo’s either execution or exile from the city of Rome. Cicero took the stand in defense of Milo stating that Milo had acted in self-defense. That any judge would have to side with Milo because the judge would have acted in self-preservation as well. This is called natural law, an animal defending oneself should not be punishable.
Cicero would apply this thinking of natural law to all forms of government. Because of this Cicero viewed government as a natural thing that evolved to suit the needs of the people at large over time. Today we see this in nearly all modern governments.
To Cicero the ideal form of government was natural. That this government would be powered by the people who in turn would willingly support centralized power in return for safety.
Thomas Jefferson was heavily inspired by this when he wrote the declaration of independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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”-Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776
As we can see the foundation of the United States is heavily influenced by natural law. For this, we have to thank Cicero.
2: Cicero Created The Three Branch System Within Of The U.S Government
1,830 years before the foundation of the United States, Cicero pioneered the three-branch system of government.
The United States comprises three branches of government; Executive, Judicial, and Legislative. Each of these branches can prevent the other from gaining too much power. The United States did not create this, Cicero did. Writing in the first century BC Cicero advocated for a republican government where the people could elect representatives.
To Cicero, the ideal government was one comprising three distinct branches. First, a tribune to allow the common people to create laws they would abide by. Second, a senate that would allow the wisdom of the elite to weigh in on affairs (judicial). Finally, an executive branch could rapidly act to protect the state (proconsul).
The United States copied this form of government. The people can write their own laws by electing representatives to a council (legislative branch). The oldest and wisest of the people could pass judgment on decisions (judicial). The people could elect a king/president to protect their interests.
All three of these branches, both in the late Roman Republic and the United States worked to provide a check and balance on the other.
3: Cicero Advocated For The Free Market Economy
The founding of the United States was built off the free market economy. That an individual person could own their own capital to use how they saw fit. The founding fathers of the United States did not create this theory. Cicero directly advocated that the perfect form of government would not touch the market or private property.
Cicero’s book On Duties outlines how this ideal system would work. First, the people would elect to follow a leader that they believed would work in their best economic interest.
Second, this leader’s whole job would be to be hands-off in the market and only work to ensure a free transition of capital.
Third, if at any point the free market system would falter the leader would step in to restore it to its former glory.
Cicero firmly believed in the concept of personal property. In book two of his On Duties Cicero outlines that once private property was attained only through legal means could it be taken away. Legal means voted upon by the property owner’s peers in the Tribune.
Cicero lived during a time of civil war within the Republic. Out of these wars, dictators would arise and start to take the wealth and property of Romans. Cicero saw firsthand how this hurt the Republic and as a result wrote in favor of a free market.
The United States would in turn adopt this free market political philosophy. As a result, one of the reasons for the U.S’s (and the world’s) explosion in wealth is Cicero.
There you have it; the 3 ways Cicero influenced the development of the U.S. There are many other ways this highly influential Roman changed the world however for the United States these are the top 3.
In the past century study of Cicero has waned. However, in the past five years, we have started to see a re-emergence in academic literature surrounding the impacts of this Roman philosopher.
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Until next time,