The 3 Ways Cicero Influenced The Development of The U.S

Cicero Denouncing Catiline
BornJanuary 3rd, 106 BC
DiedDecember 7th, 43 BC
Famous Quote“In times of war, the law falls silent.”-Pro Milone
Reason For FamePioneered natural law, liberty, free market, and the three branch system of government.
Area Of InfluenceEurope, Rome, North America

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 where 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 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.

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 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 overtime.

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 that could rapidly act to protect the state.

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 idea 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 owners 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 first hand 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 worlds) explosion in wealth is Cicero.

Conclusion

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 reemergence in academic literature surrounding the impacts of this Roman.

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Further, you can check out some of the other articles below.

Until next time,

Nick