Striving Towards Perfection

Victoria Smith

Cicero proves in his Treatise on the Commonwealth why it is that we are pushing so hard for the restoration of liberty in America. In book one, he acknowledges the men of the best caliber who fought for the betterment of the Roman commonwealth. There were numerous obstacles that these heroes faced, yet they continue on pursuing the noblest cause. He goes on to address his own term:

“My own history is by no means free from such calamities, and I imagine, that when they recollect, that by my counsel and perils they were preserved in life and liberty, they will more deeply and tenderly bewail my misfortunes.”

No man is exempt from the trials that arise in a country no matter how great he is. Indeed, Cicero did not shy away from the calamities of public service, but he kept fighting for what he knew was right. More importantly, he did not focus on his struggles but rather the end to which they lead. He sought to preserve the life and liberty of his people no matter what came in his way. This is the dedication we all must uphold if we want to restore our own Commonwealth to its former glory. Cicero went on to comment,

“I cannot tell why those who sail over the seas for the sake of knowledge and experience, should wonder at seeing still greater hazards braved in the service of the Commonwealth.”

Today, as in roman times, we go to extreme extents for trivial matters yet are unwilling to fight for what is most important. People wonder at our actions; they marvel at the extents we go to for our republic. But the people who oppose us will be the first to shake our hands in gratitude when our job is done.

We have been called. It is clear that there is a job for us to do no matter what everyone else is saying. But since we are called, we have an obligation to answer it. The time is now. If we do not, Cicero assures us that the inspiration will pass:

“Lest we should discover, too late, when we desire to save her, that we are without the power.”

With each passing day, more and more power is being usurped, and we are letting it happen unless we speak up. The more we slug of the responsibility till the next catastrophe or the next generation, the more we lose. We can not waste a second of time because the clock shall soon run out. So how can we make sure our time is not being wasted? How are we to keep those precious liberty in our hands? Well, Cicero has that answer as well. He remarks that,

“[i]n every profession, every artist who would distinguish himself, studies and toils to gain perfection in his art.”

Today, we can manifest our virtuous desires by studying those like Cicero and striving towards perfection in ourselves. Only then can we enact what we have learned.

~ Victoria Smith

Crimes and Punishments

Joulhiette Bassett

1764. At this point in the Age of Enlightenment, voices were speaking truth. John Wilkes, “The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty”, was expelled from the House of Commons of Great Britain for seditious libel. Dictionaire Philosophique, Voltaire’s criticism of The Roman Catholic Church and other institutions, was published. Beccaria’s work, On Crimes and Punishments, was perhaps the most influential. It made its way into our Founders’ Recipe class because America’s Founding Fathers recognized its truth and logic concerning penology. Chapter V, “Of The Obscurity of Laws”, has truths that can change your life if you let it.

​There are certain qualities laws must have in order to function. Primarily, law must be simple. Without simple law, you have congress arguing over what the law really says. Over examining can lead to complexity. In class, we used the example of stealing cookies. Many might think the law means not getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar. If this notion is admitted, cookies will be stolen. Consequently, someone will want cookie theft to be prevented by outlawing cookie jars. With unclear laws, liberties could be taken away unnecessarily. To avoid this, make laws using clear language and a pinch of cautious prevention. Furthermore, laws must be constitutional. This may seem obvious, however, a look at today’s United States Code could make you cry. The United States Code is riddled with unconstitutional law. These are called regulations. To those who understand the invalidity of regulations, it is simply words on a page, not something you should go to jail for. Congress makes laws, not administrative bodies such as the IRS. There are regulations that regulate the way you communicate through a CB radio, for example. You must pay a fine of $10,000 if you do not use the proper communicating method. Congress has been unconstitutionally lending its legislative powers to unauthorized branches, and it will continue to do so if we let it. 

​What has happened to American law? Some find the fault in greedy politicians, but I have reduced it down to plain ignorance. We don’t know the constitution, we don’t know the purpose of government, we don’t know our true duties as citizens; what could be expected from such a state? Beccaria wrote:

“Experience and reason show us, that the probability of human traditions diminishes in proportion as they are distant from their sources.”

The traditions of Beccaria, Voltaire, and John Wilkes are quite different than ours. Why? It is not because of a lack of availability. We have the resources, books, and even their journals. It is how much we don’t care that dooms us. We don’t care until a bad law hurts us, and by that time, we have been damaged in ways that are irreversible. By not educating ourselves, we are to blame for the perpetual acts of tyranny. It is expedient that we know how to remedy a bad government. Unless we all turn to the founders’ recipe, we cannot know liberty.

~ Joulhiette Bassett

Holding onto Liberty

Daniel Tietjen

In Chapter 2, Section 12 of Discourses Concerning Government by Algernon Sidney, he, the author, wrote about how Rome lost their liberty through lack of virtue. Even though Sidney talks about Rome, he also gives lessons on how to stay virtuous and how to hold on to liberty.

Algernon Sidney wrote about how mankind is always more inclined to virtue and how virtuous men need constant compliments to stay on the this path. However, today just like Rome before they fell, virtue is hardly celebrated and is pushed to the side to make room for vulgar acts. Algernon Sidney writes:

“[W]hen all honors, advantages and preferment are given to vice, and despised virtue finds no other reward than hatred, persecution, and death, there are few who will follow it.”

Those who try their hardest to follow virtue need encouragement. That is why true friends are important because when one has people who have similar morals and goals they will help each other and encourage each other. One’s friends will help one stay with virtue just as one will help their friends stay with virtue. This was one of the lessons Sidney taught that by having someone or a group that will encourage each other will help one stay on the virtuous path.

Holding onto liberty is a task that needs to be constant. Liberty can not be put on the back burner. To hold onto liberty, one has to pay attention to their government and actively participate. Our government allows us to vote in people in state positions that will protect our liberty. Sidney points out that, “[t]hey who by their votes disposed of kingdoms and provinces.” Ballots can change things faster than bullets can. Just like the saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Our votes will help protect our liberty. Another way to protect our liberty is to stay virtuous. Liberty does not go out with a bang, it slowly whimpers away. Liberty and virtue are two inseparable companions: when one is lacking the other will deteriorate. This goes along with what Sidney declared:

“But if this virtue and the glorious effects of it did begin with liberty, it did also expire with the same.”

When one’s acts slowly switch to wanting to be entertained, their liberty will slowly switch to tyranny. Rome lost their liberty because they lost their virtue.

Although these are only two lessons Algernon Sidney taught, they are great lessons to help one hold onto virtue and hold onto liberty. By having someone celebrate virtue along with another, virtue will stay. When one pays attention to their local government they will hold onto their liberty.

~ Daniel Tietjen

String of Tyranny

String of Tyranny

Poem by Alex Hess

It was as if her mouth was sewn shut.

Everything she wanted to say pulled at her lips.

Pain being laced through the string of tyranny keeping her silent.

The truth; she knew the truth behind their lies.

All of the wrongdoing that they were performing,

all of the rights that they were infringing;

and they took the most important one out first;

She can’t express her mind,

No one can.

Not a word she could speak due to those who came before her.

Not a word she could speak against those who were supposed to protect her.

“Words hurt people,”

“More teens have committed suicide”

“She urged him”

“Did not alert help”

“Her words killed him”

“Words are not safe,”

Restricting words hurt people.

The people are hurt but feel no pain

For they are numb with ignorance

Those books that she read and lived by,

She couldn’t share what was right.

She couldn’t help those around her,

The string of tyranny permanently keeping her silent.

~ Alex Hess

The Proper Use of Words

Victoria Smith

“A word, not standing for any idea, is only a bare sound; and it is no more, to one who knows not what idea it stands for. The agreeing therefore in sounds, and not agreeing in the meaning of them, is no agreement at all.” – Trenchard, Cato’s Letters #120

There can be no true communication if both sides do not agree on what ideas are being said. This does not mean that everyone must be on the same side; merely, it means that meaning must be clear in order for anything to come across in the correct manner. Hamilton and Jefferson hardly ever agreed on the issue at hand, but they understood what the other was saying and, therefore, could have proper discourse. We know that it is very hard to speak unless one knows the meanings behind the words, but this raises many questions. How is it that we can communicate to the public the true necessity of liberty if they don’t even know what that truly means? The answer to that question is simple, and it has been answered countless times over: you must educate the people before your speech will be effective. This, of course, means you must first educate yourself, but after that, the education of the public is the next step. You can’t hope to get anyone to believe what you say unless they can first understand it. Teach before you explain, and it will be much easier moving forward.

In theory, this is a simple plan, easily executed. But, real life throws many curves. Sure, we can write about what is true, we can try to educate the people on what they need to know, but what if no one pays attention? Is it really worth it, to go about explaining what you’re saying and making sure everyone is on the same page if no one has even picked up the book? You must first ask yourself, what if they do? What if someone is paying attention to you, and trust me there is at least one person who can hear your cries. Maybe this, however, is not enough. We have been programmed to believe that it isn’t, so what should we do next? Well, our job is to do what we can. I know this isn’t the most promising answer seeing that it doesn’t give any satisfaction, but it is really all we can do. We read, and we write, and we speak, and we move all in the ways we hope others will imitate, but we can not control what they do. We are clearing a road and waiting at the end, hoping that one day, someone will follow our path, but we can not drag others behind us. We can not push them down the road less traveled. They must make those choices for themselves because it will be much more meaningful for them if they make the decision.

In the end, people will walk our road. Someone will stumble upon it and decide that it’s right for them. Maybe some people already have, but we are just too far ahead to see them coming. Because at the end of the day, we are changing the world every second of every day in the most minuscule of ways, but all of those little moments pile up into something incredible. Like it or not, the world is already a different place because of the efforts we have made. And the world will always be a different place because of what it had shaped up into. You must put effort into this if you want anyone to even have the chance to do it themselves. Prove that you trust what you are saying by making the road to liberty as clear as it can possibly be. Define your thoughts and make sure you understand them yourself because we can not believe these ideas are the truth, without knowing what this truth really is. As Trenchard wrote:

“For, a man cannot believe without believing in something; and he must know what that something is, that is, he must know what he believes, or else his belief is only and abstract word, without any subject to believe in, or any thing of.”

~ Victoria Smith

Each Person Has an Individual, Important Role

Philip Leavell

The goal of everyone, as humans, is to be happy and give other people happiness. Algernon Sidney gives us the formula for happiness in his book, Court Maxims. He writes:

“There is no happiness without liberty… [and t]here is neither liberty nor happiness, where there is not virtue.”

We cannot be truly happy without freedom and we cannot be truly free without virtue.

Although having virtue is the key to being happy, restoring liberty is not as simple. In order for us to restore liberty and freedom, which is also necessary for happiness, every individual must perform their role and purpose in “his own way and degree.” The many parts of a machine work together to execute what they were created to do. The parts do not work by themselves to achieve a goal, they work together. Some pieces of the machine may be bigger than other pieces, but no part is more important than another.

In today’s society, many people may think that they are more important or better than someone else solely based on their grades or how much money they have. We need to recognize that each person is different. We all have different talents, but if we work together, we can make a machine that will change the world.

Just like when God created the world, we need to make a good order, or “Eunomius”, out of the chaos. It is disastrous to have one person, all by his imperfect self, deciding what is right and best for the rest of his peers. That is one reason a republican form of government is better than a dictatorship. Individuals with different ideas, different flaws, and different talents working together to help make the people more free, virtuous, and happy, is the only way to prevent tyranny. A machine with only one part is easily broken.

Some people may ask, “What is my purpose?” or “What role should I play?” That is for you to decide. Nobody, besides the creator, can tell a part of the machine what it is supposed to do. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You know what your talents and interests are. Something as simple as singing or plumbing, if that is what you are led to do, can greatly benefit the machine, as long as you are virtuous.

The path to restoring liberty will most likely be long and difficult. If the people return to being virtuous and playing their individual roles, the machine will be successful. Everyone will have the freedom, capability, and responsibility to be happy and protect the happiness of others.

~ Philip Leavell

The Strong Man’s Pride is Also the Coward’s Best Safety

Addie Cluff

As we go about our earthly lives, we tend to avoid taking responsibility for our wrong actions. It’s just human nature. We want to justify what we have done wrong or push the responsibility on to someone else so we can blame them when things aren’t perfect.

The majority might gear toward something wrong in order to justify their actions saying, “If everyone is doing it then it must be right,” but that is not the case. Just because society is pulling you to do something does not make that action right. We ask our children: “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you too?” Of course they say they wouldn’t so why should we? As everyone else is decreasing in virtue we can stand out and stand fast in our principles.

Society claims that it is justifiable to allow your children to be sent to strangers for 6-8 hours a day in order to “properly educate” them when in reality they are being taught principles that are contrary to your beliefs. This eliminates the responsibility of the parents to really educate their own children. But children are, as Tacitus says in his book, Agricola, “… each man’s dearest possession.” Parents will complain about what their kids are learning but do not admit that they have the ability to change that and teach their children for themselves. They will change the future, so why not take responsibility to help make the future brighter ourselves?

We allow the government to take a large percentage of our earnings in order to “help” those who are in need. We tell ourselves that the government will take care of them so we don’t need to. However, the money is instead used for wicked things but all we choose to do is shake our fists and blame the government. We claim that there isn’t anything we could possibly do about it.

We are told we have peace but in reality all we have is war. I think that everyone recognizes this but just crosses their fingers and hopes the government will take care of it, that as they send more troops and kill more people it will somehow get better. But just as Tacitus says, we “… make a desolation and call it peace.” We cannot just sit back and hope things will get better anymore.

In order to make a difference we must first take responsibility for our actions. We cannot go on any longer by simply sitting back and letting someone else take over so we can feel blameless. We need to have the courage to recognize that we are at fault as well. We have the power to make a change if we will only admit what we are doing wrong. Tacitus also teaches that “… the strong man’s pride is also the coward’s best safety.” If we choose to stand idly, afraid to undo our wrongs, then we will be governed by those who are prideful and wicked. It takes courage to do what is right, but courage always pays.

~ Addie Cluff

The Secret of Simplicity

Ashley Volk

At the conclusion of Germania, Tacitus reveals one specific tribe along with some unique characteristics that they lived by.

Known as the Fenni, they lived in extreme simplicity. They have “… wild plants for their food, skins for their clothing, the ground for their beds.” What comfort does one get from sleeping on the ground? Why did they choose such a simple lifestyle?

But Tacitus continues:

“Yet they think it happier so than to groan over field labour, be cumbered with building houses, and be for ever involving their own and their neighbors’ fortunes in alternate hopes and fears… they have nothing even to ask for.”

Taking a step back from the close lens with which we view life today, ask am I really happy? Have I reached a state of peace and felicity? Often, we speed through life- attempting to achieve the largest house, the finest apparel, the most lavish excursion. We are always wishing for something we don’t have that someone else does. A common motto we live by: we can’t be happy if we don’t have the same 50” tv! Then that same person will go and work more and more till their life is consumed by obtaining never-ending wants. Can peace by reached in such circumstances?

Acquiring items is not what made the Fenni happy and peaceful. Their wants were their needs. Order was met. Simple has a correlation with felicity.

Additionally, what would any other tribe or country get by conquering the Fennians? What did they have that anyone would want to invade and steal?

The purpose of these observations is not to convince you to go out and live in a forest, but to evaluate your ability to obtain contentedness. You have a choice to pursue your wants and needs. But maybe it would bring great balance if we regularly distinguished between those two, and observed the happiness experienced from not wishing (or coveting) for something we didn’t have.

~ Ashley Volk


Sydney on the Importance of Virtue

John Martinez

While reading Algernon Sydney’s Discourses Concerning Government on October seventeenth and twenty-second, there were multiple parts in Chapter 2, Section 12 that brought up class discussions and stood out to me. Once Algernon Sydney established there were virtuous people in Rome under kings, he noted:

“During that time they who would not be made instruments of those villianies were obliged for their own safety to conceal their virtues; but he being removed, they shined in their glory.”

Whenever there is a tyrant in power, people who want to expand their education, knowledge, and virtue are required to do so in secret. A tyrant isn’t going to allow a people to read a book that will take his power away. He will do anything to find and stop people from learning how to regain liberty. Some tyrants do it better than others. One may go to the extreme and burn all the books that criticize the government and encourage virtue. While another may quietly and slowly put more and more regulations on education. That is why it is always important to examine every act of your government. If people allow tyrants to choose the limit of their power, liberty and virtue will diminish.

Although one generation may have chosen tyrants and vices, the next generation can turn everything around, choose virtue, and regain liberty. Sydney, referring to the fall of Rome, wrote:

“In two hundred and sixty years that they remained under the government of kings… their dominion hardly extended so far as from London to Hownslow…”

The mighty Rome, because of their abandonment of virtue, thereafter became a weak and pitiful province. Many countries and governments have likewise fallen and failed because of not just one generation, but numerous generations deciding to give up their liberty for a little protection under a king. Surprisingly, All it takes is a few virtuous people to, as Wolverton would say, “follow the founders’ recipe.”

For, people like the founding fathers were not brought together on accident. Sydney says:

“It were ridiculous to impute this to chance, or to think that fortune, which of all things is the most variable, could for so many ages continue the same course, unless supported by virtue…”

The most virtuous and good governments are not created by chance. They are created by the few that decide to choose the path of virtue and teach their children to do the same. To start going towards virtue, it will require to be educated on the principles the founding fathers learned. Once this is done, the people can regain their liberty and hopefully greater than ever before.

~ John Martinez

Bread and Circuses Lead to Vice

Jonas Francis

The phrase “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die” is a biblical description of the common philosophies amongst worldly people. Though it was originally describing ancient societies, this belief is very common in these days.

In Areopagitica, John Milton describes a similar type of people “… who, when they hear that all things shall be ordered, all things regulated and settled, nothing written but what passes through the custom-house of certain publicans that have the tonnaging and poundaging of all free-spoken truth, will straight give themselves up into your hands, make ’em and cut ’em out what religion ye please.

These types of people are they who, when their political representatives and elected officials fabricate some new law or regulation, comply without any form of resistance. They do this because “… there be delights, there be recreations and jolly pastimes that will fetch the day about from sun to sun, and rock the tedious year as in a delightful dream.” These pleasures are not any better than bread and circuses.

Milton also argues that “… [t]hese are the fruits which a dull ease and cessation of our knowledge will bring forth among the people.” If we don’t use our vast intellects, and we remain idle, we will begin to lose our virtue and our liberty, both of which require a state of constant vigilance.

However, many people seem to believe that they shouldn’t bother with anything else, for “… [w]hat need they torture their heads with that which others have taken so strictly and so unalterably into their own purveying?” If my government will take care of it, what need do I have to bother with it? Why should I care?

Because ultimately, the bread and the circuses will lead to vice, which will lead to chains — chains that will drag you down into the depths of Hell, all while the devil laugheth. That vicious fruit, which smells so delightful, and appears so appealing, is poison. So turn away. Strive for virtue. Maintain a constant vigil, all while lighting a beacon of truth so that others may see the way clearly. Heed not the gluttonous cries that call you to come down, and to “eat, drink, and be merry,” for though tomorrow we may die, we shall die free, rather than in chains.

~ Jonas Francis