America’s Cycles of Change

America as Rome, Part 1: Emperors in Rome and the United States: At First They Seemed Like a Good Idea

Tue, 11 October 2016

Empire seemed like a good idea at first in Ancient Rome (also known as the United States): Julius Caesar, like Abraham Lincoln made the mistake of winning a Civil War, unifying the empire and ruling too openly as an emperor.

Caesar suspended habeas corpus and created a unified empire from Belgium, to Palestine.

Lincoln suspended habeas corpus too in – at least in the state of Maryland. He ruled a far vaster empire from California to New York and from Maine to the Rio Grande.

The Romans after Caesar built roads. The Americans under Lincoln built railroads.

But both Caesar and Lincoln were too obviously tyrants in the eyes of the old privileged classes: So both of them ended up assassinated.

A generation later, the longest-serving US emperor of them all Franklin Roosevelt, like Augustus Caesar in Ancient Rome did not make the same mistake.

Augustus and FDR carefully preserved the forms of constitutional government and brought unprecedented peace and prosperity. The United States, like Rome, became a superpower covering the entire world. Having emperors wielding unrestricted federal power seemed like a very good idea.

Under Tiberius and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the idea of empire took permanent root.

Tiberius, like Ike was an older man and a highly successful respected general who had won brilliant victories in Germany. He was careful to rule with public dignity and decorum too and carefully saved money. The empire became more prosperous than ever.

But the cracks beneath the surface were already there.

Next: the Secret Scandals of Tiberius, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson

America as Rome, Part 1: Emperors in Rome and the United States: At First They Seemed Like a Good Idea

America as Rome, Part 2: The Secret Scandals of Tiberius, John F. Kennedy & Lyndon Johnson

America as Rome, Part 3: The Clintons and Nero

America as Rome, Part 4: A Century of Good Emperors – and Less Good Presidents