The 20th anniversary of 9/11 memorializes the loss of “home” land security for the citizens of the United States. It was a gift of the wisdom and self-restraint of George Washington in that he created a constitution and a presidency that controlled the military, appointed ambassadors, and left us a template for a Pax Americana for 214 years. His limited constitution was a copy of the 27 BC Constitution of Augustus Caesar, recreating the Roman Republic and beginning a Pax Romana of two hundred and seven years. At that point, the borders of Rome became permeable to the barbarians. In America, it is now porous to illegal immigrants, disease, and drugs like fentanyl. Washington’s limited Federal Constitution contained a Senate, a House of tribunes or Representatives, a maintained judiciary, and a Princeps or President. Augustus spent his time on the borders away from Rome, but with veto power over legislation and control over the appointment of the counsels of the provinces. These ideas of Augustus were presented by the Governor of Virginia, to the Philadelphia Convention as the Virginia Resolves. In addition, Augustus promoted the family, religious ideas as well as having Virgil write a fictional, but recognized history for the Romans called the Aeneid, comparable to the Greek Iliad.
Character as defined by Dustin Bass [“Lessons From George Washington: Wisdom and Self-Restraint,” published on Sept. 1] is “who you are as to how you hold the fate of others in your hands.” Earlier, character was defined in the 1700s by the author Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury, whose education was entirely in the hands of John Locke. Locke’s earlier tracts on politics dominated the thinking of American Constitutionalism and its basic precepts as found in the Commonwealth Constitutions of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, sovereigns of Democracy in contrast to the limited constitution of Washington’s Republic. Of interest from 1816 to 1828, Presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams used the first paragraphs of their State of the Union Addresses to speak of how the ports and forts of the borderlands were defended. They had stretched our borders with Canada to the Pacific as their lifetime works in service to the country as diplomats for the republic and its states.
George Washington can’t be compared to any of his contemporary Americans and remains first in a list of Presidents. Plutarch’s Parallel Lives would allow the comparison of Washington to the great Romans of the past, correctly using Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus of putting power aside, Fabius Maximus in avoiding defeat by Hannibal for years, stoic Cato the Younger as a respected Roman statesman, and Octavian Caesar who had conquered militarily the Roman Empire. By restoring the Roman Republic he chooses to be called Augustus, a Roman religious leader.
Leonard R. Friedman, MD