Comparison of the Origins of Roman Republic and American Government
The origins of both the early Roman Republic and the American government began in similar ways. After the Etruscan King, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was ousted, they began the initial stages of redefining their government. Unfortunately, the only example of leadership they had was the Etruscan rule, so initially, their government wasn’t a big improvement for the common people who were ruled over by the rich and powerful patricians.
Similar parallels could also be drawn between the uprising of the plebeians against the patricians and Americans revolting after being denied representation in British Parliament. The desire to break from Great Britain’s kingly rule, in general, was similar to the early Roman’s break from the Etruscan rule. Luckily the United States had a better role model on which to base our governmental template.
Initially, in the Roman republic, the plebeians had no representation. Laws were not written down, so they could be changed at any time to accommodate the whims of the patricians. Although the Republic had two representatives in their executive branch, and these had the ability to veto each other, the plebeians had no governmental representation. They were allowed to vote but were not allowed to hold any office(Meany, 2018). In order to gain the attention of the patricians, the military, comprised mostly of plebeians refused to fight for the patricians and left the city to form their own government. Additionally, because the patricians owned land inside the city, their property was better protected during times of war.
The plebeians were given property outside the city limits and were the first to be looted, burned or damaged. The patricians then provided high-interest loans to plebeians which could result in slavery if they were unable to repay them. So in short, the patricians benefited from the ransacking of plebian land (Boggs). Following the “Struggle of the Orders,” the ten tablets were written and hung publicly where they could be read, studied and understood. This prevented changes to laws, however, these laws only pertained to free men and did not allow the marriage of plebeians to patricians. An additional two tablets were written later that made changes to plebeians’ ability to appeal and plebian/patrician marriage (Cartwright and Cartwright, 2016)
I believe the Federalist Republic of the United States to be an improvement upon the Roman Republic in some ways, although I do sometimes think that we may be better off limiting our Judicial and Executive branches to 1-year limits, as Rome’s Republic did. In general, the United States was able to learn from some of the issues encountered by Rome during the development of its governmental model. Our Bill of Rights which mimics the twelve tablets in that it gives a general outline of the rights of the American people. Although the division between the classes in the United States is not as clearly defined, it does exist, however, our form of government makes it a little easier to blur those lines.
Roman politicians were elected on a yearly basis in their executive and judicial branches while their legislative branch was in office for life. This allowed them to use their time to focus on laws and reform. Due to the frequency of voting in the United States, which includes those at the local, state and federal level, politicians maintain a perpetual state of campaigning (Troolin). This leads to focusing on things that further their own agendas and lining their own pockets.
I am unable to clearly state whether one is better than the other. In my opinion, the Roman republic and the US Federal Republic are two chapters of the same story. The Roman republic changed over time and the American government was built on the foundation they established. There were aspects of the Roman republic that worked and those that didn’t. Because we are looking at their progress (or lack of it) in hindsight, we have the benefit of seeing outcomes that they would have had no way of knowing. We have considered what we have learned, adopted aspects we think will work for us and made changes to other aspects.
History has shown us that nothing works forever. At some point, the American governmental model will fail and future generations will use what they have learned from us to try something new. And at some point, they will fail as well.
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