Tacitus: The Annals (II)

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I can almost see Tacitus (55-117AD) weep as he wrote of Rome’s transition from a free republic to a despotic empire.


After Augustus won over the soldiers with gifts, and the people with cheap corn, he slowly concentrated in himself the powers of the senate, the magistrates, and laws. In this, he was unopposed, for the boldest spirits had fallen in battle or been murdered in the proscriptions. The remaining nobles, the readier they were to be slaves, were raised the higher by wealth and promotion. So aggrandized were they by revolution, they preferred the safety of the present as opposed to the dangerous past.

Much of what I have related and shall have to relate, may perhaps, I am aware, seem petty trifles to record. But no one must compare my annals with the writings of those who described Rome in the old days. They told of great wars, of the storming of cities, of the defeat and capture of kings, or whenever they turned by preference to home affairs, they related, with a free scope for digression, the strifes of consuls with tribunes, land and corn-laws, and the struggles between the commons and the aristocracy.

Still, it will not be useless to study those at first sight trifling events out of which the movements of vast changes often take their rise.

All nations and cities are ruled by the people, the nobility, or by one man. A constitution, formed by selection out of these elements, it is easy to commend but not to produce; or, if it is produced, it cannot be lasting. Formerly, when the people had power or when the patricians were in the ascendant, the popular temper and the methods of controlling it had to be studied, and those who knew most accurately the spirit of the senate and aristocracy, had the credit of understanding the age and of being wise men. So now, after a revolution, when Rome is nothing but the realm of a single despot, there must be good in carefully noting and recording this period, for it is but few who have the foresight to distinguish right from wrong or what is sound from what is hurtful, while most men learn wisdom from the fortunes of others. Still, though this is instructive, it gives very little pleasure. Descriptions of countries, the various incidents of battles, glorious deaths of great generals, enchain and refresh a reader’s mind.

I have to present in succession the merciless biddings of a tyrant, incessant prosecutions, faithless friendships, the ruin of innocence, the same causes issuing the same results, and I am everywhere confronted by a wearisome monotony in my subject matter. Then, again, an ancient historian has but few disparagers, and no one cares whether you praise more heartily the armies of Carthage or Rome. But of many who endured punishment or disgrace under Tiberius, the descendants yet survive; or even though the families themselves may be now extinct, you will find those who, from a resemblance of character, imagine that the evil deeds of others are a reproach to themselves. Again, even honor and virtue make enemies, condemning, as they do, their opposites by too close a contrast. But I return to my work . . .


As a consequence of the Roman civil wars, most of the best men were gone. The few that remained kept quiet. Are the best men and women in our national government, those who respect the Constitution, prominent in congress, or are they kept subdued and restrained?

Personal loyalty to the Emperor was the path to advancement and wealth. Why are Washington, DC and surrounding counties so wealthy? For whom do these people work? To whom are they loyal? Is their devotion to the Constitution to which they swore allegiance?

In the last sentence of the second paragraph, Tacitus remarked on a feature of true republican government that didn’t evade the attention of later historians and philosophers: they are boisterous. When power was sufficiently divided, the loud contests between consuls, senators and plebeians made for lively debate and typically good laws. Quiet lawmaking processes are sure signs of despotism. How many thousands of new regulations, quietly crafted by unknown bureaucrats, do Americans endure every year?

Tacitus observes that constitutions are easy to draft, difficult to produce, and do not last long. The Roman republic spanned some 450 years. After 240 years, America teeters on the cusp of despotism in middle-age. Middle-age people have typically developed their ability to reason and have learned from the mistakes and successes of themselves and others. What of our nation? Most realize we are on the path to societal destruction. What is to be done? To believe that voting alone, that which has not turned back the tide of approaching tyranny, can be our salvation, is to ignore and discard our God-given reason.

In his last paragraph, Tacitus apologizes for what the reader will encounter next, a rendition of murderous tyranny spanning a hundred years.

Unless patriots put a stop to the march of deadly Utopian progressivism, my mind’s eye views a 22nd century Tacitus who somehow avoids government surveillance and pens a tome on 21st century Americans who lost all because they were insufficiently covetous of liberty.

We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.

11 thoughts on “Tacitus: The Annals (II)

  1. rick amundson

    The founders gave us the only real solution in Article V.
    they knew this time would come and they gave us this tool to use if we are smart enough to do it. For a solution as big as the problem, visit http://www.conventionofstates.com sign the petition and become informed and involved

  2. Gary Rosenbaum

    Its time for an Article V Convention… it may be a long shot, but it also is our only shot to peaceably & constitutionally restore our Constitution. The COS Project application has already been passed by 8 states and 20 or more
    state houses. This application is limited to 3 areas:

    (a) Impose fiscal restraints on the Federal Government. (Including
    campaign finances)
    (b) Limit the power and jurisdiction of the Federal Government.
    (c) Limit the terms of office for federal officials and members of Congress.

    Please encourage your local state rep to become
    more involved in States’ rights. Visit here to learn more, sign the petition, and sign up to volunteer:

  3. Don Sutton

    “The Budget should be balanced,
    the Treasury should be refilled,
    public debt should be reduced,
    the arrogance of officialdom should be
    tempered and controlled,
    and the assistance to foreign lands should be
    curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt.
    People must again learn to work
    instead of living on public assistance.”
    Cicero, 55 BC
    So, evidently we’ve learned nothing at all over the past 2,071 years.

    “The national debt—that is, the unfunded liabilities and fiscal operating debt—amounts to tens of trillions of dollars. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and numerous other public and private institutions have sounded warning alarms about the oncoming crash. But no serious or effective steps have been taken to address this simmering financial and economic implosion.”
    ― Mark R. Levin, Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future

    “CAN WE SIMULTANEOUSLY LOVE our children but betray their generation and generations yet born?”
    ― Mark R. Levin, Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future

    “To sit back hoping that someday, someway, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will”

    Ronald Reagan

    Wait for the Tyrannical Federal Government to devour the Civil Society or join us.


  4. Isaac

    Yes, we do need a Convention of States! I wholeheartedly agree. We are heading the same direction as Rome – will the White House be the next crumbling Colosseum? A Convention of States is the only option left to us.

  5. Wanda Agre

    It truly is time for patriotic Americans to step up – support and promote the Article V Convention of States. It’s our last best hope before we reach the edge of the cliff.

  6. Steve McCarthy

    Thomas Jefferson, as well as most of the Founding Fathers, were educated in the classics. Jefferson read Cornelius Tacitus’ Annals of the Roman Empire in Western Europe in its entirety, and in Latin. As JFK once announced in his introduction to the living Nobel laureates he had invited to the White House for dinner, ” This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Yep, Jefferson was pretty damned smart. Gore Vidal said that Jefferson wrote the American Creed, and you had to have him on your side. So what? Here’s what. Later in his life, he forewarned that we could become “a single and splendid government of an Aristocracy, founded on banking institutions and monied in corporations… riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.” (Jefferson to William Branch Giles, 12/26/1825).

    Whether or not we get stuck with four years more with Obama II, or if Mr. Trump actually does reverse the executive excesses of the Obama administration, we still are the subjects of a federal government which has been on a runaway course for decades. No legislative body is going to do what needs to be done. State legislatures depend on federal funding for their pork-barrel projects, and Congress simply will not ever limit itself in terms of campaign spending, acting outside Constitutional limitations, and padding every piece of legislation with multiple parts unrelated to the subject matter. The only way these things are going to be fixed is by the people exercising their rights to call for the Convention of States authorized unanimously by the framers of our Constitution in Article 5. As JFK put it: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Little did anyone then realize that today, we, the people, could be in this category, should we abandon or ignore our right to limit the power of the federal government.

    I hear Woody Guthrie’s refrain: “This land is your land, this land is my land…” He, and Jefferson, despite continuously rolling over in their graves, cannot rise up and fix this.

    We Can. We are the People.

    Steve McCarthy
    Caractacus@aol.com (Jefferson’s stallion, foaled May 7, 1775)

  7. Bill McDowell

    The federal government is a huge problem. This same problem has brought down all great civilizations in the past. We have great chance to cheat history and survive longer. COS has a solution as big as the problem. To get more information or to volunteer to save your country visit http://www.conventionofstates.com.

  8. Alex Scott Grunberg


    I am a volunteer with conventionofstates.com a subsidiary of citizens for self governance. We are a grassroots operation involved in the education and organization of citizens throughout the united states, at all levels of government. We believe it is time to try amending the constitution at a state convention, and we intend to do so by informing the public.

    Learn more at conventionofstates.com; sign the petition and volunteer. We will contact you with more information on how you can get involved in local politics; become a district captain, and begin hosting local meetings in your area. We believe that the power in this country ought to be in the hands of the people, not the legislators. In other words; our representatives and senators ought to do what we tell them to.

    In an amended constitution legislators may receive shorter terms; so they may be more focused on serving the interests of the people.

    In an amended constitution judges may receive shorter terms; so they may be more focused on serving the interests of the people.

    More elections could ensure that the voters have their voices heard, and their interests met.

    Furthermore, amending the constitution to include legislation that will require the federal government to balance a budget; to ensure government programs continue to be funded for future generations.

    There are some great scholarly minds behind these statements; read more at conventionofstates.com

    This country is out of the money, and the people are ready to do something about it; because, 20 trillion dollars of real debt coupled with 100 trillion in unfunded liabilities is turning the land of the free into the land of the financially oppressed.

    Our government is often attacked for its actions. By it’s own people and by other countries. Sometimes for a lack of action. Sometimes for doing too much. Unfortunately, when the funds disappear so does the help.

    What ever happened to the invisible hand, and regular economic tributaries that made real sustainable growth in capitalistic society possible? My experience has been that the people in this country are interested in getting their paychecks and spending them. They are looking for handouts, but I am wondering if developing a real micro-economic policy over the long term is something that individuals will ever interest themselves with. There is a movement in this country that is burning a hole in our pockets, politically. There are criminals, in the digital age, whom have learned to steal from the taxpayers in this country. There is little accountability from politicians or the american people. Those criminals rely on the rhetoric where they seek government monies; and, by reception of those monies through the political process, are then perceived as heroes in their own walks of life for taking these progressive measures. I am suggesting a lack of transparency is a major offender in american politics.

    I volunteer with convention of states project, because I want americans everywhere to take an advantage with their digital selves, to advance their own agendas. COSP is a grassroots movement; only a non-partisan movement can carry on a conversation long enough to push pen to paper, thus opening the doors of communication between citizens and their government officials.

    A grassroots movement; figuratively, is a plan to water the grass until the roots are quite deep. This metaphor is best explained by the examples of both water and grass: we are the seeds of the movement, and everyday when the sun shines, we either wither or we prosper and grow. Whether we prosper or grow is solely dependent upon whether or not there is rain. Ask any greenkeeper at a golf course; the secret to healthy grass is to water deeply, and the deeper you water, the deeper that the grassroots grow. Figuratively, the water of our grassroots movement relies upon the conversations. We are the people of this more perfect union, and to expect the establishment of justice, provide for the common defense, and ensure domestic tranquility; we must all take actions politically in favor of our own agendas. For with plenty of water the grassroots my prosper, and in a way that could not happen generations ago, we communicate with ferocious speed and accuracy.

    The connectedness of the american people today, is forever changing how the capitalist society ought to function. Without the assistance from firms, which have power on par with the government’s, there is little hope to sustainably navigate the economic tributaries of world affairs.

    So I beckon of anyone and everyone whom may read these words. Contact me, and start a conversation. I am well educated, but furthermore I love this country and the principles on which it was founded. I know we can get through this economic mess; and, I may even know how, but I need your help.

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