Gibbon’s Politics

On Avoiding Despotism
A martial nobility and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against the enterprises of an aspiring prince” (DF Ch3, p.85).

Interesting in that it mirrors exactly England after the Glorious Revolution, i.e. the England of Gibbon’s day (1770’s).  The U.S. is a direct political descendant of those times (English Enlightenment), and it is no wonder that we have enshrined permanently some of those sentiments (“possessed of arms – in our Bill of Rights, “tenacious of property”, “constitutional assemblies”, etc) in the very fabric of our constitution/government.  Its interesting that Britain herself has moved on (ex. “possessed of arms”) – maybe the difference between having an unwritten constitution (England) and having a written one.


  1. Hey, guys! Great stuff. I’m sure you know that there’s a huge industry in comparing the U.S.’s current situation to that of Rome before the fall.

    The two that pop into my head are (1) “Are We Rome?” by the Atlantic monthly writer Cullen Murphy, and (2) an article from this month’s AM that I’ve been flogging at the P&R group (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/201001/american-decline).


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