Cicero and the Constitution

Cicero and the Constitution

How did Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesman and philosopher, influence the Founding generation, the Constitution, and American political thought? Join Scott Nelson, author of Cicero, Politics, and the 21st Century; Benjamin Straumann, author of Crisis and Constitutionalism: Roman Political Thought from the Fall of the Republic to the Age of Revolution; and Caroline Winterer of Stanford University for a conversation exploring the political ideas of Cicero, his impact on America, and what we can learn from him today. Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, moderates.

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Hello friends I’m Jeffrey Rosen and Welcome to today’s convening of America’s town hall uh before we begin Let’s Inspire ourselves for the Conversation as always by reciting Together the national Constitution Center’s mission statement here we go The national Constitution Center is the Only institution in America chartered by Congress to increase awareness and Understanding of the U.S Constitution Among the American people on a Non-partisan basis I’m going to start by Plugging some great programs that we Have coming up on November 20th second Judges uh Margaret McEwen of the U.S Court of appeals for the ninth circuit And Jeffrey Sutton of the U.S court of Appeals for the sixth circuit will Convene to discuss uh judge mcewen’s new Book citizen Justice the environmental Legacy of William O Douglas on December 2nd in celebrating uh in commemoration Of the upcoming Bill of Rights day we’ll Be joined by Kermit Roosevelt at the University of Pennsylvania Law School For a great uh live class and on December 13 we have three great Scholars Joining us to discuss the Constitutional Legacy of Franklin Roosevelt you can Register for all those classes of Constitution Center dot org friends I’m So excited about today’s conversation We’re going to learn about Cicero and

The Constitution what was Cicero’s Influence on the founding generation and How is it reflected in the Constitution Itself and we’re joined by three superb Scholars to cast light on this wonderful Topic uh Scott B Nelson is research and Strategy advisor as the Austrian Economic Center he is the author most Recently of Cicero politics and the 21st Century co-author with Matthew Edwards Benjamin Stroman is ERC professor of History at the University of Zurich Research professor of Classics at New York University and alberico Gentilly Senior fellow at nyu’s Institute for International law and Justice he is the Author of most recently crisis and Constitutionalism Roman political Thought from the fall of the Republic to The age of Revolution and is currently Working on a project called the just City the ciceronian conception of Justice and its reception in the western Tradition and Caroline winter is William Robertson co-professor of history and American studies and Professor by Courtesy of Classics and of education at Stanford she’s the author of several Books including the culture of Classicism ancient Greece and Roman American intellectual life and most Recently time in maps from the age of Discovery to our digital era welcome Scott Nelson Benjamin Stroman and

Carolyn winter Carolyn we were honored To have you join uh last year for a Great program on the classics and the Founders today you you’re teaching a Class at Stanford now on the influence Of the classics on the founders and um Cicero’s on duties was by some measures The most frequently cited text in the Founding era introduce our audience to This wonderful topic of what Cicero’s Influence was on the founding generation Yeah well thank you for having all of us Here today it’s a pleasure to be back The founding era loved Cicero and the Other Romans of the late Republican Period because they saw themselves Reliving that moment where they felt That they were on a precipice between Political Liberty and political Despotism with despotism symbolized by King George III of England and his Minions in Parliament and so they looked To people like Cicero who they saw as The last embattled Defenders of Roman Liberties against the overweening Tyrannical forces that were gathering on The horizon and so that is why Cicero Not only started as a major component of The cultural Um uh infatuation with Antiquity in the 18th century but that he in fact Continued in an American education and Political life all the way up until the Civil War era because one lesson that

Americans took away from building a Republic is that republics are fragile Political entities and that you must Always be on guard you can never relax Your guard and that you need to Constantly read Cicero I’ll read you Just a quick quotation that John Adams Wrote to his son John Quincy who was all Of 14 years old so you know you could Imagine the original helicopter parent Of John Adams but he’s in the middle of A long letter where he’s telling him What to read he says in company with Salus Cicero tacitus and Livy you will Learn wisdom and virtue you will ever Remember that the end of study is to Make you a good man and a useful citizen So this is not education for creativity This is education to uphold that most Fragile and wonderful of political Entities disease which is a republic in The style of Rome Oh so inspiring what a great Introduction and thank you so much for Signaling and highlighting John Adams in His letters and it’s so striking as you Say to see John Adams exhorting John Quincy Adams to read Cicero who they Read together and John Quincy Adams to Exhorting his own Sons to read Cicero And Quincy eventually taking a a motto From the tusculine disputations as his Own motto um my seeds will bear the Fruit in future generation alteri sekulo

So committed was he to Cicero’s Influence just marvelous Benjamin Stroman in your uh really Powerful new uh book crisis and Constitutionalism Roman political Thoughts on the fall of the Republic to The age of the Revolution you have a Very powerful uh chapter on Cicero’s Influence on Constitution making in Particular and you argue that Um far from Embracing the traditional classic Republican emphasis on virtue above all Uh Cicero anticipated Enlightenment Thinkers who who cited him directly by Insisting on the need for separation of Powers for the protection of private Property tell us about Cicero’s unique Blending of the classic and liberal Influences and and how Central they were At the founding Yeah thank you very much for having me And thanks a lot for this great question Um yeah so I think one of the key Reasons why Cicero was so singularly Influential and this really merits Emphasis because there has been this Long Debate in historiography about you know Relative influence on the American Founding and framing of the Constitution There has been this long debate this Lock really the person or is it is it Really the Commonwealth man of the 17th

Century the English Republicans or is it Really more too scary after all or is it Paxton in this whole debate what’s maybe A little bit forgotten is that someone Like sister who is usually perceived as A mere ornament has really exercised Huge influence not least actually why Are all those figures such as lock or Montesquieu or blackston and but also in His own right and the re the reason I Think yeah why he’s become then such an Extremely popular thinker and writer in The Revolutionary year is that he Promised not only a diagnosis of the Collapse of a large you know large-scale Extensive Republic the Roman Republic But he also promised to a certain extent The remedy against this kind of collapse And the remedy that he put forward was At least To a large extent it was a legal Remedy Or it was it had to do within Institutions and with law more than with Virtue and so that’s another reason why I think that’s maybe a bit receded from The scholarly Focus because usually Classical influences everyone thinks It’s about virtue but Cicero but Actually when you read him rather Skeptical about the reach of virtue and What it can do for a political order and That’s skepticism I think Founders such As Adams and Wilson And Hamilton Madison anyways shared

Wonderful thank you so much for that and And it really is fascinating as you say To see Um Cicero emphasizing the goal of Government to be to protect private Property not to cultivate uh virtue to See Locke directly citing Cicero for That conclusion and then as you say Madison uh getting his lucky in Conclusion uh from uh Cicero as well uh Scott Nelson you in your uh forthcoming Book since wrote politics in the 21st Century you distilled lessons for today From uh Cicero uh and the Western World And Um you talk about uh in particular his Book on on the Republic on the Commonwealth which gives us the Constitutional thought of Cicero and its Emphasis on uh separation of powers tell Us about those constitutional principles That are found in on the Republican and What lessons they can give us today Sure uh and thank you very much for Having me Um I mean I think that that Cicero’s Political thought has a few different Pillars certainly the Constitutional one Um but also I do think that that stale Fakis on duties is important as well as Well as his de oratori the role played By uh reason and speech in the public Sphere I mean we after all we pride Ourselves and our republics today

Um on on the power of persuasion you Know not forcing uh conclusions or Outcomes but rather than persuading Other people because we believe that we All share in in reason and that’s Actually part of um Cicero’s uh notion Of the the natural law that that all Human beings share in reason and that Actually there is a a law that precedes Even political Community Um so I think that this is this is an Important point for for Cicero because It means that let’s say majority opinion Is not necessarily what makes law uh not Just what what the masses say there is Actually a a universal an objective law Out there and a just political Community Is just only insofar as as it respects That kind of Law and I think that that Once you’ve established that point It elides rather easily into the natural Rights doctrine of of the founding Fathers because I don’t think you have To make a very great leap from that Notion to the notion that there are Certain natural rights that are Self-evident Um that belong to us all the right to Life liberty and the pursuit of Happiness or life life liberty and and Property Um I think that another major issue of Importance for for Cicero in his State Republica for example

Um is the the notion of balance Um so that we the the mixed regime idea I mean one of the the great issues for The ancient philosophers is well what Exactly is the best regime is it a Monarchy and aristocracy or a democracy And Cicero says well actually we want to Have a blend of all these things a blend Not just because they can all check each Other and balance each other out but Also because every single one of these Regimes has certain virtues and we want To try to harness the virtue issues of Each of them and and combine them Together so a democracy’s virtue is that It preserves the liberty of the people And we want to create a free a free State Um the the virtue of a monarchy is that In times of Crisis well when you need uh Decisions to be made an action to be Taken then it’s much easier for a single Individual to take that responsibility And do it than uh than to have everybody You know talking with with different Ideas and then finally uh the Aristocracy is supposed to provide a Moderating kind of uh influence between The two and and Um in order for it to to do that I mean To moderate against uh the tyranny of One on the one hand but also the tyranny Of the the majority uh on the other hand And I think for Cicero it’s important

That those people uh be the best Citizens that they be that they be good Citizens virtuous citizens because if They’re not then the regime will become Corrupt and um and then they’ll set a Bad Apple for for everyone else I think That those are in a nutshell some of Cicero’s ideas But that was just a wonderful summary of Uh Cicero’s ideas and you so helpfully Help us understand the connection Between his ideas of natural law derived From Divine reason or nature and the Need for balance among the various Orders of government and also within the Soul itself that kind of Harmony and Balance that we find that leads to Private and public happiness and the the Duties that that creates for citizens to Perfect themselves so they can achieve That balance in themselves and Inequality uh Carolyn it’s so helpful to Think about Cicero’s thought as a Integrated whole both his moral and his Political thought Why don’t you introduce us to some of The major elements of it the connections Between them and I’ll just introduce This Central distinction that comes up Again and again in Cicero between reason And passion and in on duties he says we Must keep ourselves free from every Disturb disturbing emotion or passion Not only from desire and fear but also

From excessive pain and pleasure to what Degree does that duty to moderate our Passions in light of Reason uh suffuse His his moral and political thought Well I can only uh pretend to represent The founders view of Cicero rather than What Cicero really was because you know They had a very Um not a narrow way of viewing the the Romans and the Greeks but a very uh kind Of task-oriented view of the ancient Greeks and Romans they took what they Needed to build their Republic and You’re absolutely right that one of the Things that they really focused on in Cicero and others in the ancient world Is the necessity of reason to guide us And of course the enlightenment of the Late 18th century is the moment when Many philosophers political philosophers Moral philosophers Are beginning to think about what it Means to have reason and how we need to Harness reason in order to form Republics and in order to have reason You have to imagine what its opposites Are in order to frame who the enemies of The Republic might be so passion becomes The great bugabear of 18th century Political thought and they begin to fear All of those uh people in society or Institutions in society that strike them As the opposite of reason and of of the Kind of balanced order that

Um the epicureans and the stoics were in Favor of so that might be for example Women who were known to be nothing but You’d be entirely constituted of the Passions and were therefore in Republican political thought agents of Chaos and agents that would very likely Bring about uh the downfall of the Republic because the opposite of manly Civic virtue which of course has the the Latin word for man within it was a Feminine frivolity uh or or luxury and So they were on the lookout against uh These sorts of things uh slaves could Also be sources of the passions and Debauchery all kinds of uh music that Made you lose your mind in in a kind of Sensual pleasure rather than thinking of The Republic these things became Problematic in the 18th century in part Because the founders were reading people Like Cicero who were Um emboldening them to think only of the Sort of stern manly virtues uh along you Know along with people like uh tacitus And and salus you know a little later Who would who would uh tell them about How to bring about the Bedrock of the Republic through a control of reason Rather than the passions the probably One of the greatest exponents of this That your listeners will have heard of Is Thomas Paine in common sense and in The title of Common Sense doesn’t mean

Common sense in the way that we think About it today as you know look both Ways before you cross the street right That’s how we think of common sense but What he meant was that you are using Your five senses and we have those Senses in common and if we listen only To those five senses then we will build Reasonable republics if we start being Influenced by other things in our senses Like the passions then you might as well Forget about it it’ll be a despotism Before you know it so that is that is The the sort of passion reason Duty Um Influence that they’re looking for in Cicero So interesting uh Reminding us of the uh fact that that Word Virtue as you say is the the word For for male Um talking about this this place of Women and enslaved people and when we Met last you you called our attention to How uh classically educated women like Like Abigail Adams who signed herself Porsche would Embrace that uh idea of Restraining your passion so that you Could achieve this kind of virtue and The music point is so great as well and Um as several of you quote John Adams Invoking handle handles music as the Model of balance and Harmony and you Remind us Carolyn winter that there were

Other kinds of music that excited the Passions in ways that uh were considered Bad for the soul uh Benjamin Stroman You’re um you know help us understand That reason passion distinction and your Book does such an important job Showing us that the roots of natural law Philosophy were really in Cicero and all Of those 18th century contractarian Theorists including montesuke and Locke Were relying on Cicero for the idea that We’re born in a state of nature with With certain uh rights and duties and That government action that violates Those common constitutional Norms use as You put it uh are beyond the law and we Have a duty to align ourselves with Nature and live our lives according to Divine Nature Help us understand that in Cicero’s Thought Yeah I think Um so this this distinction between uh Reason on the one hand and the passions On the other hand is of course Um Absolutely key to Cicero’s thought and He has inherited it from the Greek moral Philosophers but the way he handles it Is interestingly different and I think Quite original Um it’s not quite as the Greek moral Philosophers handled it in many ways so One key uh ingredient in Cicero’s

Thought is and this is to do with Something Scott mentioned earlier it’s The fact that reason is seen as a Capacity to gain insight into what the Natural law demands of us what the Natural law consists in but now for Cicero this is no longer say the stoics Also have a similar idea but they think It’s really just very few very rare Individuals the stoic sages those who Are really wise who actually can gain Access to this natural law Cicero However interestingly expands um the Scope of those who can gain inside Meetings in principle we can all just You know as a matter of Being Human Beings actually and as a matter of being Part of the human species of the Sochiators humanities as he puts it that In and of itself is enough to gain Insight into the rules of natural law And into the rights and obligations that This natural law generates and so that Is of course this universalizing Tendency is quite is quite interesting But it goes also hand in hand with a Kind of downgrading of the Ambitions of The natural law in a way because you Know in in Greek philosophy usually what This all does is that if you’re really Rational then what beckons is happiness You you get the good life that’s uh this Is a pretty neat price right it’s kind Of nice hard to get but if you are

Really rational then you look at the Good life in Sister there’s a lot of Indications that he’s he’s a skeptic so He’s not a stoic he’s a uh he’s a Skeptic he’s worried about us not having Really a solid conception of the good Life and of what we need to get there And so he writes another word Dave Enables you know on on ends and what What what’s the what’s the goal of human Life and there he discusses all the Greek proposals for that but the Dialogue ends in a somewhat operatic on An operatic note it’s we can’t really Figure this out so what he comes up with In other words such as in you know in His political theories the Republic the Laws and in this strange mix of Political Theory and moral philosophy That is their own duties the day of he Is what he comes up with there is a kind Of natural law for Skeptics it’s you Know we may not know the highest good we Do not have access to the to a solid Conception of the highest good but what We do know is this natural law that Generates rights and obligations for all Of us that for us who are not sages and It in the office it even generates some Obligations vis-a-vis slaves which is Quite unheard of in their own context of Course and so there’s there’s really This push Um of uh the idea that we all have

Access to reason in you know by a reason To them what the natural law demands so That’s the I think in a way the most Important part and what this entails is Of course that he You know Um if virtue is great if we can get it But um he wants in his political theory He always what Scott mentions his his Qualms about the good constitutions the Simple good constitutions usually that You know you have a really just king That’s neat but even the Justice King Such as use decimals King Cyrus the Persian king who had a good reputation He will invariably tilt into the worst Tyrant of all into a kind of followers He says because virtue is You it’s it’s it’s not to be always Trusted you can’t really be sure that it Always works the same with the a good Government of the few some Aristocrats Same Danger lyrics there and of course The same with the the government of the Many a kind of democracy if they’re all Virtuous that’s all for the better but It’s not very stable these sort of Things virtue isn’t stable enough so When it comes to political order to all Of us in the Aggregates then he in a way He moves reason onto the Constitutional Domain you might say it’s it reason sits In the rules that govern all of us so That that is the the broad tendency that

I think is attractive to some of the Founders and you know and also it’s just One quote if because John Adams is Usually seen as this kind of the last Classical Republican who who banks on Virtue but of course uh you can read in In Adam’s defense um of the Constitutions of government of the United States in the first volume can Read sentences such as this one it’s not True I’m quoting Adams it’s not true in Fact that any people ever existed who Love the public better than themselves They’re private friends neighbors Etc And therefore this kind of issue is as Precarious the foundation for Liberty as Honor or fear it’s the laws alone that Love that really low country end of Quote so there you you can see this Sister only in skepticism Visa fever It’s a nice thing individually we try to To get to it but in the aggregate let’s Not rely just on that Such a such a great and clear Um Melding of uh Cicero’s ideas of natural Law which were the foundation for the Enlightenment as you say with his Feeling that virtue is not a stable Foundation for governments and that the One the few in the many and as you note That that comes from polybius because They’re unstable you need uh separated Powers in order to ensure that uh

They don’t degenerate Um Scott Nelson Um help us in this great synthetic way That Carolyn and Uh Benjamin had been doing in Understanding using that reason passion Distinction as a core Um how that plays out in his political Philosophy and this idea of a Well-tempered constitution Um uh Um tell us about reason passion and the Constitution Sure yeah actually um just one of the Things that Benjamin was uh mentioning Reminds me you know how even virtue can Go too far even virtue um you know poses Certain dangers it reminds me of that Bit from montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws where he says Ah who’d have thought Even virtue has need of limits and I Think that um that that thinking is is Very much latent in Cicero as Benjamin Has mentioned I’d I would point for Example to Um well in on duties when he talks about Uh decorum or translated as propriety or Seemliness Um it includes moderation as well one of The functions of uh of seemliness for Cicero is that it keeps some of these Other virtues some of these other duties In check Um so greatness of spirit can be taken

Too far uh the the key example of that Would be a guy like Caesar Caesar was Full of a great deal of greatness of Spirit but um it it ended up Outstripping justice he lost sight of Justice he went too far and so he needs To have he needs to have more more Moderation Um in terms of the the reason uh passion Split one of the things I would uh add There is that I think Cicero thought That The passions the passions if they get Out of hand then of course you know you Can end up in in a sort of despotism Which is why you’ve got to keep them uh Under control and Caesar’s another Interesting example of that because There’s a lot of people for example who Might look at politics today and say Well it’s about we want to we want to Get power for example and Caesar’s a Wonderful Um example of how one let’s say can can Get power well in fact it’s not not just Because he’s killed by people who don’t Like the fact that he got power but he Actually it’s his power ends up Undermining itself in another way very Late in life when he’s dictator Um when he sold dictator of Rome Cicero Writes a eulogy of Cato and then Caesar Incense that this writes an anti-cato uh In response now in Caesar to Caesar’s

Credit he chooses actually to respond With words and not with a sword even Though he very well could have responded With violence instead Um but the effect of the anti-caser was Really just to remind the popular list Of just how virtuous or or persistent or Awesome character Cato the younger was And isn’t that such a poignant thing Because Caesar fails to achieve as his Goal of trashing Cato uh Cato’s name and Isn’t that poignant because Caesar the Most powerful man in Rome at the time is Powerless against the ghost of Cato you Know and that’s that’s that speaks I Think very much to Um also Cicero’s philippics you know Written at the end of his life um the Immediate effect of philippics is that They irritate Mark Anthony and they they It ends up with Cicero’s head and hands Chopped off and nailed to the rostra Um but the long-term effect of such a Noble Um and at times very humorous work as as The philippics is that um it it makes Such an eloquent case for Liberty uh Against against tyranny so I think Though what I was going to say though in Terms of reason and passion is that even A guy as as awesome as and as and as Full of greatness as Caesar because he Cannot control his lust for power he is He’s undone by that and he ends up

Vested by a ghost effectively Cicero by Contrast would say well if you are Attaching your happiness to let’s say The acquisition of wealth or popular Acclaim or power for that matter then You are attaching your happiness to Something that is inherently fickle Volatile and dependent on other people Because all of those things are Dependent on other people and on Circumstances the only thing over which You have perfect control is your own Individual virtue your own inner virtue Um and if you cultivate that Then you you’re guaranteed to be happy Regardless of what the world throws at You and I think that’s effectively this Um the conclusion that he arrives at at Uh at the end of his tuscular Disputations in book five that virtue is Is the key to true happiness and I can’t Help but feel that this must have been At the backs of the minds of the Founding fathers when they talk about Liberty uh life liberty and the pursuit Of happiness Wow well it um certainly was and as it Happens Um I’m I’m working on a book now called Pursuing happiness the ancient wisdom That inspired the founders quest for the Good life and I’m so struck by the fact That Cicero’s tusculine disputations the Book that you mention uh is cited

Repeatedly by so many of the major Founding Fathers as their definition of The pursuit of happiness and at the end Of his life Thomas Jefferson would send To anyone who wrote to him uh friends of Kids of friends who are going to law School or Um students of all kinds who asked him For the definition of Happiness a Passage from the tusculine disputations And I want to Um uh read it because it just sums up Jeff the the definition of the pursuit Of happiness you just gave us that Controlling your own thoughts to Cultivate the Tranquility of mine that Will allow uh us to um be free from the Vagaries of Fortune and this is the Passage the Jefferson quoted and it was All also quoted by Benjamin Franklin and His 13 virtues and by John Adams by John Quincy Adams here it is therefore the Man whoever he is whose soul is Tranquilized by restraint and Consistency and who is at peace with Himself so that he neither Pines away in Distress nor is broken down by fear nor Consumed with the thirst of longing in Pursuit of some ambition nor Maudlin and The exuberance of meaningless eagerness He is the wise man of whom we are in Quest he is the happy man uh Carolyn Winter I’m so eager for all of your Thoughts and insights about

The significance of this definition of Happiness from the tuscular disputations What is the significance and why did so Many of the founders quote it You know I think that hap first of all Thank you for reading it out again Because it’s so inspiring you know today We will all attempt that version of Happiness I think happiness is one of those 18th Century keywords in the way that Liberty And reason is in that it’s Simultaneously everywhere and yet we Have a hard time pinning down exactly What they meant by it a little bit like Today when we talk about nature Everybody means something different by It and and yet we all agree that it’s Something very very important so in the 18th century as you’ve just said there Is a a definition of Happiness from the Ancient world that is all about a kind Of inner Um inner peace I think of it a little Bit as an inner metronome you know as Someone who grew up playing the piano With with a a task master of a Hungarian Piano teacher uh there was always a Metronome keeping me you know right in Line and and that version of happiness Is is a little bit like that you know There’s another one though that is in Competition I think with that inner Definition of Happiness when you look at

The way the founders deployed happiness In more public documents they talk about Social happiness and public happiness They often link those words together And the Declaration of Independence is The most public of public documents and It’s intended in some sense as a uh sort Of we’re going into business document Intended for Europe a European audience Saying we’re no longer uh under the Aegis of Great Britain we are hanging Our shingle out for business we are Telling you uh what what we’re all about And that you can form trade uh Agreements and political alliances with Us so if you imagine that they mean life Liberty and social or public happiness Then Then that starts to mean something Closer to what we mean by National Security in that it’s saying that we Need life we need Liberty but we also Need a state that is strong enough that It can protect us from external enemies And internal Anarchy you know insurgents Of various kinds and so I think that There’s it will always remain a mystery What Jefferson meant because he knew That this document was really intended For this external audience it’s a Diplomatic document and so does he mean Life liberty and internal peace or does He mean life liberty and National Security uh for the this new and very

Fragile Republic I don’t think we’re Ever going to know and I don’t actually Think we need to decide I think what’s Important to know as we think about the American context is that there are these Two Ideas that are floating in the air of What the happiness of a polity built on The will of the people really needs in Order to survive and uh what I would Love is that every American out there Revisited these 18th century ideas of Happiness because they’re not the Materialistic Hedonism that we have Today when we think of Happiness like I Need a BMW or I guess I live in Palo Alto I need a Tesla uh nothing against Tesla but you know a kind of uh pursuit Of material gain that’s not what Jefferson meant he meant something much Closer to what you were saying Jeff and And something much closer to what I was Saying but they’re all different from What we think of today So powerful and so true and exactly as As you say for for hap for for Jefferson And the founding generation happiness Was not feeling good it was being good It was not Hedonism and the pursuit of Pleasure it was uh virtue and Self-mastery and then you raise this Really interesting question what’s the Similarities and differences between That private happiness that comes from

Internal tranquility and public Happiness that comes from National Security Benjamin Stroman I’d love your Thoughts on on how to reconcile those Those ideas of public and private Happiness and I I wonder Carolyn’s um Suggestion made me think it might we say That for Cicero uh uh just as private Happiness was achieved by a Well-tempered mind public happiness was Achieved by a well-tempered constitution And we had to find the same balance in Our faculties of uh reason on the Private level that we have to do among The branches of government on the public Level uh might something like that work Yeah I mean I think that’s that’s Certainly uh Um you know a very influential image This analogy of Um You know our uh same inward Um balance and that this is seen in Analogy to the Constitutional makeup of A state is of course uh And that’s Plato’s idea in in his Republic and to a certain extent I think Uh Cicero follows this but because of This skepticism that is not Plato’s but Very much ciceros I think he can’t he Can’t go all the way so for Cicero maybe It’s more important to have a Carved out Um domain where you actually can have

Autumn the kind of Um Leisure to philosophize which is Something he himself of course does Especially once he’s no longer Um once he’s kicked out of politics and Can’t do anything in his on his Country Estates so he’s thinking about those Things and in a way the tosculines are An expression of that there you see him In a kind of in a very stoic mode really But it is in it’s in sharp tension with What he says in other words like the Afinibo so he’s he’s a stoic when you Catch him as such as the tall students There he’s there he is one but it might Be the case that for him it’s important That we be able to figure out the let’s Say the correct conception of the Highest good and the correct conception Of Happiness he’s a bit of a he’s a Fallibleist in that regard I mean he Thinks maybe we’ll figure it out but Right now I don’t think he has the Confidence that he shows in the tough School and he the next day he will have Less confidence between can see also in His correspondence how these and things Move around a bit Um but on the when it comes to the to The political order there I think um for Sure he does follow polybius to a Certain extent in Um you know trying to arrange the

Institutions of the state such that you Do have a kind of as he put it well Tempered or balanced Um uh setup of a constitutional setup And what he does and I think what is Somewhat new is that he tries to figure Out the underlying Constitutional order and he does that in A very legalized Manner and he’s learned In the Roman law as well so he used to Leave a private law analogies all the Time to explain uh the the the political Legal order and in a way that moves now In um as a remedy to the Decay and the Collapse of the of the of the Roman Republic because he puts forward in his Laws in the delayables written in the Late 50s perhaps in the 40s it’s hard There’s a bit of a dispute about that But as the Republic collapses and that There is the looming Civil War already The Civil War he puts forward really a Set of laws that he says are Um formulating natural law and that are Um supposed to you know give shape to The state and that is important to the Founders of course because unlike us who Are used to the idea that constitutional Law is a kind of law Uh this is a pretty novel idea and Usually when people talk about Constitutions also in early modern times What they meant is just descriptively How is the state sociology of the state

Basically but with Cicero the founders And I started perceiving this Foundational order as based natural law As Scott pointed out but also as really A kind of Law and it enters Constitutional thought you know I see Wilson during the ratification debates Defend the supremacy clause by saying Sure this is actually law and if lower Levels of law do conflict with it then You know they have to go they have to be Declared void or we have to somehow make Sense of this hierarchy and I think this Hierarchy and really preceding the Underlying legal order as as really Legal is a pretty um influential idea of Ciceros with which he tries to give Um fine-grained shape and legal shape to To the idea of a rational order rational Political order Um So so interesting and you do such a Marvelous job in in showing us how Direct uh Locke’s writings on natural Law were in drawing on Cicero and as you Say Locke recommended just two books uh On ethics one uh was uh Cicero’s on uh Duties Um and uh the other Bible uh so uh Crucially insightful Scott you you Started you introduced the tusculine Disputations which I read and Carolyn Introduced us to the distinction between Public and private happiness and I

Suggested that perhaps one connection Between them in Cicero and the Enlightenment thought was that uh Personal self-government was necessary For political self-government we had to Find the inner Tranquility of mind and Mastering of our unreasonable passions On a personal level in order to be good Citizens and have a balanced Constitution at a political level uh Does might that work or how would you Describe uh the ciceronian conception of The relation between Public and private happiness I mean I I think that they’re they’re Certainly related I mean unfortunately It’s um it’s rather than all of me to Say but you sort of you sort of need to To have uh both when what you just Mentioned there it kind of reminds me Though Um uh Pache what you just said but it Reminds me of what um what Friedrich Von Hayek once said in one of his essays he Said that um if we have to wait for Everyone to be virtuous before we can Have freedom then we’re going to have to Wait for a very long time indeed you Know so we might we might start with the Freedom first Um even though it might lead to some Some bad outcomes from time to time and Indeed that’s that that’s the view that Um that Cicero uh seems to take as well

Because the the polity Rome is not about Making citizens virtuous I mean it Should we should try to tend in that Direction but uh but Liberty uh comes Comes first whereas if your goal is Ultimately to make everyone virtuous Then um that may entail a great deal of Um uh restraints on on uh on people’s Liberty um but in terms of the yeah the The connection between private and and Public happiness I mean I think that one Way that they’re connected Um and one thing that we can certainly Learn from from Cicero is well obviously Moderation moderate our our expectations Moderation both of ourselves personally But also moderation on on an Institutional level Um but also we could start to talk about As Cicero does in Dale figgies we can Start to talk more about about duties Now I know that’s going to sound like a Hopelessly Antiquated Um and terrible thing to say because We’re all inundated all the time with All sorts of Duties and obligations and So we’d much rather talk about rights But I think there are psychological Reasons why it’s useful to talk a little Bit more about duties than we do Um namely when we talk about rights so Often we end up becoming the passive Recipients of of Rights it’s everything That uh you know that is owed to us by

Other people and when we don’t get it Then we see ourselves as being victims Duties actually restores to us as Individuals a certain moral agency which Uh the the ability to choose to do Something what we should and should not Do and that’s actually key to to our to Our Humanity Um so duties recovering that kind of Talk about duties what it is that we Should do and when I say what it is that We should do I don’t mean what we as a Society should do because Society if we As a if everyone’s responsible for Something then no one’s responsible for Something what I mean is that Scott Nelson I need to look closely in my life And decide you know what it is that I Should do uh Jeff you look closely You’re a life you decide what you should Do etc etc Um that um we may actually find Ourselves a lot more empowered a lot of Feeling a lot better and also Incidentally contributing to to our Community to to the public good Um and that that uh brings me to another Point I mean because we we talk a lot About uh to the extent that we talk About duties we talk about let’s say Civic duties I think Cicero would say to Us on that yes Civic duties very Important but be serious about them when You say we as a society should do

Something who exactly are you addressing And what sort of an outcome do you Expect when you blast something off Let’s say into the Twitter uh space and Whatnot who do you want to listen to and What effect do you really want that to Have Cicero by contrast always had a Very clear idea of who his audience was Was it a you know a jury was it the the Assembly of people was it the Senate Um was it Caesar for example Um and he had a clear idea of what it Was that he wanted to do when he when he Opened his mouth and when he spoke and It’s interesting that for for us we we Live in a world where we are surrounded By words even more so than than in Cicero’s time and yet one of the things That Cicero brings up at the beginning Of his day oratory applies even more Forcefully an hour day than it did in His time which is that why is it that The one thing that is common to all Human beings the ability to reason and To speak indeed that which is most Divine in us that which connects us to The gods why is it that we so frequently Misuse or abuse this very Divine gift That we that we all have why do we use It for deceit and fraud or why do we not Use this Divine gift Um seriously and so I think that uh Cicero would would ask us yes say civic Duty is very important but um reflect a

Little bit more seriously on who you’re Talking to and what exactly it is you Mean to to accomplish when you when you Advocate a particular uh course of Action I think in so doing you might Find yourself both happier privately and Also it would contribute to the uh to The public happiness Oh crucially uh wise words and and just As you say uh Cicero and it was so focused on audience On what you’re trying to accomplish and You just introduced this really crucial Uh uh reminder of the Lost language of Duties uh Cicero did think that we have A duty to moderate our temper and our Expectations and our Um thoughts uh because it would align us With the harmonies of the universe and That’s kind of fallen out of our Discourse in a rights oriented age Carolyn Monterey why um why did the Language of Duties fall out of the Curriculum in your amazing book the Culture of classicism you trace the rise And fall of classical education between 1780 and 1910 after classical education Fell out of the Phenom the curriculum Character education persisted for a While in the McGuffey reader in the Colombian orator which Lincoln Douglas Read selections from classical texts uh You know you know in Translation but in The 1960s in particular it seems like

That fell out of the curriculum and I’m Just I’m trying to understand why that Happened obviously there were Supreme Court decisions that said that you can’t Teach religion appropriately which made It difficult to teach some of these Texts there was a new me generation Ethos of feeling good rather than being Good but I but what what why did this Language of Duties and character Education fall out of the curriculum and How do you find that students react to It when you teach these texts today Well well let’s see I’m unmuted uh okay Uh that’s a big question uh that could Have its own National Constitution Center seminar so Um I will just point to one thing that Comes to mind which is That in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War Americans began to ask themselves how They can educate Americans to combat uh Totalitarianism how do we educate Students for a free society as they put It and I’m not sure character education Has entirely fallen out but the new Emphasis on creativity as a key feature Of American Education I think was very New after World War II and it was Absolutely tied up with the the fear That if we didn’t make American children Creative then they would become Automatons the way they imagined Soviet

Children must be that they were being Educated for totalitarianism while Americans were being educated for Freedom there’s a wonderful book about This by Jamie Cohen Cole uh that’s Called the creative American uh so I Don’t know if that’s some something that Can go in in the chat but it’s a Wonderful look at why that is it’s Unclear within creativity where Duty Fits because uh it’s it’s it’s not so Much the me Generation Um as as the generation of uh Cultivating one’s own talents and skills Whatever those might be and and the role Of Duty in all of that is is very very Unclear Um so I think there’s a lot of there’s a Lot of different reasons why an explicit Focus on duty has fallen away Um but I think the rise of creativity Which I’m not we have people who are in The European educational system with us So clarify me if you know correct me if I’m wrong but my own experience in European schools is that there’s much More emphasis on Um memorization not to the exclusion of Of creativity but that it’s really in American schools that there’s a Downgrading of memorization and an Upgrading of creativity Um and again with Duty falling away as a Critical discourse so those are some of

My Rather unformed thoughts on the question But I think that students learn Duty in Other ways Jeff I um I’m teaching a History of ideas class this fall here at Stanford and we’re moving from the Founding era to 1900 and the students Are very concerned about the State of The Union they they want to be good Citizens they want to learn about Duty And they’re doing it in their own way Whether it’s by reading John Adams or by Reading William James in the late 19th Century or Frederick Douglass Um there it’s not as as top-down as it Was uh in the 18th century curriculum Well wonderful thanks so much for that Great um answer as you say so much to Discuss and then perhaps we will indeed Reconvene to to talk about that thanks For the uh Recommendation about the creativity book And great to hear that your students Today are focused on all these different Ways of learning about uh duties uh Benjamin Strom and I I think this um uh Maybe our last uh major intervention Because we always end on time here but Curious both about your thoughts about Why character and Duty may have fallen Out of the curriculum is did it also Fall out in in Europe in the 60s or not And and then um What uh

Remaining aspects of Cicero would you Like to highlight that you think that um All of us should Keep in mind today Yeah I think um speaking from the Beating Heart of Western European Republicanism namely the small scale Swiss Republic I’m in a good position to talk about This I mean I do think there is a bit More focus of this on this kind of thing Especially in Switzerland Um but it did it also shows it’s uh There’s a bit of a two-edged sword I Mean in many ways this kind of Um you know character education that is Being Um dished out here also in primary Schools like my kids or this there’s a Bit more attention on these things but It’s it’s a bit like multi-scare on the On the on the small scale range in Republics it also it does have a smile I Would say mindfully Um perhaps repressive or constraining Aspect to it and it’s very it’s Homogenizing in a way Um that uh that this brings us maybe Back to the Cicero discussion a Cicero Question one reason why the founders Were attracted to say for another reason Which we may not have talked about Sufficiently but which was key in my View is that the founders you know they

Did away with the King they wanted to Have a Republic now republics which is Much smaller than the 13 original Colonies and so everyone said read your Multi-scure yeah you don’t you just Don’t get it you can’t have a large Scale a big Territorial state without a King that just doesn’t work they found To say no we can look there is actually This huge thing it’s the role Republic Like and and the reply is usually yeah But that thing also collapsed are you Going to do that and then the the the Reply to that is usually well but Cicero Has kind of an answer to that too so Um uh there is a little bit of Falling Away of Um you know virtue talk and all of that Duties very much like their feet is by Cicero but in their sister also one has To see it is it’s always it’s duties but To this duties correspond right so it’s Actually it’s it’s a very loyally way of Talking about this if you have a right To something I have a duty to give it to You Um so you cannot have rights without do This and vice versa so Um and it’s correspondingly a little bit Thin so it’s not this full-blown Character education that you would get In I don’t know Sparta for example so it Is large scale there’s a lot of Different people

Um and so that’s one of the reasons why Although the 13 colonies much smaller Than current the United States there Were still much bigger than any of the Other ancient city-states Wonderful Um thanks for that update on the state Of character education in Europe and Also the the state of the idea of Duties Well Scott the last word in this Marvelous discussion is to you and I’m Going to ask you to do what all three of You have done so well throughout the Hour which is just a channel the Enduring relevance of Cicero and sum up For our great audience of lifelong Learners what it is about Cicero’s moral And political thought that is relevant In the 21st century today Foreign Well apart from the aforementioned I’ll Conclude then with just one thing Um that I think both sits around the Founding fathers would say and that is Make time for study make time to study These great texts you’ve got plenty of Time to read whatever outrageous thing Is happening in the news that’s always Going to be there don’t worry about it Take time to read these great texts as Even uh Jefferson in a letter to Adams He talks about how he’s stopped reading The newspapers they’re just depressing He’s reading his tacitus and lucidities

And he’s much the happier for it read These great uh these great texts because The founding fathers we’re all busy but The founding fathers were busy founding A great nation and yet they still took The time to read Cicero Salas tacitus Livi you know fusidities and whatnot and I can’t help but feel that it was Precisely because they took that time to Do so that uh that the nation is as Great as it is Um I mean John Adams I think he was at Every every year he’d uh always make Time to reread Cicero’s text on old age Descente Um in Latin of course so read your read It in Latin and Greek if you can and as Far as I’m concerned if Marcus Tulia Cicero was good enough for men as Enlightened and excellent as the Founding fathers then surely he’s good Enough for us today Beautiful what a perfect place to end You are so right Scott Nelson that That’s inspiring Central Practice that the founders had of deep Reading into old age of the classics in General out of Cicero in particular John Quincy Adams took an entire year after He left the White House to reread all of Cicero in Latin uh Jefferson and Adams Finding consolation uh before death it’s An inspiration to all of us and as you Say all we need to do is

Stop browsing and start reading and take Advantage of these remarkable screens That we have before us to access all the Books of the world it’s so exciting that They’re all just available with a single Click and that’s why friends we put so Many of these primary texts online and The new Founders Library including Excerpts from uh the tuscular and Disputations from on duties and from Other key cesaronian texts uh Carolyn Winter Benjamin straman and Scott Nelson I’m so grateful to you for teaching me And all of our great listeners so much About Cicero and friends who are watching I’m So grateful to all of you lifelong Learners for taking an hour out in the Middle of your day to learn and grow uh From these three brilliant Scholars who Have shown so much light on this crucial Topic Carolyn Benjamin Scott thank you So much for joining and thanks to all Thank you

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