Cicero on Justice, Law, and Liberty
Dr. Gary M. Galles
A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXX-- January 26, 2005
Marcus Tullius Cicero was born over 2,111 years ago.
According to Anthony Everitt, he was "an unknowing architect of constitutions that still govern our lives." John Adams said of him, "All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined." Thomas Jefferson said the Declaration of Independence was based on "the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc."
It is appropriate to remember why our founders considered him so important.
3, 106 BCE -
December 7, 43
BCE) was a Roman Senator, who held every important Roman office at the
youngest permissible age. And he left an extensive written record, about
which Historian Edward Gibbon said, "I breathed the spirit of freedom." He
argued that a virtuous life required active involvement to improve the
well-being of one's community, and feared that a loss of virtue was the
source of Rome's difficulties.
On Justice- Justice is the crowning glory of the virtues.
Justice consists in doing no injury to men...
Justice is the set and constant purpose which gives every man his due.
The foundations of justice are that no one should suffer wrong; then, that the public good be promoted.
...justice must be observed even to the lowest.
Justice does not descend from its pinnacle.
Justice extorts no reward, no kind of price; she is sought...for her own sake.
Extreme justice is extreme injustice.
If our lives are endangered by plots or violence...any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.
On Law- True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application...
The welfare of
the people is the ultimate law.
According to the law of nature it is only fair that no one should become richer through damages and injuries suffered by another.
The strictest law often causes the most serious wrong.
The more laws, the less justice.
...the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled...
The administration of government, like a guardianship, ought to be directed to the good of those who confer, not of those who receive the trust.
When a government becomes powerful...it is an usurper which takes bread from innocent mouths and deprives honorable men of their substance for votes with which to perpetuate itself.
On Liberty- We are in bondage to the law so that we might be free.
The essence of liberty is to live as you choose.
Freedom is a man’s natural power of doing what he pleases, so far as he is not prevented by force or law.
Freedom is a possession of inestimable value.
What is so beneficial to the people as liberty...to be preferred to all things.
Liberty is rendered even more precious by the recollection of servitude.
Freedom suppressed again, and again regained, bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered.
Only in states in which the power of the people is supreme has liberty any abode.
Peace is liberty in tranquility. Servitude is the worst of all evils, to be resisted not only by war, but even by death.
was among the most important influences behind the American Revolution. He
was a symbol of dedication in opposing tyranny, and his ideas on justice,
law and liberty are represented in our founding documents.
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