America Has Been Warned: Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

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22 November 2014
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Our American Future
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..What can a chronicler of barbarian invasions, writing in the 18th century, explain to Americans in the 21st century?What lessons can we learn today from the fall of an ancient empire? Plenty. Many.

Indeed, as immigration is a hot issue today, we might look to long-ago scholarship to remind us that the basic patriotic loyalty of the home population can never be taken for granted. In particular, if the demography of the population changes, its loyalties will change.

Edward Gibbon’s famous work of history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes, from 1776 to 1788. And the first appearance of that work, of course,—in that evocative year of 1776—has led many to consider its significance to American history. Could America ever fall like that? Could America collapse like the Roman Empire?

Gibbon was English, and yet even after the American Revolution, his work was widely read in the new republic known as the United States; we know, for example, that George Washington included Gibbon in his library.

Indeed, Gibbon’s conservative turn of mind made him particularly popular among the American Founders, who were, after all, themselves conservative... They rebelled in 1776 to uphold their ancient liberties, not to try new fads.

...the Founders looked to history to tell them what could go wrong with a government; then, with that knowledge in mind, they sought to build in protective checks and balances...

If there’s one thing that Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and La Raza can probably all agree on, it’s that it’s high time for the rule of Americans of European descent to come to an end.

Meanwhile, the Main Stream Media is doing its best to speed up the Multicultural Bandwagon...

So we might ask: In the face of this onslaught, what of the Republicans? Aren’t they supposed to be leading the opposition? For the most part, the Republicans seem strangely ineffective.

Let’s return to that blunt [Nov. 21. 2014] Politico headline: “Democrats bet on diversity.” And let’s say it: Democrats envision a different America; they look forward to what they call a “Coalition of the Ascendant.” And of course, if one group is rising, then another must be falling—and so we come back to Edward Gibbon.

But Gibbon was much more than just a poetic tour-guide; he offered his readers a general theory of historical decline. He began his narrative in the second century AD, when the Roman Empire was at its peak, and then he chronicled the failures of feckless elites, the consequences of demoralized faith, and the disasters of military incompetence. And as we shall see, there was a further problem as well—the danger of outright treachery...

In 410 AD, the Goths besieged the city of Rome itself. As Gibbon explains, the Roman authorities were preparing a defense, but—and this is crucial—“they were unable to guard against the secret conspiracy of their slaves and domestics, who either from birth or interest were attached to the cause of the enemy.”..

And while Rome had been weakening for many years, the decisive blow that lead to the fall of the city in 410 was betrayal from within.

We’ve been warned: Yes, the nature of the population—loyal or not—matters a great deal.