Now well into the third century since our nation’s birth, imaginative conservatives can’t help but wonder where we might be in the life of the Republic. It is instructive to note that when our Founders were preparing to give birth to our Republic, they were imagining the end of the Roman Republic and pondering how to keep the degeneration from happening on our shores. This Christmas, a very fitting gift for any imaginative conservative would be the gift of Cato—the Senator who fought till his death against the rise of empire, the destruction of tradition, and the rule of Caesar.
Marcus Porcius Cato, better known as “Cato The Younger” was the stoic Senator who was beyond corruption and doggedly fought for the right. He resisted Julius Caesar from Rome into North Africa where, his forces being routed, he committed suicide rather than let Caesar pardon him and score the propaganda victory that would strengthen the dictator’s hand. Later we see him, four holy lights illuminating his bearded face, as he guards Dante’s Purgatory. Then he stalked about the American founding in the writings of Plutarch and in the form of the Anti Federalist who took his name for his nom de plume. Most importantly, he appeared on American stages throughout the 18th century in Joseph Addison’s play Cato—A Tragedy. That play was the favorite of George Washington and is the source of the most memorable lines uttered by Nathan Hale and Patrick Henry. How different our America would have been if it was Caesar and not noble Cato who stalked about in the imaginations of our founders!
This Christmas, perhaps more than most, the imaginative conservative would benefit from receiving the handsome Liberty Fund edition of Addison’s play Cato—A Tragedy or (though I have not yet read it) the just released Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar.
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.