The Telegraph’s Nile Gardner, a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst for the British newspaper, has compared the Obama Administration to the ancien régime of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. French savant Alexis de Tocqueville, famous for his penetrating studies of both the French monarchy and early American society, would likely be “less than impressed with the extravagance and arrogance … among the White House elites that rule America as though they had been handed some divine right to govern with impunity,” writes Gardner. Michelle Obama’s recent sumptuous trip to Spain is an act of indifferent profligacy worthy of Marie Antoinette — she who is alleged to have said, when informed that the poor of France had no bread, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!” (“Let them eat cake!”).
There is, if you will, an arresting scene in A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt’s magnificent play about Sir Thomas More. The scene concerns an arrest that does not take place at the home of More, the Lord Chancellor of England. An acquaintance named Richard Rich is acting suspiciously and members of the More household, and no doubt More himself, suspect he is spying on the Lord Chancellor and is prepared to betray him to his enemies — a suspicion borne out all too well by later events. Rich has no sooner left than More’s wife, daughter, and son-in-law all clamor for his arrest, a request More might grant but for the inconvenient fact that the man had broken no law.
The Rotunda at the University of Virginia announced last week that the university’s collection of the papers of James Madison are being digitized and added to the larger online library of the documents of our Founding Fathers. According to a press release posted on the Rotunda’s website:
Famed Roman orator, the silver-tongued Cicero, once noted, "It is valuable to look to the words of our Founders, but it is more valuable to study the principles that inspired their words." In the present climate, winds are whipping in from the plains of plutocracy and eroding at an extraordinary pace the bedrock foundations of limited government upon which our Republic was founded. As Cicero witnessed the gradual replacement of his own Republic with an empire ruled by one autocrat after another distracting the masses with mere gimcracks of popular government, he turned to the words of his noble forbearers. We would do wisely to follow his example.
When Matthew Josephson wrote The Robber Barons in 1934, he tipped his hand as to his personal prejudice against the capitalists of the late 19th century: