As the left explodes in daily paroxysms of bitterness and agony at the prospect of losing their power over the nation they were so close to controlling and then destroying, it is perhaps worthwhile to remember when there were those who existed to whom honor and integrity meant more than power. They proved that they meant this, which is certainly an anomaly to those currently in power.
We could start with the greatest of our Founding Fathers as the primary example for this magnificent ideal in true leadership, but we can in fact go back even farther. Much farther.
In the days before Rome became an empire, and was thoroughly entrenched in its republicanism and its republican ideals, there existed a man known as Cincinnatus. His name was actually Lucius Quinctius, but he was most well-known by his nickname, Cincinnatus, which made reference to his curly hair. Though serving as a consul to Rome in 460 BC, which was one of the most powerful positions in Rome at the time, and though coming from an ancient Roman family, Cincinnatus always preferred the life of a humble Roman farmer. Always, when he had fulfilled his considerable civic responsibilities, he always returned to his land and his family.
A few years after what he had assumed was his final return to his farm, Cincinnatus was approached, again, by the Senate leaders in Rome to take over the leadership of the nation in light of the pending attack by a strong and vicious tribe of warriors known as the Aequians. According to legend, the Senators found Cincinnatus plowing one of his fields (he had four acres) when the group arrived to “beg his assistance and announce that the current counsel, Horatius Pulvillus, had nominated Cincinnatus to serve as dictator (not a pejorative term at that time) for six months” in order to achieve a victory against this aggressor.
Cincinnatus, always cognizant of his duty to his country, left his plow standing in his field and said goodbye to his wife. Having served Rome honorably on a previous occasion, he donned his toga once more and returned to Rome. The first day he was back, he ordered that all men of military age in Rome report to the Campus Martius, the Field of Mars, before the end of that same day. Due to the universal regard in which Cincinnatus was held due to his “virtuous simplicity,” not only with the Roman leadership, but also with the population of Rome, here is what happened:
“His army gathered and the following day Cincinnatus led the foot soldiers himself and surprised the enemy. The leader of the Aequians begged mercy, (sic) and Cincinnatus replied that he wanted no unnecessary bloodshed. He vowed a cease (sic) of hostilities if the Aequians confessed that they had been conquered by Rome.”
Once this was agreed to by the conquered enemy, Cincinnatus and his Roman troops conducted a ceremony establishing the victory of Rome over the Aequians, and their submission to Rome, and Cincinnatus then disbanded his army, resigned as dictator and returned to his farm.
This series of remarkable acts on the part of Cincinnatus and the Romans he commanded, acts which altered the course of the greatest nation on earth at the time, took place in sixteen days.
Cincinnatus was called upon one more time by his country to serve in a similar capacity for Rome’s defense, in 439 BC. He again accepted the call, again was victorious, and again returned to his farm.
Many centuries later, the world was reminded of this great man’s ‘simplicity and nobility of spirit’ when George Washington, the man who led his rather ragtag but devoted army of patriots in the American Revolution to victory in the late 18th century against the military greatness of the British Empire, turned down the offer of power not just once, but twice.
He had been instrumental in forming the United States of America, and in every aspect of its founding. He accepted to become the Commanding General in the colonies’ fight for freedom, and when his work was done, he chose to return home to his farm in Virginia, Mount Vernon The great man had led his men for almost a decade in a brutal war, and hoped he was home for good, but his fledgling nation called upon him again to ask that he accept the job of the first President of the United States of America. He left Mount Vernon again, and assumed this role in the various capitol cities of his new nation., and did so for two terms.
General Washington, as he always preferred to be known rather than President Washington, then, hoping that he had completed his final service to his country after eight years, said no when asked to remain as President, even for life if he would agree. He then did the unthinkable, and said no to continued power.
The General then went back to his beloved farm, and his family, and there he remained to the end of his days.
In recognition of the Roman and the American heroes, a society was formed, to become known as the Society of the Cincinnati, with its initial members being the officers of George Washington and their descendants. The society remains an active group to this day, simultaneously honoring the simplicity, humility and integrity of both men.
As stated by the French philosopher Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville in 1788 about Washington, “The comparison is doubtless just. The celebrated General is nothing more at present than a good farmer, constantly occupied in the care of his farm and the improvement of cultivation.”
George Washington, like Cincinnatus so many centuries before him, had put public service above personal gain. It was said at the time, in referring to the greatness of both:
“For Romans and Americans alike, Cincinnatus represented the ideal republican simplicity, an enlightened poverty that spurned luxury and cultivated a simple nobility of spirit. Happy times! Admirable simplicity! Poverty was not universally practiced, but it was esteemed and honored, and not considered as a disqualification for the highest dignities of the state. The conduct of Cincinnatus during his Consulship…shows us what a noble nature, what constancy and what greatness of soul, inhabited a poor wretched cottage.”
The remarkable act of giving up power on the part of both of these men was immortalized not only by Virgil in Cincinnatus’ case, and by de Warville in Washington’s case, but also by Philip Freneau in a poem written by the famous French philosopher on the occasion of Washington’s resignation from the Continental Army in 1783. Remarking on Washington’s decision to return to retirement at Mount Vernon, Freneau wrote:
“Thus He, whom Rome’s proud legions sway’d/Return’d, and sought his sylvan shade.”
Thirty years later, in his “Ode to Napoleon,” the great but largely insane Lord Byron eulogized Washington as “the Cincinnatus of the West.”
Then, in what has become one of the most famous images of Washington, Jean-Antoine Houdon ’s statue of the General, done in 1785, Washington is portrayed in cilvilian dress “as a modern Cincinnatus, standing in front of his plow.”
Can we say anything remotely similar about the progressives who, though currently in power in Washington, thankfully only for a few more weeks, in various places in the government and media, are clinging to whatever vestigal remnants of power they can. They are holding on to this power for dear life, which at the same time they try in innumerable ways to nullify and negate the power that hasn’t even been officially assumed yet by the new leaders who arrive in Washington in January of 2017. Already planning the President-Elect’s impeachment, the lefties are throwing the kitchen sink at this brave man who will continue to defy them, as he has for over a year now, in his determination to make America great again.
Perhaps when President Trump achieves this worthy goal, we will have more men like Cincinnatus and George Washington among us.
Susan Smith brings an international perspective to her writing by having lived primarily in western Europe, mainly in Paris, France, and the U.S., primarily in Washington, D.C. She authored a weekly column for Human Events on politics with historical aspects. She also served as the Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs and Alcoholism, and Special Assistant to the first Ambassador of Afghanistan following the initial fall of the Taliban. Ms. Smith is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and Georgetown University, as well as the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France, where she obtained her French language certification. Ms. Smith now makes her home in McLean, Va.