Trollope on dictatorships

For all temporary sleekness, for metropolitan comfort and fatness, the bill has to be paid sooner or later in ignorance, poverty, and oppression. With an oligarchy there will be other, perhaps graver, faults; but with an oligarchy there will be salt, though it be among a few. There will be a Cicero now and again--or at least a Cato. From the dead, stagnant level of personal despotism there can be no rising to life till corruption paralyzes the hands of power, and the fabric falls by its own decay. Of this no proof can be found in the world's history so manifest as that taught by the Roman Empire. [ch 12]

The seeds of decay

In all that man has done as yet in the way of government, the seeds of decay are apparent when looked back upon from an age in advance. The period of Queen Elizabeth was very great to us; yet by what dangers were we enveloped in her days! But for a storm at sea, we might have been subjected to Spain. By what a system of falsehood and petty tyrannies were we governed through the reigns of James I. and Charles I.! What periods of rottenness and danger there have been since! How little glorious was the reign of Charles II.! how full of danger that of William! how mean those of the four Georges, with the dishonesty of ministers such as Walpole and Newcastle! And to-day, are there not many who are telling us that we are losing the liberties which our forefathers got for us, and that no judgment can be passed on us "save one of inexorable and remorseless condemnation?" We are a great nation, and the present threatenings are probably vain. Nevertheless, the seeds of decay are no doubt inherent in our policies and our practices--so manifestly inherent that future historians will pronounce upon them with certainty. ch 3

Related Material


Trollope, Anthony. The Life of Cicero. Vol. 1. New York: Harper, 1881. Project Gutenberg. E-text prepared by Ted Garvin, Marc D'Hooghe, Steve Whitaker, and the PG Online Distributed Proofreading Team. April 18, 2011.

Last modified 19 August 2013