By Taylor Caldwell
The New American, October 6, 2003
Stop the FTAA!

This is the true story of a once great nation, referred to here as “Honoria.” The actual identity of the nation — and the lessons we can learn from it — will become apparent.

Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985) was a best-selling author who wrote over 30 novels, including Dear and Glorious Physician, A Pillar of Iron, and Captains and the Kings. This article (abridged) originally appeared as “Honoria” in the December 23, 1957 issue of The Dan Smoot Report and is reprinted with permission.

This is a true story about a nation which was once great. At the outset, we will call that nation Honoria; but you will readily guess her true name, as the story unfolds.

Once upon a time, some courageous men decided to leave their own country, which did not encourage freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the individual. They wanted to establish a new country where men could be free.

So, these men who wanted freedom became Pilgrims. They migrated to an uncivilized land inhabited only by barbarians, enduring terrible hardship to get there. When they landed in that savage region, they stood upon a great rock. There, they did homage to their God — for guiding them during their arduous journey.

To this day, that rock is one of the most famous monuments in the world.

Pilgrim Fathers

The Pilgrims weren’t very kind to the natives of the region; but kindness is not usually an attribute of the human race, not even among just men earnestly seeking freedom and justice for themselves. They drove off the natives, and built their rude shelters in the inhospitable wilderness. They also engaged in flurries of small wars and massacres with the natives, and they went armed into the fields to set their crops and take care of their cattle. They taught their wives and half-grown children how to handle arms and protect themselves when the men were away.

One of the first things these Pilgrims did was to build a house of worship in the wilderness — a crude, rude house, but still a house of worship. There they would gather, not just on holy days, but every day, to pray. They had a special day in the year, too, to give thanks for their blessings; and they would walk through the silent fields and wild forests on that day, armed and watchful against the savages.

The Pilgrims were stern and austere men. They believed in their God, but they also believed in work — hard, driving, determined work. They established schools, under religious leaders. These schools, in a way, were the first public, free education in the world — education such as had never been before in the old, corrupt countries.

The old, corrupt countries laughed at the Pilgrims — laughed at their poverty, their hard work, their educational efforts, their single-hearted devotion to religion, their dedication to a simple, strenuous, virtuous life. In fact, in one of the old countries, a famous playwright wrote a most amusing play on the Pilgrims — a sensationally funny piece that brought many honors to the playwright. You can still read his play today, if you wish.

People in the old countries — rich and decadent — called the Pilgrims savages. They did not know that these Pilgrims — these obscure, work-stained men; these men with the soil of the earth under their fingernails; these men in their rude shelters — would, through their descendants, build the most powerful nation in the world, one to which the old, corrupt countries would look in envy, hatred and contempt while they demanded more and more support for their tottering governments, their tyrannies, and their starving people.

The Pilgrims were intolerant of wrongdoing. They used whips and gallows to punish criminals. Their clergymen preached stern virtue and selfless dedication. They had no patience with the weak and degenerate, who, if they are pampered, become the cancer of a nation. And, as the Pilgrims had endured so much to come so far, there was no place in their community for those who would destroy them and what they were building.

The Pilgrims engaged in trade as their community grew. They set sails on the ocean. More Pilgrims joined them. They became moderately prosperous. But still they retained the severity and devotion of their lives, dressed very simply, loved the good earth which nourished them, gathered in their churches for prayer. Their tiny villages became small towns, and then small cities. All this took a long time.

Other colonists came and established other colonies — over a period of more than three hundred years. But these colonies, and the colonies of the Pilgrims, were not yet one nation. They were small, unintegrated colonies under the shadow of powerful nations, from which the colonists had fled.

But all the colonists had one thing in common: They had fled from oppression, hoping to live in peace, with as much justice as men can dredge up from themselves. They had had all they could take of endless wars, endless taxation, endless bureaucrats, endless arrogant rulers. In the sight of their God, as they wrote over and over, they had established a new nation.

Over three hundred years went by. The colonies were flourishing everywhere. The breath of freedom blew over them like a mighty wind, clear, sharp, invigorating, stirring men’s souls, lighting up their hearts, strengthening their arms, making their spirits incandescent.

Some of the noblest literature ever written by men was created in those colonies, some of the noblest architecture, some of the noblest precepts. Facades of our modern government buildings bear some of the legends written in those days: “Liberty,” “justice,” “freedom of worship.”

The cobbled streets of the colonial cities began to ring with the footsteps of great men, with the sound of heroic voices. A new day was dawning in this cluster of colonies I have called Honoria.

Eventually the Pilgrims — those severe, strict men — became more tolerant of their neighbors, and did business with them. They sent their best writers, best artisans, best agriculturists, to the other colonies, and in return received a little laughter and gaiety. For three hundred years that went on; and God blessed the colonies, this new nation, not yet one nation, which I have called Honoria.

Three hundred years — and then the terror.

Colonies Unite

One of the old, corrupt countries, greedy for exploitation, despising the simplicity and moral laws of the colonies, and anxious to tax them and put them once more under oppression, sent tax agents to the big city of the Pilgrims.

Word of the terror ran through the colonies like the sound of a drum awakening freemen to the knowledge of peril. The colonies sent their greatest men as representatives to a general assembly of all the colonies. They knew that their destinies lay together. They looked about for a leader, and found him: a prosperous gentleman farmer, a man concerned only with agriculture, but a man of learning. Above all, he was a man. They sent representatives to him, as he stood in his fields, with his hand on the plow. He shook the dust of the fields from his feet and went to the city.

One of the most famous cities of the United States is named after him. He became known as “the father of his country.”

Now, this man united the colonies. This noble man — who will never be forgotten so long as free men dare to speak — won his fight against corrupt politicians, and he returned to his fields.

The united colonies became a nation — Honoria. The day of their great and growing power had dawned.

The new nation had two houses of government. The more powerful was the Senate. No one could be elected to the Senate unless he was a man of probity, honor, patriotism, and religion. But that was in the early days of the Republic. For Honoria was a Republic, though she is a Republic no longer. Honoria, in those days, distrusted militarism, hated wars. Her ideal was freedom under divine guidance.

The Senators knew that they must support the Republic and shun intrigue with foreign nations — or suffer severe punishment. For a long time, a very long time, the Senators did not betray their people.

A civil war ultimately divided the Republic, a bloody, fratricidal war. A leader of the Republic was assassinated. He had led the country in a war to keep the nation united, but he had enemies. Many plays and books have been written about this leader. I do not argue for or against this man who was assassinated in the warm spring of the year, in the very shadow of government buildings. You have read about him; you have seen him in moving pictures, and on television. He was murdered, and one of the greatest playwrights of all time immortalized him in a noble play. One of his most trusted friends, a general of the army of the Republic, avenged his death most terribly; and Honoria never really did recover from that vengeance, and that death.

Honoria, after that bloody civil war, and after many men were executed because of it, suddenly and mysteriously changed direction. She was a real power in the world now. The old, corrupt countries, which had hoped to see her divided and ruined by the civil war, had to take her into their calculations, although she was still being called vulgar and uncultured and gross.

The old, corrupt countries sent ambassadors to Honoria. Tens of thousands of immigrants came to Honoria from the old countries. Many of them went like the ancient Pilgrims, fleeing from oppression. But many came because Honoria was rich, and they cared nothing for her traditions.

Prosperity does not automatically bring virtue, nor does it always sustain it. Honoria was powerful. Her ships ranged everywhere.

Many of her Senators became ambitious, and ambition for power brought corruption. They began to make deals with leaders of important factions. They became arrogant, and often depraved. They forgot their Spartan beginnings. They began to sneer at the Pilgrims and their severe laws and austerities. The Senators, many of them, became rich in worldly goods, but very poor in knowledge of what had made their nation great. They began to despise the very Republic for which they stood. For a price, they would even betray their country.

The Republic, which had grown strong by not engaging in foreign entanglements, now became entangled. What was the purpose of the entanglements? Oh, the leaders said alliances were necessary to defend the civilized world — but the real purpose was to satisfy the greedy ambitions and allay the sickly fears of the leaders.

The alliances brought wars, and the wars brought taxes. But the citizens of Honoria did not resist, because war also brought an increase in trade and industry.

The citizens of Honoria, blissfully enjoying their new prosperity, did not mind the taxation — at first. Their leaders had told them it would be imposed only “on the rich fellows,” the “fellows with big houses and servants.” The silly citizens nodded their heads soberly. Let the rich fellows pay and support the rest of the country.

The citizens were beginning to think of security. They wanted public auditoriums for sports, paid for by tax money. They wanted bigger and better roads. They wanted pensions, support at public expense when they felt disinclined to work. And more and more citizens were becoming disinclined to work. Farms? That was for the horses! Industrious toil? That was for the stupid.

Now the farmers moved into the scene. They were resentful of the special interest groups in the city. They sent petitions to their Senators. They demanded subsidies, price supports. The Senators, wanting support for their own schemes, passed laws granting subsidies for the farmers; and the government bought up surplus crops and stored them in warehouses, where they rotted away. Now the industrialists moved in — they must have tax benefits. It never occurred to them — or perhaps it did — that taxation in itself was an evil.

Finally, government, urged on by greedy groups and minorities, became the all-powerful state. It guaranteed to protect the people from all the forces of nature — floods, hurricanes, land-slides, failure of crops. And taxation grew and grew.

Death of the Middle Class

Honoria had always been distinguished by a strong, sturdy, industrious middle class, composed of farmers, artisans, shopkeepers — virtuous and sane and devout. But the middle class presented a threat to an all-powerful government, determined to protect the rich and the strong — and the worthless, the mean, the haters-of-work, the whining cowards who wanted everything for nothing. So the government decided to get rid of the middle class.

The middle class of Honoria stood in the way; it must be destroyed. Then, the elite could rule by oppression; and the craven, the despicable, the cowards, the worthless, could live on the bodies of the nobles and the heroic — through taxation.

But the greedy mobs could never be satisfied. They made endless demands on the Senators. They stood in government offices and howled. They howled for subsidized housing. And they got it.

The government, corrupt and vile, subsidized housing, for “low income groups.” It built huge projects in the very heart of the city for the mobs — with swimming pools, of course, and hot free food. Within a year or two, those housing projects became slums, for people with slum personalities inhabited them. The swimming pools collected garbage. But still the howl went up for more and more; and the Senators, now the creatures of the mobs, tried to provide everything the mobs demanded.

And the middle class, the backbone of the nation? They were reduced to despair. They dared not have children; they couldn’t afford them. While the mob enjoyed their public housing, their free sports, their free meals, the middle class worked ceaselessly, trying to get ahead of their tax bills, trying to live, trying to keep their schools alive for their children. It was all no use. They began to dwindle away. They had to leave their houses. The mobs moved into their houses and turned them into slum dwellings. Crime became so commonplace that it was dangerous to be on the streets at night. Morality was dead.

The middle class, the hardworking, the self-reliant, slowly smothered from despair. Who cared? The mob had a full belly today and government promised to fill it again tomorrow.

The monstrous state, the top-heavy bureaucracy, was happy. The cynical laughed among themselves. Freedom? Why, the people didn’t want freedom. They wanted free entertainment, free bread, free housing. A degenerate nation deserved no freedom, no consideration.

But ere long there was no laughter, even among the cynical. The politicians, who had begun by manipulating the mobs, became tools of the mobs. The productive citizens were taxed more and more to provide benefits for the worthless.

An evil old man, crippled and malformed, led the nation into more wars and foreign entanglements — he was the ruler of Honoria. Patriots were considered scoundrels. The rulers of Honoria were tools not only of the mobs, but of foreigners.

An old general, who had been victimized by the government, stood up and cried aloud to Honoria to remember her past, to return to honor, to decent government, to the principles of the Founding Fathers, to God. The people hooted: He was a reactionary. He was eliminated. He retired, with bitterness, and thought his anguished thoughts.

A Senator dared to stand up in the Senate and cry a halt to foreign subversion of Honoria and to constant foreign aid and the draining away of the people’s money. Other Senators shrieked him down and called him vile names. He, too, was liquidated. And the nation fell deeper and deeper into debt, became more luxurious and rotten.

Honoria joined a league of the world, with her enemies. They exploited her. She taxed her citizens more and more to send her wheat and meat to those nations.

In one of Honoria’s stupid wars she allied herself with powerful barbarians who were full of hatred and envy, and the lust for power. Honoria sent “experts” to the barbarians to teach them the latest scientific discoveries.

Honoria had become a corrupt and monstrous nation. Foreign tyrants and domestic mobs called the tune, and the spineless rulers of Honoria danced. The very walls of government echoed to the ever-growing demands for more foreign aid, more security, more bread, more sports, more government, more restrictions on the proud and the self-respecting.

And the middle class finally died.

And what of the barbarians? They looked on Honoria with contempt. They were fierce and dedicated men. They had allies in the government of Honoria. Who could oppose them, with their savage ferocity? The time had come for them to take over Honoria, and destroy civilization.

And the barbarians moved in.

Who had made the barbarians so strong? Honoria, of course. Honoria had given the barbarians access to the wealth of Honoria, at the expense of the betrayed and ruined citizens of Honoria. Honoria had sacrificed her people so that her alleged allies could make common cause against her with the barbarians.

Road to Ruin

What is the real name of Honoria?

Ancient Rome.

You know what happened to ancient Rome. The barbarians, in the fifth century, invaded Rome and destroyed her; and for hundreds of years, there was a long, black night of slavery and despair and ruin. Rome had not only betrayed herself but all the civilized world with her. The barbarians ranged over that civilized world; and the cultures of thousands of years were destroyed, so that only fragments have come down to us, mere fragments of great and mighty literature, and law, and beauty.

Fortunately, one thing did survive: The Twelve Tables of Common Roman Law. For that we can thank the early Christians. Those Tables of Law formed the basis of English Common Law and, more indirectly, of the American Constitution.

Had Rome retained her Constitution, she would perhaps have survived and her splendor would not have been extinguished. But she permitted the slow erosion of her Constitution, just as we are permitting the quicker erosion of our Constitution.

Everything which strikes at our Constitution brings us closer to death as a free nation, just as Rome died. Each time a new treaty of alliance is signed with foreign nations, we die a little more, as Rome died. Each time the Supreme Court or the President violates the Constitution, we come closer to slavery — as Rome came.

Nearly two thousand years stand between us and Rome. Never before the rise of Rome, and never since, did two nations so remarkably resemble each other, in history, in splendid rise in civilization, in magnificent communication between nations, in grandeur and wealth. In strange and amazing ways, we are the counterpart of ancient Rome. Her history, almost step by step, is our history.

Shall we continue along the path which led to the extinction of Rome? We have made her terrible mistakes; we have duplicated her crimes and stupidities, almost to the letter. We are destroying our Constitution, the only safeguard we have in the face of domestic and foreign enemies, just as she destroyed hers. We are permitting government by men, now, instead of government by law — just as Rome finally did.

So long as Rome remained Rome — patriotic, proud, virtuous and healthy — she remained a strong and powerful nation. When she became internationalistic, underwrote the economies of other nations, permitted her rulers to become dictators, enmeshed herself with the problems of aliens and taxed her own people to support those aliens, she began to die.

When she became militaristic, and had her armies spread on foreign soil, the fabric of her life was weakened and strained, and the wild sword of the barbarian cut it easily.

It is a stern fact of history that no nation that rushed to the abyss ever turned back. Not ever, in the long history of the world. We are now on the edge of the abyss. Can we, for the first time in history, turn back? It is up to you.

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