I. IntroductionOne of American history’s greatest moments is the American Revolution against British rule in the late eighteenth century, and the landmark Declaration of Independence.
The men who risked their lives and by taking part in the revolution, many as part of the Continental Army, and signed their names in the Declaration, are collectively known as the Founding Fathers. As national and political leaders, they were considered authorities in governing systems and laws, which became the basis for the creation of the Constitution.However, these great men knew the value of history and experience—a value significant enough to figure prominently in their task of crystallizing the freedom they had claimed for the country. They well knowledgeable in the events that had shaped the world at the time, and this included the body of work already established by the iconic Greek and Roman civilizations of centuries past.
In creating a new America, they had to closely examine the philosophies and systems that had ruled in previous societies, and identify which were successful and which failed to meet their objectives, through succeeding events that would provide validation.The Founding Fathers were mostly learned men who came from prominent families and had access to education, thereby giving them the opportunities to be trained in classical history—a standard requirement for scholarship during those days. Here, they were taught many aspects of Greek and Roman culture, society, history, and government, the lessons from which they were able to carry throughout their adult lives and culminate in their roles as national leaders. Among the many scholars, statesmen, and heroes they collectively studied, the ideology and concepts of the Greek historian Polybius provided the Founders with the theoretical framework that best fit their objectives, and echoed the values they had chosen to instill in the newfound freedom that characterized America.
II. Polybius of GreeceBorn and raised during Greece’s momentous Hellenistic Period, an era of prolific progress and development in art, science, and philosophy, Polybius was best known for his book entitled The Histories, which documented Greek life from 220-146 BC. But he was primarily famous for his novel ideas of government and his concept of political balance, which was in turn adopted by the Founding Fathers in drafting the United States Constitution.Polybius was a native of the city of Megalopolis, and, by his birthright and privilege in the governing class, he was given many opportunities to be exposed to Greek political and military activities. While Lycortas, his father, upheld neutrality during the Roman war against Perseus of Macedonia, Polybius was more inclined and dedicated towards achieving independence of his native Achean League. This resulted in his capture and transport to Rome in 168 BC, where he remained for seventeen years.
Polybius’ social status and education received for him the honor of being tutor to the sons of Aemilius Paulus. The Macedonian War hero entrusted his sons Fabius and Scipio to Polybius’ mentorship, until the 150 BC release of the Achean hostages. Polybius decided to return to Greece, but journeyed to Africa the following year with Scipio. Later, he made his way back to his home country where he was given the ultimate role of systematizing the Greek cities through the new form of government. The rest of Polybius’ life was spent on historical documentation, and was marked by continuous travel in various countries to be further educated in history.The work of Polybius ranged from biographies to military tactics, and is credited by being one of the first to attempt the use of causes and effects to present history.
Polybius included his own personal experiences and accounts of eyewitnesses to narrate history, which produced work that was centered primarily on human behavior. In his presentation of battles, politics, and nationalism, he always associated all details and events with the equivalent values of bravery, reason, valor, and loyalty. In the end, Polybius’ work was characterized by a unified and complete view rather than an enumeration of chronological events. Critical reasoning and thorough research became his trademarks, producing text that would give future readers a better understanding of the conditions at the time.
The concept of separation of powers was intrinsic in Polybius’ Histories, wherein he identifies the three forms of constitution, characterized by the number of members in each ruling entity:Monarchy – defined as the rule by the one,Aristocracy – defined as the rule by the few, andDemocracy – defined as the rule by the many.He further discussed the propensity of each form of constitution to degenerate through time to ultimately take on their corresponding forms of corruption: Monarchy becomes tyranny; aristocracy becomes oligarchy, and democracy transforms into mob rule. This idea of gradual decline, which he aptly calls anacyclosis or a form of political revolution, takes place inevitably and subsequently from monarchy all the way to mob rule—and will eventually revert back to monarchy, since the ensuing anarchy of the last form produces space for a new one.According to Polybius, this series of transformations are predestined due to the weaknesses innate in the three forms of constitution, with the single most common reason behind it being the custom of hereditary succession or the automatic and expected turnover of the ideals and privileges found in a specific form of government to future leaders without being prepared or educated thoroughly in their objectives and disciplines. The original forms, when conceptualized and introduced, functioned correctly in their respective milieus; however, the decay each one ultimately experiences is one concern that was never resolved.
Polybius credits the Roman Republic for being able to deviate from this cycle of decay through the introduction of a mixed constitution, wherein elements found in all three forms are present. Monarchy is the basis for elected officials; aristocracy brought about the Senate, and democracy contributed the idea of popular assemblies. The nature of a mixed constitution is in the ability for checks and balances, and the function of ruling and government is then distributed equally among the three forms. This innovative analysis became the foundation for the American Constitution, courtesy of the Founding Fathers.III. The Founding Fathers of the United StatesBrought together by a single vision of uniting a nation and establishing a new form of government, the Founding Fathers include fifty-five delegates to the United States Constitutional Convention came from all avenues of leadership—from national to community-based.
 They all had exemplary political careers and were prominent citizens who had more than ample knowledge of world history and politics, which led them to the examination of early Greek and Roman forms of government.Using this as a way to survey the abuses of the British monarchy, which was in power in America at the time, the Founders were able to identify commonalities between the former and the ancient governments of the early civilizations. The Founders believed a conspiracy was at work, in the monarchy where the liberties afforded to its citizens would soon be used to create tyranny—echoing the studies made by Polybius. Charles Carroll, James Madison and John Adams all made this conclusion, and pointed at the existence of historical tyrants who once pretended to be democratic leaders, ending up as dictators who imposed their own interests through their popularity among the citizens.Following the model of the Roman Republic, the Founders carefully traced and contained the negativity that would logically follow the concept of democracy, and in 1787 adopted a Constitution that upheld its ideals, but never really mentioned it in specific terms.
What the Founders had learned were efficiently applied, by calling the new government a Republic, and not a democracy. Republicanism as an ideology embodied values and ideas that functioned two ways: as a determinant of the elective political system chosen by the Founders; and a definition of the corresponding social and moral goals.The legacy of Polybius found its way into the creation of the Republic adhered to by the United States, through the lessons it claimed and the extensive research made by the Founders. From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, the logic introduced by Polybus was used to apply the concept of separation of powers within the new American government.
 Polybus’ warnings regarding the endless cycle of monarchy to democracy and its resulting corruption were heeded by the Founders, thereby ascribing to the examples given by the Roman Republic.IV. ConclusionPerhaps the most significant ideal present in the decisions made by the Founding Fathers lies not in the intellectual discourse of political philosophy or evaluation of historical acts of tyranny, dictatorship, and conspiracy; the clearest objective is the introduction of freedom and liberty, which are still the guiding principles behind every American convention of government to this day.The practices of democracy, which symbolize the values attached to the American culture and society, are merely unnamed in legal terms but still operate within the Republic originally introduced. Republicanism simply defines a form of governing style that is meant to protect the country from the ills encountered by other societies, and to properly apply the parameters of separation of powers.
Freedom of choice and speech are still at the forefront of American government then until now, and has ultimately carved the niche of the country’s influence in world politics.Knowledge of classical theories and philosophies was important to the Founders, and the best way to keep the same ideals of liberty is to understand their origins. History and experience were the prime foundations that built the Republic, yet it is only through the staunch loyalty of those functioning in the branches of government and its citizens to the original causes set by the Founders that will keep it going. Democracy and freedom will only be present if the Republic is kept free from the evils that the Founders had fought hard for.