The Bush administration has clung to the hope that Musharraf is guiding Pakistan along the broad path towards true democracy, and has seized on the idea that the next step on that path should be his resignation from active military life, thus returning Pakistan to civilian rule.
Many Americans may take this demand lightly, but in a city named "Cincinnati" we should be especially sensitive to the importance of this principle.
When the first settlers arrived in December 1788, Kentuckian John Filson named the city "Losantiville," a clumsy combination of Latin and French roughly translating "city across from the mouth of the Licking."
A year later when General Arthur St. Clair assumed control of the territory, he promptly renamed the city "Cincinnati."
The name ultimately references Lucius Quinctus Cincinnatus, a citizen of the ancient Roman Republic.
By 458 B.C.E., Cincinnatus had retired from public life to his farm across the Tiber River when a force of invading Aequians, a rival Italian tribe, trapped two Roman armies. Consuls sent by the Senate found Cincinnatus plowing his field and pleaded with him to accept dictatorial powers to marshal the Roman armies against the invaders.
Within 16 days Cincinnatus raised an army, vanquished the Aequians, returned to Rome for a triumphal march, and surrendered his powers as dictator, restoring civilian rule to the republic and retiring to private life on his farm. Nearly 20 years later Rome again turned to Cincinnatus to suppress a plebian uprising which aimed at destroying the republic and creating a monarchy.
Cincinnatus again accepted dictatorial powers, suppressed the mob, and again stepped down as dictator to return to private life. Cincinnatus, who is always depicted with one hand on the plow and the other holding the fasces, the Roman war ax, became the symbol of the sanctity of civilian rule in a republic.
On Jan. 2, 1790, St. Clair was not thinking primarily of Cincinnatus when he renamed the city, but of the Society of the Cincinnati created in the midst of an American crisis a decade earlier. After the Americans and French vanquished the British at Yorktown in 1781, General George Washington faced a crisis that in some ways was even more dangerous to the young republic than the external military threat. The officers corps of the Continental Army had not been paid for four years or reimbursed for the personal funds they had invested to equip their troops.
The Congress under the first American constitution, the Articles of Confederation, had little power to levy taxes and wanted to throw the responsibility onto the impoverished individual states. At that point, some officers began discussing a military coup to overthrow the ineffective and weak civilian led government.
As a student of the classical history and literature, General Washington understood that the experiment in republican government undertaken by the United States was historically daring and precarious.
Since the fall of the Roman Republic 18 centuries earlier, no geographically expansive republic had ever succeeded. Washington immediately issued orders against any coup and made a surprise appearance at a meeting of coup planners to rebuke them.
In the aftermath of this incident, General Henry Knox suggested the formation of a new organization for all officers, including Arthur St. Clair. The Society of the Cincinnati held up the example of Cincinnatus to stress the absolute necessity of civilian rule as essential to the preservation of the freedoms secured by the Revolution and the War for Independence.
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