A span of over a thousand years separates our last writer, the Roman historian Tacitus (who died about 120 C.E.), from Niccolò Machiavelli. You might wonder: Was there no one during that time period worth covering? And, why Machiavelli? Wasn’t he an exponent of the ruthless politics the American Founders rejected?
The answer to these questions begins by understanding that the Founders lived in a classical era. An era is “classical” if the prevailing intellectual climate is one that admires science and reason, appreciates beauty with form and balance, and cares about individual rights and individual potential.
That isn’t to say that classicists are irreligious or that they ignore man’s social needs. Most of the Founders were persons of faith and recognized that man seeks happiness in society. But they esteemed classical values to a much greater extent than cultural leaders during some other times….