Oil on canvas; 72 1/4 x 108 in. (183.6 x 274.4 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT.
The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776; 1832
For all their artistic and philosophical brilliance, the Greeks were failures at politics; Hamilton, in the Federalist, expressed
horror and disgust at the
distractions with which they were agitated. The Romans captured the American imagination because they had done what the Americans themselves hoped to do — sustain an extensive republic over a course of centuries. So the society of Revolutionary War officers called themselves Cincinnati;
senate were all Roman terms. But the Roman example was also cautionary, for when they lost their virture, they slid into empire. When Franklin said, in response to a question from Eliza Powel, that the constitutional convention had produced
a republic, if you can keep it, he and she would have remembered that the Romans had failed to keep theirs.