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History of Helvidius

Our Story 


The Helvidius Group is a student organization at Columbia University, established in 1989 by Peter Tomassi, CC ’91, to provide a forum for undergraduate discourse on issues concerning law and public policy. The Journal of Politics & Society is the realization of that mission. Originally an annual magazine distributed to Ivy League universities and to members of Congress, it has adopted a more scholarly focus and has grown to encompass all of the social sciences. The Journal is not affiliated with or sponsored by any political organization, and it remains staunchly nonpartisan.

Today, the Journal of Politics & Society, with its particular focus on undergraduates and interdisciplinary coverage, is the only scholarly publication of its kind. Now in its twenty-eighth year, the Journal only considers academic papers submitted by undergraduates. In a process comparable to the peer review and editing procedures of professional academic journals, selected papers are rigorously edited by the Editorial Board, itself composed exclusively of undergraduates.

In addition to publishing the finest in undergraduate scholarship, the Journal has also featured the works of noted public figures and scholars. The guest essay, the only segment written by non-undergraduates, contextualizes the research in the Journal within the broader sociopolitical dialogue. Past contributors include former President Bill Clinton, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Senator Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, Human Rights Watch President Kenneth Roth, Anthony Marx, and Kenneth Waltz.

The Helvidius Group has also provided counsel and guidance to emerging undergraduate and graduate academic journals such as those at the United States Military Academy, Tblisi State University in Georgia, and Columbia University.  It welcomes the questions of students looking to establish or develop similar publications at their institutions.

Our Name 


The Helvidius Group is named for Helvidius Priscus, a Roman statesman and philosopher of the first century A.D. Known for his virtue and independence of mind, Helvidius Priscus was a staunch advocate of republican government at a time when the imperial mode was ascendant. His defense of senatorial prerogative and opposition to dynastic succession brought him into direct conflict with the Emperors Nero and Vespasian, both of whom banished him. Executed by Vespasian’s order in 79 A.D., Helvidius Priscus was an early martyr of responsible government and freedom of speech.

During the ratification debate that followed the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Helvidius Priscus was the pseudonym of Anti-Federalist James Warren. Helvidius Priscus thus took his place alongside Cato and Cincinnatus among the pantheon of Roman republicans. The Helvidius Group notes that Warren’s wife, Mercy Otis, engaged in the same debate under the pseudonym, “A Columbian Patriot”. The Columbia connection, however, is somewhat tenuous—James Madison as Helvidius was opposed by Columbia alumnus Alexander Hamilton in the famous Helvidius-Pacificus Debate over the legitimacy of a proclamation of neutrality by George Washington in 1793.

The Helvidius Group disclaims any position on senatorial prerogative, dynastic succession, federalism, and U.S. neutrality in foreign wars due to the positions of Helvidius Priscus, both real and attributed.

The name Helvidius is rarely encountered in modern discourse, but Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) provided an interesting exception during a speech, as reported in The New York Times on November 20, 2002. According to Byrd, at 85, Fills the Forum With Romans and Wrath, Senator Byrd articulated the courage displayed by Helvidius Priscus in opposing Vespasian. The Helvidius Group seeks to continue his tradition of intellectual freedom and individualism.



The Helvidius Group is a recognized student group within Columbia University, a section 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. Donations may therefore be tax-deductible, but you should consult a qualified tax adviser for the tax status of donations. The Helvidius Group accepts donations from individuals and groups in any amount. Contributors who donate over $50 will receive a complimentary copy of the Journal and contributors of at least $200 will be listed prominently in the next edition of the Journal


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