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judgment of his peers, whether burghers or com- CHAP. mons, and on their deciding in his favour.
But with regard to the Terentilian law itself, the Three comtribunes could make no progress. The burghers ab- are sent to solutely refused to allow the commons any share in the proposed revision of the constitution; but they consented to send three persons beyond the sea 52 into Greece, to collect such notices of the laws and constitutions of the Greek states as might be serviceable to the Romans. These commissioners were absent for a whole year : and in this year the pesti- A.U.C. 301.
A.C. 451. lence 53 again broke out at Rome, and carried off so many of the citizens, amongst the rest, four out of the ten tribunes, that there was a necessary cessation of political disputes. And as the pestilence spread also amongst the neighbouring nations 54, they were in no condition to take advantage of the distressed state of the Romans. In the next year the pestilence 55 left Rome free; A.U.C. 302.
A.C. 450. and on the return of the commissioners from Greece, It is re
solved to the disputes again began. After a long contention, appoint ten
men to the commons conceded the great point at issue; and revise the it was agreed that the revision of the laws and con- constitution. stitution should be committed to a body of ten men, all of the order of the burghers, who should supersede all other patrician magistrates, and each administer the government day by day in succession, as during an interregnum. Two of these were the A.U.C. 303.
52 Livy, III. 31.
55 Dionysius, X. 54. Livy, III.
CHAP. consuls of the new year, who had been just elected,
Appius Claudius and T. Genucius; the warden of the city and the two quæstores parricidii, as Niebuhr thinks, were three more; and the remaining five
were chosen by the centuries 56. Conclusion Such was the end of a contest which had lasted struggle for ten years; and all its circumstances, as well as its Terentilian final issue, show the inherent strength of an aristo
cracy in possession of the government, and under what manifold disadvantages a popular party ordinarily contends against it. Nothing less than some extraordinary excitement can ever set on a level two parties so unequal; wealth, power, knowledge, leisure, organization, the influence of birth, of rank, and of benefits, the love of quiet, the dread of exertion and of personal sacrifices, the instinctive clinging to what is old and familiar, and the indifference to abstract principles so characteristic of common minds in every rank of life; all these causes render the triumph of a dominant aristocracy sure, unless some intolerable outrage, or some rare combination of favourable circumstances, exasperate or encourage the people to extraordinary efforts, and so give them a temporary superiority. Otherwise the aristocracy may yield what they will, and retain what they will; if they are really good and wise, and give freely all that justice and reason require, then the lasting greatness and happiness of a country are best secured; if they do much less than this, yielding something to the grow
56 Vol. II. p. 350. 2nd ed.
ing light of truth, but not frankly and fully following CHAP. it, great good is still done, and great improvements effected; but in the evil which was retained there are nursed the seeds of destruction, which falls at last upon them and on their country. The irritation of having reasonable demands refused provokes men to require what is unreasonable; suspicion and jealousy are fostered beyond remedy; and these passions, outliving the causes which excited them, render at last even the most complete concessions thankless; and when experience has done its work with the aristocracy, and they are disposed to deal justly with their old adversaries, they are met in their turn with a spirit of insolence and injustice, and a fresh train of evils is the consequence. So true is it that nations, like individuals, have their time of trial; and if this be wasted or misused, their future course is inevitably evil; and the efforts of some few good and wise citizens, like the occasional struggles of conscience in the mind of a single man when he has sinned beyond repentance, are powerless to avert their judgment.
THE FIRST DECEMVIRS, AND THE LAWS OF THE
“The laws of a nation form the most instructive portion of its history.”—Gibbon, Chap. XLIV.
CHAP. The appointment of a commission invested with such
- extraordinary powers as those committed to the deAppointment of the cemvirs, implies of itself a suspension of all such decemvirs. Suspension authorities as could in any degree impede or obstruct of all other magistra its operations. It was natural therefore that the tri
bunate should be suspended as well as the patrician
? This is Dionysius' statement (III. 32), yet it was sometimes in the most express terms, (X. made a question whether the 56,) ad finem. Livy's language tribuneship was properly called appears to me to admit of a magistratus or no : and at any doubt; for he says, when speak, rate it would not in these times be ing of the wish of the commons called “ magistratus populi," but to have decemvirs elected for only “ plebis :” further, Livy exanother year, “ Jam plebs ne tri- pressly adds that the “sacratæ bunicium quidem auxilium, ce- leges” were not to be abolished. dentibus in vicem appellationi Niebuhr believes that the tribune[codd. “appellatione”] decemviris ship was not given up till the quærebat,". (III. 34, ad finem.) second decemvirate. I think, on And although when mentioning the whole, that Livy meant to the appointment of the first de- agree with Dionysius; and the cemvirs, he had said, “ Placet statement does not appear to me creari decemviros-et ne quis eo to possess any internal improbaanno alius magistratus esset” bility.
magistracies; besides, the appointment of the decem- CHAP. virs was even in its present form a triumph for the commons, and they would be glad to show their full confidence in the magistrates whom they had so much desired. Again, the tribunes had been needed to protect the commons against the tyranny of the consuls; but now that there were no consuls, why should there be tribunes ? And who could dread oppression from men specially appointed to promote the interests of freedom and justice? Yet to show that the tribuneship was not to be permanently surrendered, the sacred laws were specially exempted from the decemvirs' power of revision, as was also that other law, scarcely less dear to the commons, or less important, which had secured to them the property of the Aventine. With the ground thus clear before them, and pos- The decem
virs begin sessing that full confidence and cheerful expectation their legislaof the people which is a government's great encouragement, the ten proceeded to their work. They had before them the unwritten laws and customs of their own country, and the information partly, we may suppose, in writing, which the commissioners had brought back from Greece. In this there would be much which to a Roman would require explanation; but the ten had with them an Ionian sophist?,
? Pomponius, de origine juris, from mere jealousy of his superior $ 4. in the Digest or Pandects, merit. See the story in Strabo, i Tit. ii. Strabo, XIV. 1, § 25, as already quoted, and in Cicero, p. 642. Hermodorus was the Tusculan. Disputat. V. 36. Dio. friend of Heraclitus the philoso- genes Laertius says that Heraclipher, who reproached the Ephe- tus flourished in the sixty-ninth sians for having banished him Olympiad, but Syncellus makes