Chapter 14

How the Distribution of the three Powers began to change, after the Expulsion of the Kings Icon

September 26, 2015

Four things greatly prejudiced Rome’s liberty.

The patricians had engrossed to themselves all public employments. An exorbitant power was annexed to the consulate. The people were often insulted and had no influence left in the public suffrages. These four abuses were redressed by the people.

  1. It was regulated that the plebeians might aspire to some magistracies and by degrees they were rendered capable of them all, except that of interrex.

  2. The consulate was dissolved into several other magistraciesE280A1= prC3A6tors were created, on whom t he power was conferred of trying private causes; quC3A6stors were nominated for determining th ose of a criminal nature, C3A6diles were established for the civil admi nistration; treasurers were made for the management of the public money; and, in fin e, by the creation of censors, the consuls were divested of that part of th e legislative power which regulates the morals of the citizens, and the tra nsient polity of the different bodies of the state. The chief privileges le ft them were, to preside in the great meetings of the people, to assemble the senate, an d to command the armies.

  3. The sacred laws appointed tribunes, who had a power of checking the encroachments of the patricians, and prevented not only private, but likewise public, injuries.

  4. the plebeians increased their i nfluence in the general assemblies. The people of Rome were divided in thre e different manners; by centuries, by curiC3A6, and by tribes; and, whene ver they gave their votes, they were convened one of those three ways.

In the first, the patricians, the leadin g men, the rich, and the senate, which was very near the same thing, had al most the whole authority; in the second they had less, and less still in th e third.

The division into centuries was a division rather of estates and fortunes than of persons. The whole people were di stributed into 193 centuries, which had each a single vote. The p atricians and leading men composed the first 98 centuries; and the other 95 consisted of the remainder of the citizens. In this div ision, therefore, the patricians were masters of the suffrages.

In the division into curi, the patricians had no t the same advantages= some, however, they had; for it was necessary to con sult the augurs, who were under the direction of the patricians; and no pro posal could be made there to the people unless it had been previously laid before the senate, and approved of by a senatus consultum. But, in the divi sion into tribes, they had nothing to do either with the augurs or with the decrees of the senate; and the patricians were excluded.

The people tried constantly to have those meetings by curi which had been customary by centuries; and by tribes, those they used to have before by curiC3A6= by which means , the direction of public affairs soon devolved from the patricians to the plebeians.

Thus, when the plebeians obtained the power of trying the patricians, a power which commenced in the affair of Coriolanus, they insisted upon assembling by tribes*, and not by centuries= and, when the new magistracies of tribunes and C3A6d iles were established in favour of the people, the latter obtained that the y should meet by curiC3A6, in order to nominate them; and, after their po wer was quite settled, they gainedE280A1 so far their point as to assemble by tribes, to proce ed to this nomination.

Chapter 15= How the Roman Republic, in its flourishing State, suddenly lost its Liberty

IN the heat of the contests between the patricians and plebeians, the latter insisted on having fixed laws, to the end that the public judgements should no longer be the effects of capricio us will or arbitrary power.

The senate, after a great deal of resistance, a cquiesced, and decemvirs were nominated to compose those laws. It was thoug ht proper to grant them an extraordinary power, because they were to give l aws to parties whose views and interests it was almost impossible to unite.

The nomination of all magistrates was suspended; and the decemvirs were ch osen in the comitia sole administrators of the republic. Thus they found th emselves invested with the consular and with the tribunitian power.

By one, they had the privilege of assembling the senate; by the other, that of con vening the people= but they assembled neither senate nor people. Ten men on ly of the republic had the whole legislative, the whole executive, and the whole judiciary, power. Rome saw herself enslaved by as cruel a tyranny as that of Tarquin. When Tarquin trampled on the liberty of that city, she was seized with indignation at the power he had usurped; when the decemvirs exercised every act of oppression, she was astonished at the extraordinary po wer she had granted.

What a strange system of tyranny!

A tyranny carried on by men who had obtained the political and military power mer ely from their knowledge in civil affairs; and who, at that very juncture, stood in need of the courage of those citizens to protect them abroad, who so tamely submitted to domestic oppression.

The spectacle of Virginia’s death, whom her father immolated to chastity and liberty, put an end to the pow er of the decemvirs. Every man became free, because every man had been injured= each shewed himself a citizen, because each had the tie of a parent. T he senate and the people resumed a liberty which had been committed to ridiculous tyrants.

No people were so easily moved with publ ic spectacles as the Romans. That of the impurpled body of Lucretia put an end to the regal government. The debtor, who appeared in the forum covered with wounds, caused an alteration in the republic. The decemvirs owed their expulsion to the tragedy of Virginia.

To condemn Manlius, it was necessary to keep the people from seeing the Capitol. Caesar’s bloody ga rment flung Rome again into slavery.