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hands of the adversaries of the people, it forces the people to remain exposed to their attacks, in a condition perpetually passive, and takes from them the only legal means by which they might effectually oppose their usurpations.
To express the whole in a few words -A representative constitution places the remedy in the hands of those who feel the disorder: but a popular constitution places the remedy in the hands of those who cause it : and it is necessarily productive, in the event, of the misfortune-of the political calamity, of trusting the care and the means of repressing the invasions of power, to the men who have the enjoyment of power.
A farther Disadvantage of Republican Governments. - The People are necessarily betrayed by those in
whom they trust. HOWEVER, those general assemblies of a people who were made to determine upon things which they neither understood nor examined. -that general confusion in which the ambitious could at all times hide their artifices, and carry on their schemes with safety,—were not the only evils attending the ancient commonwealths. There was a more secret defect, and a defect that struck immediately at the very vitals of il, inherent in that kind of government.
It was impossible for the people ever to have faithful defenders. Neither those whom they had expressly chosen, nor those whom some personal advantages enabled to govern the assemblies (for the only use, I must repeat it, which the people ever make of their power is, either to give it away, or allow it to be taken from them), could possibly be united to them by any common feeling of the same concerns. As their influence put them, in a great measure, upon a level with those who were invested with the executive authority, they cared little to restrain oppressions out of the reach of which they saw themselves placed. Nay, they feared they should thereby lessen a power which they knew was one day to be their own; if they had not even already an actual share in it. *
How could it be expected that men who entertained views of being prætors, would endeavour to restrain the power of the prætors,-that men who aimed at being one day consuls, would wish to limit the power of the consuls, —that men whom their influence among the people made
Thus, at Rome, the only end which the tribunes ever pursued with any degree of sincerity and perseverance was, to procure to the people, that is, to themselves, an admission to all the different dignities in the republic. After having obtained that a law should be enacted for admitting plebians to the consulship, they procured for them the liberty of intermarrying with the patricians. They afterwards rendered them admissible to the dictatorship, to the office of military tribune, to the censorhip : in a word, the only use they made of the power of the people was, to increase privileges which they called the privileges of all, though they and their friends alone were ever likely to have the enjoyment of them.
We do not find that they ever employed the
power of the people in things really beneficial to the people. We do not find that they ever set bounds to the terrible power of its magistrates, — that they ever repressed that class of citizens who knew how to make their crimes pass uncensured, -in a word, that they ever endeavoured, on the one hand to regulate, and on the other to strengthen, the judicial power ; precautions these, without which men sure of getting into the senate, would seriously endeavour to confine the authority of the senate?
might struggle to the end of time, and never attain true liberty.*
And indeed the judicial power, that sure criterion of the goodness of a government, was always, at Rome, a mere instrument of tyranny. The consuls were at all times invested with an absolute power over the lives of the citizens. The dictators possessed the same right; so did the prætors, the tribunes of the people, the judicial commissioners named by the senate, and so, of course, did the senate itself: and the fact of the three hundred and seventy deserters whom it commanded to be thrown at one time, as Livy relates, from the Tarpeian rock, sufficiently shows that it well knew how to exert its power upon occasion.
It even may be said, that, at Rome, the power of life and death, or rather the right of killing, was annexed to every kind of authority whatever, even to that which results from mere influence or wealth; and the only consequence of the murder of the Gracchi, which was accompanied by the slaughter of three hundred, and afterwards of four thousand unarmed citizens, whom the nobles knocked on the head was, to engage the senate to erect a temple to Concord .
* Without such precautions, laws must always be, as Pope expresses it,
" Still for the strong too weak, the weak too strong.”
The Lex Porcia de tergo civium, which has been so much celebrated, was attended with no other effect than that of more completely securing, against the danger of a retaliation such consuls, prætors, quæstors, &c. as, like Verres, caused the inferior citizens of Rome to be scourged with rods, and put to death upon crosses, through mere caprice and cruelty.*
In fine, nothing can more completely show to what degree the tribunes had forsaken the interests of the people, whom they were appointed to defend, than the fact of their having allowed the senate to invest itself with the
* If we turn our eyes to Lacedæmon, we shall see, from several instances of the justice of the ephori, that matters were little better ordered there, in regard to the administration of public justice. And in Athens itself, the only one of the ancient commonwealths in which the people seem to have enjoyed any degree of real liberty, we see the magistrates proceed nearly in the same manner as they now do among the Turks : and I think no other proof needs to be given than the story of that barber in the Piræus, who having spread about the town the news of the overthrow of the Athenians in Sicily, which he had heard from a stranger who had stopped at his shop, was put to the torture, by the command of the archons, because he could not tell the name of his author. See Plut. Life of Nicia.