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which before there was no legal obstacle, was now probably
, acquired by the Roman community in war: first, by assignation, which consisted in the division as property among a number of the poorer citizens of a portion of the conquered land; secondly, by occupation, according to which, following probably some practical regulations of which we know nothing, the possession and usufruct were left, for a small rent or none at
a all, to the rich Senators, who thus came to hold immense tracts of public land, and to treat it as their own, even buying and selling it. As the Senate had the entire disposal of the public lands, the laws were not enforced too strictly towards its own members, and in time this “ destructive system of occupation” completely supplanted that of assignation, except at the plant
VOL. LXVII. — 5TH S. VOL. V. NO. III. 33
ing of colonies, when each colonist received a lot of land, commonly seven jugera. The agrarian dissensions, which Livy deplores, all had their root in this state of things. The poor farmer, forced by the laws of Servius to fight in the army, must leave his land untilled and exposed. If the war was unsuccessful, he returned to find his house in ashes, his farm laid waste, and his wife and children swept into slavery. If successful, he had the poor satisfaction of feeling that he had toiled to win glory for his patrician commander, and new lands for the greedy Senate to monopolize. His crops failing by neglect, or cut up by the Volscians, he must borrow money to live; and when, the next year, like causes prevented him from paying the exorbitant interest, — ten per cent was a low rate, — the harsh laws adjudged his person to his creditor, to chain, or scourge, or use as a slave, until the debt was satisfied.* When the people, driven to desperation, refused to serve any longer in wars from which they reaped no benefit, and the Consul had no power to coerce them, a new means was contrived. The regal authority was renewed in the person of a dictator, who had power of life and death, and against whom there was no appeal; so they were driven like gangs of slaves to the battle, where they fought sullenly and without spirit, willing to be beaten that they might disgrace their generals. And when Spurius Cassius, the wisest and most distinguished patrician of the day, saw and strove to heal a disease that then could have been healed, by a law taking the management of the public lands out of the hands of the Senate, he lost caste at once. Patricians and rich plebeians united against this daring disturber of vested rights. Even those whom he sought to protect failed to do him justice; he was charged with aiming at kingly power, tried, condemned, and executed.
And now no alternative was left to the people but absolute slavery or revolution. They chose the latter, took up their position on the Sacred Mount, and threatened to build themselves a new city, since their rights were denied them in the old. This left the patricians in an awkward position; the experi
* That the addictus did become really a slave, is shown by the fact that, when freed, he did not come into the class of libertini, but resumed his old rank in the state.
ment was about to be tried, which could best afford to lose the other, the rulers or the ruled, the officers or the soldiers. That would never do. The plebeians must be brought back, on any terms, rather than be allowed to prove that they could govern themselves. It is to be lamented that we have almost no account of the negotiations that ensued. The terms demanded must have been high, — nothing less than the entire remodelling of the laws of debt, and the overthrow of the system of occupying the land, could satisfy desperate men, fully aware that these were the causes of their sufferings. But the power and prestige of the Senate, the magic name of Rome, the specious rhetoric of Menenius, and the honest promises of Valerius, prevailed. A compromise was made; tribunes were given them, inviolable in person, and with powers to protect against in tice and punish wrong-doers; and the people returned to the city, exulting, no doubt, in the victory — trifling as it was —
which they had won, glad perhaps not to be exposed to the perils and privations of founding a new city, with some hope that their condition would be easier in future, but, we may be sure, with a sad consciousness that their work was, after all, but half done. For what did it benefit them that individuals were protected from single acts of violence when the tribune happened to be at hand, so long as the lawful power of the oppressor remained undiminished ? What could the tribune effect, so long as the bad laws remained in force ? But the tribuneship, thus established by “ a bad compromise,” was destined to a long life and a striking history. At first a clumsy contrivance for special cases of wrong, it was soon used by the rich plebeians (against whom in part it was first established) to aid in extorting political equality for their order; then the Senate found it its most useful tool in helping govern the State ; afterwards it became a fearful engine of destruction in the hands of demagogues, and had no small share in the overthrow of the republic; and at last, when all offices of the republic had become mere forms, this name continued to the last days of the empire, an empty title of honor, eagerly sought by aspiring politicians.
Another attempt was made, and this time the reform attempted was more sweeping. Decemvirs were appointed, whose object was probably threefold : to establish a new chief
magistracy in place of the consulate ; to unite the orders by admitting plebeians to the highest office of state (four of the second set of Decemvirs were plebeians); and to limit the powers of the magistrates by codifying the laws, instead of leaving them to exercise justice at their discretion, as heretofore. The last of these succeeded ; the others failed. And they could not but fail; because, while all the old officers, patrician and plebeian, - thus including the tribunes, — had made way for these new magistrates, and the poorer citizens were left without any protection, the old bad laws remained in force, — moderated somewhat in severity, to be sure, but in the main the same, - and the people were no better off than before the tribunes were first granted. Gross acts of tyranny convinced them of this, and the old form of government was restored, with little opposition. So a second noble opportunity was thrown away, and the vigor of a revolutionary spirit wasted in struggles about the form, while the substance remained untouched.
It was the great misfortune of Rome that no statesman was found to do for her what Solon did for Athens, who by one act placed the relation of debtor and creditor, the tenure and alienation of land, and the coinage of the country, on so just and satisfactory a footing, that never thereafter was the state disturbed by dissensions from this source. The history of Rome shows us, on the other hand, only a succession of compromises and half-way measures, concessions as late and grudgingly yielded as possible, temporary expedients resorted to which seemed to grant while they really withheld, and never the principle which lay at the foundation of the abuses touched boldly and in a sincere spirit of reform. Never was the cancer which at last destroyed the state really healed. Only for a time, during the period of the real greatness of Rome, while the lustre of her conquests obscured the dark spots which had yet begun to spread, while the rulers of the state were as a whole really noble and wise and the people contented and prosperous, and while, above all, the numerous colonies, which served somewhat the purpose that " at the present day a comprehensive and carefully managed system of emigration would do," provided from time to time for what would otherwise have
been a suffering and dangerous proletariate, the causes of evil were inoperative, although lying ready for a change of circumstances to bring them into action. So, although we commonly consider the Licinian laws as the era of the consolidation of the Roman state, they formed in reality but one — the most important — of the various steps by which political equality was at last gained, while the efforts for social reform must be said, on the whole, to have failed. It was only, indeed, by making this a sort of “omnibus bill” that the social questions were touched at all. The noble plebeians — the Licinii, Sextii, , Marcii, Popillii, Plautii, etc. — were no longer satisfied with their senatorial rank and the powers and emoluments this gave them, and, in order to attain the curule offices, entered into a severe and protracted contest with their old associates, the patricians. To accomplish this, they must, like Clisthenes, “ take the people into partnership,” and incorporate social reforms, for which they personally cared nothing, with the political reforms with which the mass of the people had little concern. The coalition succeeded after a struggle of ten years, and from its success we may date the real greatness and prosperity of the republic. The curule offices and the three important religious corporations (the pontifices, augurs, and decemviri sacris faciundis) were by this and later enactments thrown open to the plebeians; the law of debt and credit was in time modified to a reasonable degree of mildness; the rate of interest was lowered; the amount of public land to be occupied by each citizen was restricted to five hundred jugera, - a regulation which soon fell into disuse; and by a special and beneficent provision of the Licinian law, the sum already paid as interest was deducted from the principal. But more than this was demanded, and was not given. “Circumstances so clearly demanded the division of the domainland then occupied, partly among the possessors up to a reasonable maximum amount, partly among the destitute (eigenthumlosen) plebeians, but in either case as full property, the abolition in the future of the system of occupation, and the establishment of a magistracy (Behörde) for the purpose of the immediate division of future acquisitions of domain, that the fault was certainly not in the judgment if these sweeping