Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

When, at other times, they saw that a confederacy was carrying on with uncommon warmth against them, and despaired of sueceeding by employing expedients of the above kind, or were afraid of diminishing their efficacy by a too frequent use of them, they betook themselves to other stratagems. They then conferred on the consuls, by the means of a short form of words for the occasion, * an absolute power over the lives of the citizens, or even appointed a dictator. The people at the sight of the state masquerade which was displayed before them, were sure to sink into a state of consternation : and the tribunes, however clearly they might see through the artifice, also trembled in their turn, when they thus beheld themselves left without defenders.

At other times they brought false accusations against the tribunes before the assembly

Videat consul ne quid detrimenti respublica capiat. + “ The tribunes of the people,” says Livy, who was a great admirer of the aristocratical

power,

6 and the “ people themselves, durst neither lift up their eyes; nor even mutter in the presence of the dictator." Nec adversus dictatoriam vim, aut tribuni plebis aut ipsa plebs, attollere oculos, aut hiscere, audebant--- See Tit. Liv. lib. vi. y 16.

itself; or, by privately slandering them with the people, totally deprived them of their confidence. It was through artifices of this kind, that the people were brought to behold, without concern, the murder of Tiberius Gracchus, the only Roman that was really virtuous—the only one who truly loved the people. It was also in the same manner that Caius, who was not deterred by his brother's fate from pursuing the same plan of conduct, was in the end so entirely forsaken by the people, that nobody could be found among them who would even lend him a horse to fly from the fury of the nobles ; and he was at last compelled to lay violent hands upon himself, while he invoked the wrath of the gods on his inconstant fellow-citizens.

At other times, they raised divisions among the people. Formidable combinations broke

out suddenly on the eve of important transac- tions; and all moderate men avoided attending

assemblies, where they saw that all was to be tumult and confusion.

In fine, that nothing might be wanting to the insolence with which they treated the assemblies of the people, they sometimes falsified the declarations of the number of the

votes; and once they even went so far as to carry off the urns into which the citizens were to throw their suffrages.*

CHAPTER VIII.

The Subject concluded-Effects that have resulted in

the English government, from the People's Power

being completely delegated to their Representatives. But when the people have entirely trusted their power to a moderate number of persons, affairs immediately take a widely different turn. Those who govern are from that moment obliged to leave off all those stratagems which had hitherto ensured their success. Instead of those assemblies which they affected to despise, and were perpetually comparing to storms, or to the current of the Euripus, t and

* The reader, with respect to all the above observations, may see Plutarch's Lives, particularly the Lives of the two Gracchi. I must add, that I have avoided drawing any instance from those assemblies, in which one-half of the people were made to arm themselves against the other. I have here only alluded to those times which immediately either preceded or followed the third Punic war, as these are commonly called the best period of the republic.

† Tully makes no end of his similes on this subject. Quod enim fretum, quem Euripum, tot motus, tantas et tar

+

in regard to which they accordingly thought themselves at liberty to pass over the rules of justice, they now find that they have to deal with men who are their equals in point of education and knowledge, and their inferiors only in point of rank and form. They, in consequence, soon find it necessary to adopt quite different methods; and above all, become very careful not to talk to them any more about the sacred chickens, the white or black days, and the Sibylline books.-As they see their new adversaries expect to have a proper regard paid to them, that single circumstance inspires them with it :-as they see them act in a regular manner, observe constant rules, in a word, proceed with form, they come to look upon them with respect, for the very same reason which makes them themselves to be reverenced by the people.

The representatives of the people, on the other hand, do not fail soon to procure for themselves every advantage that may enable them effectually to use the powers with which they have been intrusted, and to adopt every

varias habere putatis agitationes fluctuum, quantas perturbationes et quantos æstus habet ratio comitiorum ? See Orat. pro Muræna.-Concio, says he in another place, que er imperitissimis constat, &c. De Amicitiâ, $ 25.

rule of proceeding that may make their resolutions to be truly the result of reflection and deliberation. Thus it was that the representatives of the English nation, soon after their first establishment, became formed into a separate assembly : they afterwards obtained the liberty of appointing a president :--soon after, they insisted upon their being consulted on the last form of the acts to which they had given rise :— lastly, they insisted on thenceforth framing them themselves. In order to prevent any possibility of surprise in the course of their proceedings, it is a settled rule with them that every proposition, or bill, must be read three times, at different prefixed days, before it can receive a final sanction; and before each reading of the bill, as well as at its first introduction, an express resolution must be taken to continue it under consideration. If the bill be rejected in any one of those several operations, it must be dropped, and cannot be proposed again during the same session. *

* It is moreover a settled rule in the house of commons, that no member is to speak more than once in the same debate. When the number and nature of the clauses of a bill require that it should be discussed in a free manner, a committee is appointed for the purpose, who are to

« AnteriorContinuar »