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then conceal their origin and their progress behind promises unbelieved or achievements unprepared. But a change like that Licinius wrought with the help of his father-in-law, his colleague, and his friends, reached back one hundred years and more, on the one side, to the law for which Cassius died, and forward to the end of the Commonwealth in opening new honors as well as fresh resources to the Plebeians. We know nothing about the man before his tribuneship; yet it is almost certain that he had long been anxious, or at least considerate, in behalf of the work he wrought at last. The two Tribunes together brought forward the three bills which yet bear the name of Licinius as their author. One, as the historian says, concerning debts, provided, that, after deducting from the principal the interest already paid, the remainder should be discharged, in equal instalments, within three years.’ The statutes against excessive rates of interest, or in protection of the debtor before the debt fell due, having utterly failed to prevent injustice as well as continual embarrassment, it was plain to any one who thought at all upon the matter, -in which effort of thought, however, the power of all reformers begins, – that there must be some preventive to the further increase of obligations already swollen beyond all common means of payment. It might be
7 “C. Licinius et L. Sextius pro- quod superesset, triennio aequis pormulgavere leges, . . . . unam de tionibus persolveretur.” Liv., WI. aere alieno, ut, deducto eo de capite, 35. quod usuris pernumeratum esset, id,
a preventive as desirable to the creditor as to the debtor; but that would only add to its justice, without detracting from its benevolence. The next bill of the three leaves no room for doubting the intentions of Licinius and his coadjutors to have been what Livy describes them, as contrary to the power of the Patricians as they were favorable to the comfort of the Plebeians.” This second bill related to the public lands, prohibiting any one from occupying more than five hundred jugers, about three hundred acres, and reclaiming all above that limit from the present occupants, in order to divide it in suitable proportions amongst the people at large.” Two further clauses followed, one ordering that a certain number of freemen should be employed on every estate, and another forbidding any single citizen to send out more than a hundred of the larger or five hundred of the smaller cattle to graze upon the public pastures." These latter details are of consequence, not so much in relation to the bill itself, as to the simultaneous increase of wealth and slavery which they plainly signify. It is not, however, requisite to add a word in explanation of the bill, except that it was more than a fulfilment of the hopes which had risen and sunk, like corpses on the sea, for full a century in Rome. Within that century, however, and especially within the last ten years, many of the richer Plebeians had obtained so wide a hold upon the public lands, from which they had at first been kept asunder, as to be threatened with loss in consequence of this second bill, devised, like the first, in favor of the lower part of the middle classes. A third bill was to console these richer men, by putting an end to the consular tribunate, and insuring the election of one of the two Consuls from the Plebeians,” —meaning, of course, the Plebeians who were able to seek the office. The argument adduced in favor of this latter bill appears to have been the urgent need of other authority in the hands of the Plebeians than was provided for their Tribunes, AEdiles, and Quaestors, in order to secure the settlement of debts and lands.” This sounds as if the advocates of the bill were obliged to stimulate their order to its support; the great body of the Plebeians being quite contented with the independence promised them in the first bills, without seeking any thing besides, much less such power as the last bill offered them. If the poor, however, did not need the consulship, the rich men did; and the claim upon it by such as Licinius and Sextius seems now, at least, too reasonable to have required either pretext or concealment at the time of its proposal. Such were the three Licinian bills, and it would be difficult in our own day to frame three others reaching to a further or fulfilling a larger reform in the liberty consistent with the religious and the civil institutions of the Roman Commonwealth. Plainly as the reform they proposed was demanded on every side, it was met by an opposition that turned it into a revolution before it was achieved. The first words of the historian on whom we most rely, after describing the bills, relate to the impossibility of accomplishing so great things, as he styles them, without the most violent contention.” Licinius Stolo was not, then, an ordinary, but an extraordinary, reformer, whose projects it was easier for his intelligence to conceive and his will to urge than for his countrymen to support with spirit like his own. That his opponents were the creditors, the landholders, and the Patricians, of whom we have read almost too much already, needs not to be told; but that he did not, and could not, find any adherents positively and unstintedly to sustain him is one of the many testimonies which remain to the imperfections of Roman liberty. The Plebeians who most wanted relief and lands cared so little for having the consulship opened to the richer men of their estate, that they would readily have dropped the bill concerning it, lest it should endanger their own desires. In the same temper, the more eminent men of the order, themselves among the creditors of the poor, and the tenants of the public domain, would have quashed the proceedings of the Tribunes in relation to the discharge of debt and the distribution of land, and carried the third bill only, which would make them Consuls without disturbing them in their possessions. Such a spirit amongst the classes on which Licinius and Sextius must have mainly, if not entirely, depended, did not promise them the triumph they deserved. But there were various circumstances to encourage the Tribunes in the enterprise, of which the plan, at first sight, perhaps, too comprehensive, was proved correct and admirable by the manner in which it was variously sustained. Had either of the three bills been omitted or altered, there would have been none the less opposition to what was left of the reform, while a certain amount of support would be taken away. If the poorer Plebeians, for instance, had had their way, they might not themselves have been much more active or able in the cause they yet would then more especially esteem their own; while the richer men would have gone over in a body to side with the public tenants and the private creditors amongst the Patricians. Or suppose the case reversed, and the bill relating to the consulship had been brought forward alone, the debtors and the homeless citizens would have given it too little help with hands or hearts to secure its passage as a law. The great encouragement Licinius and Sextius must
* “Leges omnes adversas opes buhr's account, Vol. III. p. 16. See, patriciorum et pro commodis plebis,” also, Varro, De Re Rustica, I. 2.
Liv., WI. 35. As to the Agri being the public 9 The terms that Livy (VI. 35) lands, there need be no doubt after rehearses are only these : —“De the admirable articles by Prof. Long
modo agrorum, ne quis plus quin- in the Classical Museum, Vol. II. genta jugera agripossideret”; which 10 Appian., De Bell. Civ., I. 8. may best be completed from Nie- See Niebuhr again.
* “Ne tribunorum militum co- 12 It is so reported as an argumitia fierent, consulumque utique ment in Liv., WI. 37. alter ex plebe crearetur.” Liv., WI. 35.