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not yet voted to adopt a contrary course; nor was it because his courage failed, that he interrupted the assembly; yet, if we read his mind at all, he plainly appears to have acted from the doubts he could not quite suppress of the wisdom or the virtue he was showing in violating the very laws for which his forefathers had thrown off oppression, and borne with fear and hardships on the Sacred Hill.
But the liberty that had been reared in Rome through strange and frequent difficulties was destined, as we are now beginning to perceive, to suffer through the means employed to heal, as well as those used to inflict, its bruises or its wounds; and he who sought with all his mind and strength to do it service could not avoid doing it an injury. Tiberius Gracchus, doubting, as we have surmised, yet not repenting, turned from the Tribes, who waited his commands, to Octavius, beseeching him to desist from his opposition before the eighteenth Tribe voted, and while the opportunity yet remained of declaring his inviolability as Tribune. The tears were seen to stand in Octavius's eyes, as he sat silent in presence of the multitude whom a word from his lips would have turned to rejoicing that they were saved from passing the sentence preferred against him. If he had not been a heathen and a Roman, we might . imagine him to have wept for his colleague, that the noblest designs of that generation exacted such support, rather than for himself, that they excited such resistance as he now both represented and upheld. VOL. II.
But he simply bade Tiberius do what he would; 23 and the Tribes went on to vote and to declare Octavius Cæcina to be deposed. Gracchus ordered him to be led from his place amongst the Tribunes into the midst of the multitude beneath, but protected him against the violence with which he was instantly menaced by those who were indignant at his firm demeanour. A client of Tiberius was elected in the place of Octavius; and the bill for the surrender and the division of the public lands was carried, without any further opposition from its adversaries.24 Its author defended the means by which it had been brought to pass; saying, that “the Tribune was sacred only in the service of the people,” and that 6 it was for them to decide whom they would have to serve them”:25 arguments, as his opponents might. have retorted, to excuse licentiousness and anarchy rather than to secure order or actual liberty.
The preceding account has been purposely given in detail, in order to exhibit, as far as our means allow, the trials to which a man of generous desires was subject in undertaking to face the wrong and to uphold the right in Rome. No one could have set himself aside more completely than Tiberius Gracchus did, in proposing a measure by which he would be obliged to forfeit a large proportion of his own patrimony in order to relieve the misery of a class that to most men in his position seemed unworthy of .
23 Plut., Tib. Gr., 12.
25 An harangue of considerable 24 App., Bell. Civ., I. 13. Plut., length is reported by Plutarch, Tib. Gr., 12, 13.
Tib. Gr., 15.
relief under any circumstances, and appeared to none, perhaps, besides himself and his immediate counsellors, to deserve consideration, except so far as its misery affected the prosperity or the name of the Commonwealth. But, on the other hand, the moment in which Tiberius brought his own impulses forward as a rule of action, in place of the only laws that there were to guide him in the world, was, though apparently the beginning of success, that, in reality, of failure. It could not have been the will of Providence that any men of old should make their laws eternal; but it equally appears to have been ordained, that the attempts to reform the institutions established under heathenism, by bringing them into nearer accordance with the wavering truths which were here and there perceived, should always involve some future or some present catastrophe as well to the institutions as to the reforms.
The Agrarian law, to which we return, requiring the appointment of three commissioners to receive and to apportion the public domain, Tiberius himself, his brother Caius, then at Numantia, and his father-in-law, Claudius, were nominated,26 according to the usual custom of intrusting the execution of any law to its author and his chosen assistants. 27 Although the term of the commission was limited to a single year,29 its members were invested with authority that would have been sufficient to complete the designs of the law, had not the resistance of its
26 Liv., Epit. LVIII. Plut., Tib. Gr., 13.
27 App., Bell. Civ., I. 13. 28 Ibid., I. 9.
opponents, or, as they called themselves, its victims, on the one hand, and, on the other, the dissatisfaction of its supporters, increased beyond all expectation and control. The Senate at once refused the common outfit to which the commissioners were entitled, and even denied Tiberius an adequate sum to meet the expenses he would incur in the discharge of his duties, though he might set about them in the humblest manner.29 He went forth, however, upon his mission, attended by troops of delighted and hopeful followers; and for the instant, when Italy seemed waiting her regeneration at his hands, the murmurs behind him appeared to cease and the perils before him to disappear. But the fair prospects of which he had obtained a glimpse were soon shut out by gathering perplexities. Of the rich, there were some to deny their occupation of any public lands, and others to claim so large indemnities as to make it almost impossible to recover the domain in their possession without the appearance of violence or injustice; while on the side of the poor was a swarm of expectant proprietors, contending for the choice of fields and dwellings, together with those whose portions were assigned them, but whose desires were far from being gratified. Tormented by friends and foes, but not despairing, Gracchus returned to Rome to urge another bill before the people, by which the labors of the commissioners might be partially relieved; and at his bidding, they were formally authorized to determine for themselves
which were the private and which the public estates throughout the country.30 The work of the commission went on at first more rapidly; and, in further relief to its operation, Gracchus proposed, and apparently 31 secured, a general distribution of the treasure lately bequeathed by their ally, the king of Pergamus,32 to the Roman people. Through this assistance he may have hoped to establish the poorer classes in such comfort upon their newly acquired lands as to be sure, at last, of their content and gratitude. There were soon fresh difficulties to overcome.
In the excitement attending the passage of the law which was as yet the chief thing Tiberius Gracchus had accomplished, some words which fell from him concerning “ the people of Italy” appear to have encouraged the Italians, perhaps those who were not as well as those who were endowed with citizenship at Rome, to believe that he had their welfare at heart with that of his fellow-citizens. Many, however, whether trusting in this idea or not, were in possession of the very lands to which his law referred, and consequently could only be alarmed or exasperated by the proposals that attracted the confidence of their poorer neighbours. As soon as the commissioners appeared in any allied or subject district, they found themselves in the midst of a multitude as clam
30 Liv., Epit. LVIII.
he would surrender it to the Com31 Plut., Tib. Gr., 14. Compare monwealth in his will. When he Liv., loc. cit.
died (A. C. 133), the natural son 32 Attalus, the third of that name, of his predecessor claimed the kingwho had been allowed, perhaps, to dom, but was conquered and beretain his kingdom on condition that headed. Flor., II. 20.