Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

should compel the Patricians to yield, there should be a new magistracy created, with authority inferior to that of the consulship, in order to foil at the same time that it satisfied the ambition of the rising order. An act immediately passed the Senate, ordering the election of Consular Tribunes” from both estates, – appointing three, probably, as the number which each was to have for its representatives.” As had been foreseen, the Plebeians were perfectly contented; and the act was accepted more willingly, it appears, by the Centuries, in which they voted, than by the Curies, in which the Patricians would hardly be consoled for the loss of the consulship by having outwitted their opponents. Three Patricians were elected to the new office; but of the numerous Plebeian candidates, none were returned, perhaps because they were so many that the suffrages of their order were scattered, or else because the Centuries by which the election was made were too much under Patrician influence to throw a sufficient majority of votes in favor of Plebeians.” The three Patricians took the place of the retiring Consuls, as Consular Tribunes, on whom the consular power devolved only so far as it was military. That the Plebeians were disputing, meanwhile, among themselves, after the fashion of most successful parties, appears from the fact, that, in little more than two months, the Consular Tribunes were compelled to resign; their place being almost immediately filled by two Consuls, just as of old, elected by the Centuries.” Any disappointment produced among the shrewder Plebeians, by this return to the consulship, could scarcely have added much to that they had felt from the time when the office was first suspended. The readiness with which their order adopted the tribunate in its place can be easily understood, on recollecting the little interest to be excited amongst them, generally, with regard to an authority that most of them could never hope to gain; nor need we imagine that the ambitious or the wiser men were deceived. Even from the military powers, which were alone transferred from the old office to the new, the right of triumph was abstracted, while other honors and pomps were still farther removed. The institution or the proposal of the censorship, though originally intended to bear the authority which was necessary to take the Census, hitherto conducted by the Consuls, was one of the detractions from the consulship, in order to adapt the consular tribunate to the meaner station of those to whom it was committed. The Censors, two in number, were to be chosen, like the Consuls, by the Centuries, and from the Patricians alone, but, unlike the Consuls, they were to hold their office for five years." The character of the new magistracy will soon be made more clear. 40 Liv., IV. 7. Cf. Cic., De Leg. Agr., II. 11; De Five or six years again roll by, in which there is little that we can now remark, except the continuance and perhaps the spread of suffering amongst the poorer classes. In their behalf, apparently, a Plebeian, known only by name, Poetelius, being two years successively elected Tribune, renewed in both his terms of office” the long interrupted claims for assignments from the public lands. There were few to support him in his solitary enterprise, besides the crowd of haggard faces and despairing hearts for whom he labored; a circumstance that demonstrates, beyond a doubt, the wider separation between those who wished for power, or the rich, and those who wanted independence, or the poor, – the two divisions of a single estate, that, namely, of the Plebeians. Poetelius was but a fool, says the historian, for his pains;* yet not because he failed to seek the advantage of the higher as well as the lower Plebeians. In asking land and bread for the latter, he also urged the claims of the former on the consular tribunate, an office hardly in existence, and only revived, if revived at all, for the exclusive occupancy of the Patricians.

37 Their full title was “tribuni failure" of the Plebeian candidates militum consulari potestate.” Liv., to have been caused by the “modes

IV. 6. ty, equity, and magnanimity of the * Liv., IV. 6. Dion. Hal., XI. people.” Plutarch is quite as sim60 ple in his account of the office.

* Livy (loc. cit.) believes the Cam., 1.

41 “Censurae initium, rei a parva Legg., III.3. origine ortae,” etc. Liv., IV. 8.

In a state like the Roman, where there could be little employment for the freeman besides labor for himself on his own ground, or for the Commonwealth on her battle-fields, the loss of land or of the most moderate fortune involved either degradation or starvation,-it might be, both. Mere mechanical occupations were in too small demand, and in much

** A. C. 442 – 441. Liv., IV. 12. 43 “Ludibrioque erant minae tribuni,” etc. Liv., IV. 12.

too mean repute, to be often sought, or often worth the seeking; and as there were scarcely any wages in money to be got from toils in another man's shop or upon another's farm, the houseless were, literally and entirely, the destitute. It happened, shortly after the exertions of Poetelius, that a famine occurred, to destroy many and to impoverish more amongst the people. A Patrician, Lucius Minucius, was appointed Prefect of the markets, in order, as was promised, to hasten the supplies of grain and food. If he did his best to fulfil the charge he had received, he nevertheless failed to relieve the wants becoming every day more fatal. While prices were still beyond all precedent, and yet not high enough to command the grain of which there was actually no public provision in the city, a wealthy Plebeian Knight, named Spurius Maelius, threw open the abundant stores he had managed to collect through some peculiar facilities he seems to have possessed. If the common reports concerning Maelius be trusted, it appears that his bounties, however extraordinary, were very far from being disinterested. He was charged, as we shall immediately learn, with criminal or treasonable designs, which it is by no means necessary to believe; but that he was seeking for some higher position than he had, rather, however, by elevating his order than by raising himself alone, is testified by every point preserved of his brief career. Maelius was one of those who hungered after authority as keenly as the needy whom he supplied were hungering after food. On their part, they reWOL. I. 59

paid him with the grateful, though it might also have been the riotous, support which the liberality of a rich man is apt to obtain among any people equally miserable. He showed, apparently at once, that he was aspiring to be Consular Tribune, or, it may be, Consul, for the ensuing year; but the elections were too close at hand to allow the instant ripening of his plans. On the contrary, instead of being elected to any honors, he was charged by the Prefect Minucius, before the Senate, with having conspired, together with his dependants, to become king; and when the Senators expressed their surprise at his having been allowed to pursue a course so suspected, one of the Consuls, the same Quinctius Capitolinus who had long before commended himself by his good-will towards the Plebeians, appears to have replied, that a Dictator had better be nominated to relieve the wants of the people and oppose the designs of Maelius, if it were necessary, by measures from which there could be no appeal. The story of Maelius would be more intelligible, undoubtedly, if Quinctius had consented, as he was solicited, to accept the dictatorship; for the proceedings against the Plebeian would then have been managed with some respect to justice. But instead of Quinctius, the appointment was given to Cincinnatus, as one whose long tried hatred to the lower estate most suited the present purpose of the violent Patricians to bring Maelius to speedy punishment. With all his passion, the old man hesitated”

44 Liv., IV. 13.

« НазадПродовжити »