Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

BOOK VII.

The selec

equestrian

order as judges a

fatal blunder.

became very soon apparent. By substituting the knights for the senators he cast out the devil by Beelzebub. The tion of the capitalists proved to be judges more venal and more accessible to every kind of corrupt influence than the men of noble birth had been. They had only one passion and one thought, the accumulation of wealth. Looking upon all that they undertook as business transactions, they never gave a thought to what they owed to the welfare of the state, or to the interests of those who came to them for justice. No long time passed before corruption and injustice had arisen in the equestrian courts to such an excessive height, that the senatorial courts were regretted as patterns of a pure and honest administration of justice. Not only were the new judges lenient to offenders who belonged to their own order, but they persecuted senatorial magistrates of high-minded principles, if, as happened sometimes, they tried to oppose the frightful extortions

1 Flor. iii. 17: Equites Romani tanta potestate subnixi, ut qui fata fortunasque principum haberent in manu, interceptis vectigalibus peculabantur suo iure rem publicam. Appian, Bell. Civ. i. 22: Thy dè dwpodoklav μetaraßórtes, καὶ γευσάμενοι καὶ οἵδε κερδῶν ἀθρόων, αἰσχρότερον ἔτι καὶ ἀμετρότερον αὐτοῖς Exp@vro. This unimpeachable testimony, which Florus and Appian most assuredly did not invent, but copied from trustworthy historians, is directly opposed to the assertion of the forensic advocate Cicero, who, to serve the purposes of his speeches, never scrupled to give that colouring to facts which suited him. He says (in Verr. act. i. 13, 38): Cognoscet ex me populus Romanus quid sit, quamobrem, cum equester ordo iudicaret, annos prope quinquaginta continuos, nullo iudice equite Romano iudicante, ne tenuissima quidem suspicio acceptæ pecuniæ ob rem iudicandam constituta sit. Cicero here with great subtlety maintains, not that no bribes were taken by the knights, but that no case of bribery was proved. How it happened that no prosecution for bribery was ever instituted against them, although cases of bribery were ever so numerous, can be seen from the following remark of Appian (l. c.) : KATηγόρους δὲ ἐνετοὺς ἐπὶ τοῖς πλουσίοις ἐπήγοντο, καὶ τὰς τῶν δωροδοκιῶν δίκας συνιστάμενοι σφίσιν αὐτοῖς καὶ βιαζόμενοι πάμπαν ἀνῄρουν, ὡς καὶ τὸ ἔθος ὅλως τῆς τοιᾶσδε εὐθύνης ἐκλιπεῖν. The truth of this remark is proved by the fact that in the year 91 B.C. Livius Drusus thought it desirable to bring in a law by which it should be made possible to punish the judges for taking bribes, and that his suggestion was openly opposed by the knights. It is Cicero himself who furnishes us with this important testimony, in contradiction of his own previous assertion. He says (p. Rabir. Post. 7, 16): M. Druso unam in equestrem ordinem quæstionem ferenti, si quis ob rem iudicatam pecuniam cepisset, aperte equites resistebant. Comp. Flor. iii. 12.

which the farmers of the revenue now practised with impunity under the protection of the supreme courts.1

CHAP.

VI.

of C. Grac

We can hardly doubt that this deplorable result might Shortsightedhave been foreseen by a statesman not blinded by prejudice ness and or carried away by a temper too sanguine and passionate. delusions The low, venal, and grasping disposition of the Roman chus. money-lenders, contractors, and farmers of the revenue must have been well known from ample experience.2 If C. Gracchus thought that such men deserved to be entrusted with an office which more than any other requires perfect integrity and exalted virtue, he showed that he possessed very little of that knowledge of character and the world which to a statesman is as essential as patriotism, honesty, and enthusiasm. The latter qualities C. Gracchus possessed in the highest degree, but as he lacked the former he was doomed to failure in his highest aims.

power of

the senate.

If the lex iudiciaria did not secure a better adminis- Diminutration of justice, it succeeded at least in weakening the tion of the authority of the senate, which was its secondary, perhaps its primary object. By the creation of the equestrian order, all those elements of political influence which lie in wealth and commercial industry, and which had been in former times without coherence and common action, were withdrawn from subserviency to the noble families, and constituted as an independent power, a second head of the state as it were, the consequence of which was an antagonism between the two. C. Gracchus was proud of his achievement, 5 and, as if exulting over the internal Liv. 70: P. Rutilius, vir summæ innocentiæ, quoniam legatus C. Mucii proconsulis a publicanorum iniurius Asiam defenderat, invisus equestri ordini, repetundarum damnatus in exilium missus est.

2 Vol. ii. p. 319.

s Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxiii. 34: Iudicum autem appellatione separare eum (equestrem) ordinem primi omnium instituere Gracchi discordia populari in contumeliam senatus.

Florus, iii. 17: iudiciaria lege Gracchi diviserant populum Romanum ac bicipitem ex una fecerant civitatem. . . . Senatus exilio Metelli, damnatione Rutilii debilitatus omne decus maiestatis amiserat. Varro, ap. Nonium, p. 454: equestri ordini iudicia tradidit ac bicipitem civitatem fecit.

5

Appian, Bell. Civ. i. 22: φασὶ δὲ κυρωθέντος τοῦ νόμου τὸν Γράκχον εἰπεῖν, ὅτι ἀθρόως τὴν βουλὴν καθῃρήκοι.

BOOK
VII.

Law for regulating the province of Asia.

discord which would be the consequence of this antagonism, he boasted that he had cast swords and daggers on to the forum for internecine slaughter.'

The equestrian order consisted, as we have seen, of the great capitalists, a class of people who had thriven in proportion as the Roman conquests expanded the sphere of their activity. C. Gracchus now found means to add to their wealth, and at the same time to facilitate the execution of his frumentarian laws, by a law which he passed for the organization of the provincial government of Asia (lex de provincia Asia). When the Romans had acquired this province ten years before, by the alleged testamentary disposition of King Attalus, they had treated it with great mildness, and, as it seems, had imposed no direct taxes. By the law of Gracchus the dispositions made by the senate were set aside, the province was subjected to the payment of annual tithes from the agricultural produce, like Sicily, and it was ordained that the right of collecting these tithes should be let by auctions which were to be held not in the province, as was the case in Sicily, but in Rome. By this process the collection of the revenue became entirely the monopoly of the great Roman capitalists, for it was impossible that any provincial contractor or provincial communities should have a chance in bidding against the associated joint-stock companies of the Roman publicani. The same process of letting the indirect taxes of customs and port dues was adopted. All these transactions were to take place in Rome. The province of Asia, the richest of all, was formally made over to the Roman knights to be treated by them as a private. farm.3 The senate was to have no direct influence. It

1 Cicero, de Legib. iii. 9, 20: C. vero Gracchus runis et sicis iis quas ipse se proiecisse in forum dixit, quibus digladiarentur inter se cives, nonne omnem rei publicæ statum permutavit?

2 Cicero, Verr. iii. 6, 12; ad Attic. i. 17, 9. Appian, Bell. Civ. v. 4. See Marquardt, Röm. Staatsverwaltung, i. p. 180.

The provi ce of Asia surpassed all the others in wealth, and was the most productive for the Roman revenue. Cicero, pro Leg. Manil. ii. 6: Certissima populi Romani vectigalia et maxima, quibus amissis et pacis orna

VI.

was not even allowed occasionally to abate any portion of CHAP. the sums payable by the farmers of the taxes, a right which the senate had formerly exercised and by which it had kept the farmers in dependence on its authority. The law of Gracchus contains minute rules by which the conditions were fixed, under which the farmers of the revenue might claim a reduction of the sums payable by them to the treasury.

efects

of the

measure on vincials.

the pro

It would be interesting to know whether in making Miserable these financial arrangements C. Gracchus had in view the prosperity of the province of Asia. If he had, he would have anticipated the equitable principles of the Emperors. But as long as the republic lasted, the provinces were regarded only as possessions whose wealth and resources ought to be devoted to the advantage of the governing state, irrespective of all provincial interests. The new arrangements of C. Gracchus were quite in accordance with this principle. The farmers of the revenue were freed from the control which the provincial governors of senatorial rank or the senatorial judges of the superior courts had formerly exercised. They had little to fear from the courts presided over by men of their own class. Perhaps the malversations of the provincial governors were now to some extent restrained; but in the place of one rapacious plunderer, hundreds of heartless, exacting, cruel harpies were let loose, to spread over the province in every direction, and men who had no other motive but to accumulate money were now invested by law with a kind of authority which gave over the hapless provincial to their hands. The effect soon became apparent. Forty years later, on the outbreak of the war with Mithridates,

1

menta et subsidia belli requiretis. Ib. vi. 14: Ceterarum provinciarum vectigalia tanta sunt, ut iis ad ipsas provincias tutandas vix contenti esse possimus; Asia vero tam opima est et fertilis, ut et ubertate agrorum et varietate fructuum et magnitudine pastionis et multitudine rerum earum quæ exportentur, facile omnibus terris antecellat.

1 Diodor. xxxiv. 25: Γράκχος τῇ μὲν τῶν δημοσιῶν τόλμῃ καὶ πλεονεξίᾳ τὰς ἐπαρχίας ἀποῤῥίψας ἐπεσπάσατο παρὰ τῶν ὑποτεταγμένων δίκαιον μίσος κατὰ τῆς ἡγεμονίας.

[blocks in formation]

BOOK
VII.

The selfimposed task of Gracchus an impossibility.

Senatorial administration of

the provinces.

the Roman dominion had become so hateful in Asia, that the same people who had at first received the Romans as friends, hailed Mithridates as their deliverer from cruel thraldom and wreaked bloody vengeance on the Italian tax-gatherers and traders settled among them.

The substitution of the equestrian for the senatorial order in the supreme administration of justice failed, as we have seen, in producing the results which C. Gracchus had anticipated. It was a sad sign of the utter hopelessness of a moral reform, that no class of men could be found more pure and highminded than those who had been tried and found wanting in civic virtue. We shall see that successive attempts to secure integrity and impartiality met with no better success. The Romans, who were pre-eminent in that subtlety of logical thinking which makes good lawyers and good laws, never succeeded, at least in the administration of criminal law, in making legal questions independent of political and private considerations. But if we bear in mind how difficult this is, and how long in modern Europe judges have been dependent on the state, a dependence which cannot even yet be said to have disappeared everywhere, we shall not condemn Gracchus for a failure which was inevitable. He was hopeful against hope, and was carried along by a noble enthusiasm, which, however barren of results, is a proof of his nobleness of heart.

The administration of the Roman provinces had from the first been placed under the direct supervision of the senate. It was the senate that year after year determined which province should be placed under the government of a consul or a prætor. This right was one of the principal privileges of the senate, and enabled that body to place every newly elected magistrate in that position which best suited his special capacities and the interests of the community. Unfortunately the choice of the senate had often been made on other grounds, such as personal favour or dislike, and the debates on the administration of the provinces had often given rise to something like party

« IndietroContinua »