No Sedition was hurtful to Rome, till through their Prosperity some men gained a Power above the Laws.

LITTLE pains is required to confute our author, who imputes much bloodshed to the popular government of Rome; for he cannot prove that one man was unjustly put to death, or slain in any sedition before Publius Gracchus: The foundations of the commonwealth were then so shaken, that the laws could not be executed; and whatsoever did then fall out ought to be attributed to the monarchy for which the great men began to contend. Whilst they had no other wars than with neighbouring nations, they had a strict eye upon their commanders, and could preserve discipline among the soldiers: but when by the excellence of their valour and conduct the greatest powers of the world were subdued, and for the better carrying on of foreign wars, armies were suffered to continue in the same hands longer than the law did direct, soldiery came to be accounted a trade, and those who had the worst designs against the commonwealth, began to favour all manner of licentiousness and rapine, that they might gain the favour of the legions, who by that means became unruly and seditious; 'twas hard, if not impossible, to preserve a civil equality, when the spoils of the greatest kingdoms were brought to adorn the houses of private men; and they who had the greatest cities and nations to be their dependents and clients, were apt to scorn the power of the law. This was a most dangerous disease, like those to which human bodies are subject when they are arrived to that which physicians call the athletick habit, proceeding from the highest perfection of health, activity and strength, that the best constitution by diet and exercise can attain. Whosoever falls into them shews that he had attain'd that perfection; and he who blames that which brings a state into the like condition, condemns that which is most perfect among men. Whilst the Romans were in the way to this, no sedition did them any hurt: they were composed without blood; and those that seemed to be the most dangerous, produced the best laws. But when they were arrived to that condition, no order could do them good; the fatal period set to human things was come, they could go no higher,

Summisque negatum Stare diu;[1]

and all that our author blames, is not to be imputed to their constitution, but their departing from it. All men were ever subject to error, and it may be said that the mistaken people in the space of about three hundred years did unjustly fine or banish five or six men; but those mistakes were so frankly acknowledged, and carefully repair'd by honours bestow'd upon the injured persons, as appears by the examples of Camillus, Livius Salinator, Aemilius Paulus, and others, that they deserve more praise than if they had not failed.

If for the above-mentioned time seditions were harmless or profitable, they were also absolutely exempted from civil wars. Those of Apulia and Greece were revolts of conquer'd nations, and can no way fall under that name: But 'tis most absurdly applied to the servile and gladiatorian wars; for the gladiators were slaves also, and civil wars can be made only by those who are members of the civil society, which slaves are not. Those that made the bellum sociale,[2] were freemen, but not citizens; and the war they made could not be called civil. The Romans had three ways of dealing with conquered nations.

1. Some were received into the body of the city, civitate donati,[3] as the Latins by Romulus; the Albans by Hostilius; the Privernates when their ambassador declared, that no peace could be durable unless it were just and easy; and the Senate said, se viri & liberi vocem audivisse, talesque dignos esse ut Romani fiant;[4] and the like favour was shewn to many others.

2. By making leagues with them, as Livy says, populum Romanum devictos bello populos, malle societate & amicitia habere conjunctos, quam tristi subjectos servitio:[5] Of which sort were the Samnites, who not liking their condition, joined with Hannibal; and afterwards, under the conduct of the brave Telesinus, with other nations that lived under the condition of socii, made an unprosperous attempt to deliver themselves.

3. Those who after many rebellions were in provinciam redacti,[6] as the Capuans, when their city was taken by Appius Claudius, and Q. Fulvius Flaccus.

We often hear of wars made by those of the two latter sorts; but of none that can be called civil, till the times of Marius, Sulla, and Catiline: and as they are to be esteemed the last strugglings of expiring liberty, when the laws, by which it had subsisted, were enervated: so those that happened between Caesar and Pompey, Octavius and Antonius, with the proscriptions, triumvirate, and all the mischiefs that accompanied them, are to be imputed wholly to the monarchy for which they contended, as well as those between Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, that hardly ever ceased till the empire was abolished; for the name of a commonwealth continued to the end; and I know not why Tiberius or Nero might not use it as well as Sulla or Marius.

Yet if our author be resolved to impute to popular government all that passed before Caesar made himself perpetual dictator, he will find no more than is seen in all places. We have known few small states, and no great one free from revolts of subjects or allies; and the greatest empire of the East was overthrown by the rebellion of the Mamelukes their slaves. If there is any difference to be observed between what happened at Rome, 'tis chiefly, that whilst there was any shadow of liberty, the slaves, gladiators, subjects or allies, were always beaten and suppressed; whereas in the time of the emperors, the revolt of a province was sufficient to give a new master to the best part of mankind; and he having no more power than was required for a present mischief, was for the most part, in a short time, destroy'd by another. But to please our author, I will acknowledge a second defect, even that wantonness to which he ascribes all their disorders; tho I must withal desire him to consider from whence wantonness doth proceed. If the people of Turkey or France did rebel, I should think they were driven to it by misery, beggary, or despair; and could lay wantonness only to the charge of those who enjoy'd much prosperity. Nations that are oppress'd and made miserable, may fall into rage, but can never grow wanton. In the time of the Roman emperors, the praetorian cohorts, or the armies that had the liberty of ravaging the richest provinces, might be proud of their strength, or grow wanton through the abundance of their enjoyments: The Janizaries in later ages may, for the same reasons, have fallen into the like excesses; but such as have lost their liberty are in no danger of them. When all the nobility of Rome was destroyed, and those who excelled in reputation or virtue, were fallen in the wars, or by the proscriptions; when two thirds of the people were slain, the best cities and colonies burnt, the provinces exhausted, and the small remains left in them oppressed with a most miserable slavery, they may have revolted, and sometimes did, as the Britains, Batavians, and others mentioned in the Roman history: But they were driven to those revolts by fury and necessity, arising from the miseries and indignities they suffer'd under an insupportable tyranny; and wantonness had no part in them. The people of Rome, when they were a little freed from the terror of the soldiers, did sometimes for the same reasons conspire against the emperors; and when they could do no more, expressed their hatred by breaking their statues: But after the battles of Pharsalia, Philippi, and the proscriptions, they never committed any folly through wantonness. In the like manner Naples and Sicily have revolted within these few years; and some who are well acquainted with the state of those kingdoms, think them ready again to do the like; but if it should so happen, no man of understanding would impute it to wantonness. The pressures under which they groan, have cured them of all such diseases: and the Romans since the loss of their liberty could never fall into them. They may have grown wanton when their authority was reverenced, their virtue admired, their power irresistible, and the riches of the world were flowing in upon them, as it were, to corrupt their manners, by enticing them to pleasure: But when all that was lost, and they found their persons expos'd to all manner of violence from the basest of men; their riches exhausted by tributes and rapine, whilst the treasures of the empire were not sufficient to supply the luxury of their masters; the misery they suffer'd, and the shame of suffering it, with the contemptible weakness to which they were reduc'd, did too strongly admonish them, that the vices of wantonness belonged only to those who enjoy'd a condition far different from theirs; and the memory of what they had lost, sharpened the sense of what they felt. This is the state of things which pleases our author; and, by praising that government, which depriv'd those who were under it of all that is most desirable in the world, and introduc'd all that ought to be detested, he sufficiently shews, that he delights only in that which is most abominable, and would introduce his admir'd absolute monarchy, only as an instrument of bringing vice, misery, devastation and infamy upon mankind.

[1] Lucan. I. 1. [Lucan, Pharsalia, bk. 1, li. 70.]

[2] []

[3] []

[4] [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 8, ch. 21.]

[5] [Ibid., bk. 26, ch. 49.]

[6] []