Imatges de pàgina
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CHAP.

I.

Asiatic monarchies which meet us at the dawn of traditional history, and which are doubtless only advanced types of earlier efforts in the same direction. To some extent both the conquerors and the conquered were the better for what had taken place. The conquered populations composed of many tribes were no longer allowed to wage war with one another. For the first time they enjoyed the blessings of peace, and the material advantages which accompany it. The conquerors had a far greater share in the enjoyments of the world. They learned to practise the virtues of a dominant race, and made some progress in intellectual knowledge. There was organisation of government and of the military force. But it was organisation for the sake of the governors, not for the sake of the governed. There was no amalgamation between the two, no sense of duty urging on the governors to improve the condition of the governed. So long as a subject tribe paid its tribute and did not annoy its neighbours in such a way as to prevent them from paying theirs, they might live as they pleased amongst themselves. What interference there was was simply for the objects of the ruling race. The fairest maidens might be carried off by force or persuasion, to fill the harems of the governing class, as when Esther was brought before Ahasuerus. The goodliest young men might be driven away to fight for that same class, as when Rabshakeh offered two thousand horses to Hezekiah if he would set riders upon them. But each man or woman selected went not to draw the union closer between governors and governed, but to swell the ranks of the governors, just as in later times no benefit has accrued to the subjects of the Ottoman Turks in Europe, by the abduction of women or by the seizure of male children to form the corps of Janissaries.

ernments

not per

The head of such a government is necessarily despotic. The members of the governing race are far more interested in preserving the strict discipline which alone §5. Govenables it to retain its sway, than in guarding each established individual of their number against the tyranny or by them caprices of the monarch. Any special case in which the manent. despot places himself in antagonism with the feeling of the race in general, or of those who immediately surround his person, is easily provided for by his assassination. It is seldom that the dynasty to which such a ruler belongs maintains itself long in power. Doing nothing for the subject races, it has no gratitude to expect from them, and in times of danger they show no eagerness come to its assistance. When Babylon was taken by Cyrus, the Lady of kingdoms fell in a moment as if it had been swallowed up by an earthquake. Three battles disposed of the Persian empire with almost equal suddenness. It mattered little to the Syrian peasant whether he paid tribute to a Nebuchadnezzar, a Darius, or an Alexander. His own lot was not likely to be improved by any change from one to the other.

CHAP.
I.

Greek

Very different was the condition of the petty Greek $6. The states which hurled back the whole weight of the Persian Republics. monarchy in its day of power. In Greece the tribe came into contact with the outer world not by conquest, but by commerce, exploration, and sometimes by piracy. It drew wealth from others without bringing upon itself the task of keeping them in subjection. Its character changed from that of a rural to that of a city community. The quick-witted thoughtful race occupied every domain of poetry, of oratory, of art, and of philosophy. Athens, the foremost of all the Greek states, was the first to show that the supremacy of the free population over its magistrates could be exercised not by inarticulate shouts or noisy clashing of arms, but by deliberate vote

I.

CHAP. after a serious and sustained argument in which anyone was permitted to take part. It was a great achievement; but it carried with it its own shadow. If in the Persian monarchy there was no people worthy of the name, in Athens there was no government worthy of the name, no organised institutions which could sufficiently do for the people what Pericles did for them in his lifetime, and which could save them from the alternate rashness and inertness which proved their ruin. If, as a state, Athens was subject to dangers the very opposite to those under which Persia succumbed, her faults as a conqueror were precisely the same as those of Persia. When she converted the leadership of allied states into an imperial sway, she offered them, just as Persia had offered, protection against foreign attack and the cessation of neighbourly wars. She demanded from them, as Persia had demanded, tribute and fidelity. She did not admit them into fellowship with herself or merge her separate existence in that of a mightier whole.

The first commonwealth able to solve the problems which Athens and Persia in their several ways had failed to solve was that of Rome. Whilst she was still but a petty community, she had secured the existence of a body of magistrates with large and almost excessive powers. These magistrates, proceeding as they did from annual elections by the whole body of people, were not likely to entertain projects antagonistic to the desires of those by whom they were chosen, whilst their action was steadied and controlled by the moral and, to some extent, the legal superiority of the senate, a body composed of men who had held office in former years, and whose position was therefore the best guarantee for their practical experience and their wise moderation. The Roman state, unlike as it was to the constitutional states of modern Europe, afforded nevertheless the most

§ 7. Rome's

Consti

tutional System.

complete instance of constitutional government which the world had yet seen. The object of such a government is to secure as far as possible the carrying out of the general wishes of the governed, after they have passed through the minds of men of superior intelligence and knowledge of affairs. It aims, on the one hand, at placing a check upon the immediate passions and desires. of the moment, and on the other hand, at restraining those who are set to guide, from satisfying their own passions and desires in opposition to the distinct wish of the community at large. In some sort indeed this description may suit every government which ever existed There are natural forces in every society which place power in the hands of those who are qualified to lead within the limits prescribed by the general feeling. All that any constitutional system can profess to do is to give regularity to the working of natural laws, to facilitate their action and to avoid the shocks which inevitably follow upon any attempt to set them at naught. In law as in science, man is but the servant and interpreter of nature.

CHAP.
I.

man Patriotism.

It was a great achievement to found a constitutional §8. Rostate, and to bring, as it were, the brain and heart of the commonwealth into due relations with each other. But as even the healthy mind in the healthy body avails a man little unless he has sufficient mental power and moral character to bear himself well amidst the trials. which new circumstances bring him under, so it is with a commonwealth. The very superiority of Rome's internal constitution gave her external strength, and the conquest of Italy called for new ideas of government under new circumstances. The difficulties of the problem were such as, with our modern ways of thought, it is almost impossible for us even to conceive. To us, familiar as we are with political organisations extending

CHAP.
I.

9. Italy united

under

Rome.

over enormous territories, it is a mere matter of practical convenience, whether a state extend over a few thousand square miles, or over a few hundred thousand. The ancient city communities limited their patriotism to their own fortified home. There were the temples of their Gods, the memories made beautiful by the deeds of their ancestors, and whatever scenes of happiness, or of tender regret their own lives had brought to them. There, too, was the centre of political action, the market place, where the freemen met to acclaim the laws or to choose the magistrates by whom those laws were to be executed, and the senate house where the fathers of the state met to consult how dangers at home and abroad might best be met. The love of country in such a community was as ardent and exclusive as it was narrow, and the dweller in a neighbouring city was regarded not merely as a stranger, but as an implacable foe. The word hostis, by which the Romans designated an enemy, originally meant no more than a foreigner.

It was to the credit of Rome that in her earlier days she had shown herself superior to this feeling of antagonism. She had striven, and conquered; she had spread slaughter and desolation around; but in the end she had offered the right hand of fellowship to those whom she had defeated and oppressed. Plebeian and patrician after a time were amalgamated together, and subsequently the dwellers in the Latin towns were admitted to a citizenship as complete as that of the man whose ancestors had been consuls at the first establishment of the republic. But even in Rome there seemed to come a limit to her transcendent assimilative power. She had been able to understand that a man could be a citizen of Rome who lived at Tusculum or Ardea. She could not understand that a man could be a citizen of Rome who lived too far off to join personally in the vote in the

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