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TIBERIUS DEFENDS HIS CONDUCT
an inflammatory harangue at his funeral, in which he declared that he was obliged to place his life under the protection of the people.
Such a guarantee was not of much effective use, and Tiberius went about with the uncomfortable persuasion that he was a marked man. Bitter hatred followed him wherever he appeared. He had ruined too many prominent men to be able ever again to live in quiet. Angry senators insulted him in the streets, and asked him inconvenient constitutional questions on public occasions. No story was too silly or malignant to be told against him. One ridiculous Optimate solemnly declared that he had got from Pergamus, among the royal treasures, a crown and a purple robe, which he intended to use when he should proclaim himself king of Rome! The most threatening symptom, however, for Tiberius was that several resolute enemies announced that they intended to impeach him for majestas,—for unconstitutional conduct amounting to high treason,—the day that his office came to an end, because he had “ diminished the majesty of the Roman people” by deposing a sacrosanct tribune from office. Tiberius, knowing that he was technically guilty, had no wish to face such a trial. He made an elaborate apologia for all that he had done in a speech which shows strong traces of his studies in the field of Greek political philosophy. “The person of a tribune,” he said, “is no doubt sacred and inviolable, because he is the representative of the sovereign people. But if he manifestly opposes their interests and tyrannises over them, by refusing to allow them the liberty to vote on any project which they have at heart, he surely deprives himself by his own act of his sacrosanct character. If we were to find a tribune trying to pull down the temple on the Capitol, or to set fire to the arsenal, we should lay restraining hands on him in spite of his inviolability.
And in a similar fashion, he who is doing his best to diminish the majesty of the Roman people must be stripped of the power to do so. Is it not shocking to think that the people should not have the right of deposing one who is using his privileges against those who gave them to him? The kings of old held the most awful of magistracies, yet Tarquin was expelled. Can anything be more holy and venerable than the Vestal Virgins who keep the perpetual fire; yet if one of them breaks her vows she is buried alive. So, too, a tribune who injures the sovereign people can no longer be sacred and inviolable because of the investiture which the people gave him. He has destroyed the power in which alone his strength lay.”
All this, and much more to the same effect, was eloquent and persuasive enough, but clearly it was not law, nor was it even common-sense. The whole argument rests on the assumption that a minority has no right to resist by the constitutional means which are at its disposal. It assumes that the verdict of the Comitia on some chance day of meeting is the same thing as “the will of the Roman people." It also presupposes that what the people desires is necessarily for its own best interests. From such views any amount of intolerant trampling on minorities might be logically justified. If anything more is needed to make the reformer's position absurd, it is that the body which he idealised into "the Roman people" was really the shifting urban multitude which his adversaries called “the mob"-misera et sordida plebecula, to use the words of a later politician.
The time for the election of the tribunes for B.C. 132 was now drawing near, and it was suggested to Gracchus that if he wished to preserve himself from prosecution for high treason, and if he desired to be sure that his Land Commission should go on with its work, the best thing
TIBERIUS PROPOSES NEW REFORMS
that he could do would be to stand again for the tribunate, and to retain both his sacrosanct position and his power of dealing as a magistrate with the public assembly. By resolving to offer himself as a candidate for a second term of office Tiberius changed his whole political position. He had started as an enthusiast who had one single measure at heart, and merely desired to carry it through: the settlement of the Agrarian Question had seemed to him to be the one really pressing need of the Roman state. When his great bill had passed, he might logically have sung his nunc dimittis and retired into private life, to live down the hatred of the governing classes by proving that at least he had been wholly disinterested in all his actions.
But by asking for a second term of office Tiberius made himself into a permanent party leader. He saw this himself, and justified his position by putting forth a regular political programme. In the reforms which he announced that he intended to carry out in B.C. 132 we see foreshadowed the whole “Democratic platform ” of the next fifty years. The planks of it included (1) the relaxation of the terms of military service; (2) the granting of a right of appeal from all law-courts to the sovereign people assembled in the Comitia ; (3) the abolition of the monopoly, which the senators had hitherto enjoyed, of supplying all the jurors in the courts ; (4) (if Velleius is to be trusted) the introduction of a bill for extending the franchise to Latin and Italian allies. How far this last proposal was to go is unfortunately unknown; indeed, we have only a very meagre outline of the whole set of schemes.
It would probably be doing Tiberius an injustice to suspect that the whole of this programme was drawn up in order to provide him with an excuse for asking for a renewal of his tribunate. He considered that his
opponents had behaved so badly, that he was in duty bound to continue the campaign against them that had commenced with the Agrarian Law. He had gathered round himself a knot of partisans who looked upon him as their responsible leader, and would highly resent his retirement from public life. We may suspect also that the discovery of his own power to sway the multitude by his fervid eloquence had somewhat intoxicated him, and that he was not unwilling to accept the post of “friend of the people.” To accuse him of mere ambition and love of authority would be unfair. Though he was busily engaged in breaking up the old constitution of Rome, he does not seem to have been aware of the fact. By legislating on such important matters as the Agrarian Law and the appropriation of the Pergamene treasures by mere “plebiscites," without the approval and consent of the Senate, he had practically ended the time-honoured compromise under which Roman politics had been conducted for the last two hundred years. If the state machine could be worked by an irresponsible tribune dealing directly with the sovereign people, the Senate became a useless wheel in the engine. But it seems probable that all these facts passed completely over the reformer's head; he was under the impression that he was
no revolutionary, but merely a good citizen carrying out his obvious duty.
The news that Tiberius was canvassing for a second tenure of office brought the more or less suppressed wrath of his enemies to boiling-point. They had supposed that they would be rid of him as legislator at the end of the year, and they had hoped to do their best to get him tried for majestas when he was once more a private citizen. The prospect of a second year of democratic agitation appalled them. Accordingly they bent all their efforts to the end of frustrating his election. Owing to the season of the
TIBERIUS SEEKS RE-ELECTION
year, it was certain that very few rural voters would be present; they would not leave the vintage even to support their best friend. The matter would lie, as usual, in the hands of the urban populace, and the enemies of Gracchus were not without hopes that a combination of influence, intimidation, and bribery might secure them a majority in that very unsatisfactory body of voters. But when the reformer devoted himself for many days to a desperate personal canvass, it soon became evident that his popularity was too great, and that his triumph was more than probable. As a last resort his foes resolved to raise a constitutional question on a disputed point of election law.
When, among immense excitement, the poll began, the first two tribes gave their suffrages for Gracchus. It was so customary for the remaining tribes to follow the lead of those who had the “prerogative” of the first vote, that the return of the reformer seemed secure. But then the objection was made that it was not legal for the same person to hold the tribunate for two years in succession. This was a doubtful point of constitutional law; so much so, that a few years later the Democratic party took the trouble to pass a bill formally affirming its legality. But in B.C. 133 the question could still be debated. There were many precedents for a re-election; the case of Licinius, the author of the old Agrarian Law of B.C. 367, was especially apposite, as the people had returned him for ten successive years before he finally got his scheme carried out. On the other hand, there was an old law, dating from the generation after Licinius (B.C. 342), which discouraged re-election. It had not been invariably observed, but it was still on the Statute Book. Moreover, there was a constitutional theory that the practice was to be deprecated, because it prevented a magistrate from being made responsible for the acts of his year of office. A person who was perpetually re-elected could