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father of the Roman world, or as the o: of liberty; whether he wished to relieve the provinces, or to impoverish the senate and the equestrian order But no sooner had he assumed the reins of government, than he frequently intimated the insufficiency of the tributes, and the necessity of throwing an equitable proportion of the public burden upon Rome and Italy." In the prosecution of this unpopular design, he advanced, however, by cautious and wellweighed steps. e introduction of customs was followed by the establishment of an excise, and the scheme of taxation was completed by an artful assessment on the real and personal property of the Roman citizens, who had been exempted from any kind of contribution above a century and a half. I. In a great empire like that of Rome, a natural balance of money must have gradually established itself. It has been already observed, that as the wealth of the provinces was attracted to the capital by the strong hand of conquest and power; so a considerable part of it was restored to the industrious provinces by the gentle influence of commerce and arts. . In the reign of Augustus and his successors, duties were imposed on every kind of merchandise, which through a thousand channels flowed to the great centre of opulence and luxury; and in whatsoever manner the law was expressed, it was the Roman purchaser, and not the provincial merchant, who paid the tax.(97). The rate of the customs varied from the eighth to the fortieth part of the value of the commodity; and we have a right to suppose that the variation was directed by the unalterable maxims of policy; that a higher duty was fixed on the articles of luxury than on those of necessity, and . the productions raised or manufactured by the labour of the subjects of the empire, were treated with more indulgence than was shown to the pernicious, or at least, the unpopular commerce of Arabia and India.(98) . There is still extant a long but imperfect catalogue of eastern commodities, which about the time of Alexander Severus were subject to the payment of duties; cinnamon, myrrh, pepper, ginger, and the whole tribe of aromatics, a great variety of precious stones, among which the diamond was the most remarkable for its price, and the emerald for its Ho! Parthian, and Babylonian leather, cottons, silks, both raw and manufactured, ebony, ivory, and eunuchs.(100) We may observe that the use and value of those effeminate slaves gradually rose with the decline of the emoire. II. The excise introduced by Augustus after the civil wars, was extremely moderate, but it was general. It seldom exceeded one per cent.; but it comprehended whatever was sold in the markets or by of: auction, from the most considerable purchases of lands and houses, to those minute objects which can only derive a value from their infinite multitude, and daily consumption. Such a tax, as it affects the body of the people, has ever been the occasion of clamour and discontent. An emperor well acquainted with the wants and resources of the state, was obliged to declare by a public edict, that the support of the army depended in a great measure on the produce of the excise.(101) III. When Augustus resolved to establish a permanent military force for the defence of his government against foreign and domestic enemies, he instituted a peculiar treasury for the pay of the soldiers, the rewards of the veterans, and the extraordinary expenses of war. The ample revenue of the excise, though peculiarly appropriated to those uses, was found inadequate. To supply ; deficiency, the emperor suggested a new tax of five per cent... on all legacies and inheritances. But the nobles of Rome were more tenacious of property
§ Tacit. Annal.xiii. 31.t 98) See Pliny (Hist. Natur. 1. vi. c. 23, 1.xii, c.18). His observation, that the Indian commodities were sold at Rome at a hundred times their original price, may give us some notion of the produce of the cussince that original price amounted to more than eight hundred thousand pounds. ". ancients were unacquainted with the art of cutting diamonds. 100) M. Bouchaud, in his treatise de l'Impot chez les Romains, has transcribed this catalogue from the Digest, and attempts to illustrate it by a o: commentary.t to: Tacit. Annal. i. 78. Two years ard, the reduction of the poor kingdom of Cappadocia gave a pretence for diminishing the excise to one-half; but the relief was of very short duration
than of freedom. Their indignant murmurs were received by Augustus with his usual temper. He candidly referred the whole business to the senate, and exhorted them to provide for the public service by some other expedient of a less odious nature. They were divided and perplexed. He insinuated to them, that their obstinacy would oblige him to #. a general land-tax and capitation. They acquiesced in silence.(102) The new imposition on legacies and inheritances was, however, mitigated by some restrictions. It did not take lace, unless the object was of a certain value, most probably of fifty or a hundred pieces of jo nor could it be exacted from the nearest of kin on the father's side.(104) . When the rights of nature and property were thus secured, it seemed reasonable, that a stranger, or a distant relation, who acquired an unexpected accession of fortune, should cheerfully resign a twentieth part of it, for the benefit of the state.(105) Such a tax, plentiful as it must prove in every wealthy community, was most happily suited to the situation of the Romans, who could frame their arbitrary wills, according to the dictates of reason or caprice, without any restraint from the modern setters of entails and settlements. From various causes the partiality of paternal affection often lost its influence over the stern patriots of the commonwealth, and the dissolute nobles of the empire; and if the father bequeathed to his son the fourth part of his estate, he removed all ground of legal complaint.(106) But a rich childless old man was a domestic tyrant, and his ower increased with his years and infirmities. A servile crowd, in which he requently reckoned praetors and consuls, courted his smiles, pampered his avarice, applauded his follies, served his passions, and waited with impatience for his death. The arts of attendance and flattery were formed into a most lucrative science; those who professed it acquired a peculiar appellation; and the whole city, according to the lively descriptions of satire, was divided between two parties, s:"... and their game.(107). Yet, while so many unjust and extravagant wills were every day dictated by cunning, and subscribed by folly, a few were the result of rational esteem and virtuous gratitude. icero, who had so often defended the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens, was rewarded with legacies to the amount of a hundred and seventy thousand pounds;(108) nor do the friends of the younger Pliny seem to have been less generous to that amiable orator.(109) W. was the motive of the testator, the treasury claimed, without distinction, the twentieth part of his estate; and in the course of two or three generations, the whole property of the subject must have gradually passed through the coffers of the state. In the first and golden years of the reign of Nero, that prince, from a desire of popularity, and perhaps from a blind impulse of benevolence, conceived a wish of abolishing the oppression of the customs and excise. The wisest senators applauded his magnanimity; but they diverted him from the execution of a design, which would have dissolved the strength and resources of the republic.(110) Had it indeed been ible to realize this dream of fancy, such princes as Trajan and the Antonines would surely have embraced with ardour the glorious opportunity of conferring so signal an obligation on mankind. Satisfied, however, with alleviating the public burden, they attempted not to remove it. The mildness and precision of their laws ascertained the rule and measure of taxation, and P. the subject of every rank against arbitrary Interpretations, antiquated claims, and the insolent vexation of the farmers of the revenue.(111) For it is somewhat singular that, in every age, the best and
(102) Dion Cassius, l. lv. p. 794, I. lvi. p. 825.” (103) The sum is only fixed by conjecture. (104). As the Roman law subsisted for many ages, the Cognati, or relations on the mother's side, were not called to the succession. This harsh institution was gradually undermined by humanity, and finally abolished by Justinian. (105) Plin. Panegyric, c. 37. (106) See Heineccius in the Antiquit. Juris Romani, I.ii. (107) Horat. l. ii. Sat. v. Petron. c. 116, &c. Plin. iii. Epist. 20. (108) Cicero in Philipp. ii. c. 16 (109) See his epistles. Every such will gave him an occasion of displaying his reverence to the dead, and his justice to the living. He reconciled both in his behaviour to a son who had been disinherited by nis mother. (v. 1.) (110), Tacit. Annal. xiii.50. Esprit des Loix, 1.xii. c. 19. sill) See Pliny's Panegyric, the Augustan History, and Burman de Vectigal. passim.
The elevation and tyranny of Marimin—Rebellion in Africa and o: under the authority of the senate—Civil wars and seditions-Violent deaths of .Marimin and his Son, of Marimus and Balbinus, and of the three Gordians —Usurpation and secular games of Philip.
Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule. Is it possible to relate, without an indignant smile, that on the father's decease, the property of a nation, like that of a drove of oxen, descends to his infant son, as yet unknown to mankind and to himself; and that the bravest warriors and the wisest statesmen, relinquishing their natural right to empire, approach the royal cradle with bended knees and protestations of inviolable fidelity? Satire and declamation may paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colours, but our most serious thoughts will respect a useful prejudice, that establishes a rule of succession, independent of the passions of mankind; and we shall cheerfully acquiesce in any expedient which deprives the multitude of the dangerous, and indeed, the ideal power of giving themselves a master. In the cool shade of retirement, we may easily devise imaginary forms of government, in which the sceptre shall be constantly bestowed on the most worthy, by the free and incorrupt suffrage of the whole community. Experience overturns these airy fabrics, and teaches us, that, in a large society, the election of a monarch can never devolve to the wisest, or to the most numerous, part of the people. The army is the . order of men sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments, and powerful enough to impose them on the rest of their fellow-citizens, but the temper of soldiers, habituated at once to violence and to slavery, renders them very unfit guardians of a legal, or even a civil constitution. Justice, humanity, or political wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted with in themselves, to appreciate them in others. Valour will acquire their esteem, and liberality will purchase their suffrage; but the first of these merits is often lodged in the most savage breasts; the latter can only exert itself at the expense of the public; and both may be turned against the possessor of the throne, by the o of a daring rival. The superior prerogative of birth, when it has obtained the sanction of time and popular opinion, is the plainest and least invidious of all distinctions among mankind. The acknowledged right extinguishes the hopes of faction, and the conscious security disarms the cruelty of the monarch. To the firm establishment of this idea, we owe the peaceful succession, and mild administration of European monarchies. To the defect of it, we must attribute the frequent civil wars, through which an Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to the throne of his fathers. Yet, even in the East, the sphere of contention is usually limited to the princes of the reigning house, and as soon as the more fortunate competitor has removed his brethren by the sword and the bow-string, he no longer entertains any jealousy of his meaner subjects. But the Roman empire, after the authority of the senate had sunk into contempt, was a vast scene of confusion. The royal, and even noble, families of the provinces, had long since been led in triumph before the car of the haughty republicans. The ancient families of Rome had successively fallen beneath the tyranny of the Cesars; and while those princes were shackled by the forms of a commonwealth, and disappointed by the repeated failure of their posterity,(1) it was impossible that i. ea of hereditary succession should have taken root in the minds of their subjects. The right to the throne, which none could claim from birth, every (1) There had been no example of three successive generations on the throne; only three instances of one assumed from merit. . The daring hopes of ambition were set loose from the salutary restraints of law and prejudice; and the meanest of mankind o without folly, entertain a hope of being raised by valour and fortune to a rank in the army, in which a single crime would enable him to wrest the sceptre of the world from his feeble and unpopular master. After the murder of Alexander Severus, and the elevation of Koi. no emperor could think himself safe upon the throne, and every barbarian peasant of the frontier might aspire to that august, but dangerous station. About thirty-two years . that event, the emperor Severus, returning from an eastern expedition, halted in Thrace, to celebrate, with military games, the birth-day of his younger son, Geta. The country flocked in crowds to behold their sovereign, and a young barbarian of gigantic stature earnestly solicited, in his rude dialect, that he might be allowed to contend for the prize of wrestling. As the pride of discipline would have been disgraced in the overthrow of a Roman soldier by a Thracian peasant, he was matched with the stoutest followers of the camp, sixteen of whom he successively laid on the ground. His victory was rewarded by some trifling É. and a permission to enlist in the troops. The next day, the happy barbarian was distinguished above a crowd of recruits, dancing and exulting after the fashion of his country. As soon as he perceived that he had attracted the emperor's notice, he i.; ran up to his horse, and followed him on foot, without the least appearance of fatigue, in a long and rapid career. “Thracian,” said Severus, with astonishment, “art thou disposed to wrestle after thy race?” Most willingly, Sir, replied the unwearied youth, and almost in a breath, overthrew seven of the strongest soldiers in the army. A gold collar was the prize of his matchless vigour and activity, and he was immediately †. to serve in the horseguards, who always attended on the person of the sovereign.(2) Maximin, for that was his name, though born on the territories of the empire, descended from a mixed race of barbarians. His father was a Goth. and his mother of the nation of the Alani. He displayed, on every occasion, a valour equal to his strength; and his native fierceness was soon tempered or disguised by the knowledge of the world. Under the reign of Severus and his son, he §o the rank of centurion, with the favour, and esteem of both those rinces, the former of whom was an excellent judge of merit. Gratitude orbade Maximin to serve under the assassin of Caracalla. Honour taught him to decline the effeminate insults of Elagabalus. On the accession of Alexander he returned to court, and was placed ; that prince in a station useful to the service and honourable to himself. he fourth legion, to which he was appointed tribune, soon became, under his care, the best disciplined of the whole army. With the general applause of the soldiers, who bestowed on their favourite hero, the names of Ajax and Hercules, he was successively promoted to the first military command;(3) and had not he still retained too much of his savage origin, the emperor might perhaps have given his own sister in marriage to the son of Maximin.(4) Instead of securing his fidelity, these favours served only to inflame the ambition of the Thracian peasant, who deemed his fortune inadequate to his merit, as long as he was constrained to acknowledge a superior. Though a stranger to real wisdom, he was not devoid of a selfish cunning, which showed him, that the emperor had lost the affection of the army, and taught him to imp.ove their discontent to his own advantage. It is easy for faction and calumny to shed their poison on the administration of the best of princes, and to accuse even them virtues, by o confounding them with those vices to which hey bear the nearest affinity. . The troops listened with pleasure to the emissaries of Maximin. They blushed at their own ignominious patience, which, during 3. Hist. August. p. 138. 3). Hist. August. p. 140. Herodian, 1. vi. p. 223. Aurelius Victor. By comparing these authors, it should o Maximin had the particular command of the Triballian horse, with the general com
sons who succeeded their fathers. The marriages of the Cesars (notwithstanding the permission, and the frequent practice of divorces) were generally unfruitful.