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was, however, mitigated by some restric ttons. It did not take place unless the object was of a certain value, most probably of fifty or a hundred pieces of gold;103 nor could it bo exacted from the nearest of kin on the father's side.104 When the rights of nature and poverty 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.104
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 fetters 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 childish old man was a domestic tyrant, and his power increased with his years and infirmities. A servile crowd, in which he frequently 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, the hunters 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. Cicero, 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
M The sum is only fixed by conjecture.
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. Plin. Panegyric c. 37. "* See Heineccius in the Antiquit. Juris Romani, 1 . ii. 1OT Horat. 1 . ii. Sat. v. Petron. c. 116, &c. Plin. L ii. Epist. 20
says that the emperor imposed a tux upon landed property, and sent every where men employed to make a survey, without fixing how much, and for how much each was to pay. The senators then preferred giving their assent to the tax on legacies and inheritances. — W
pounds ;108 nor do the friends of the younger Pliny seem tc have been less generous to that amiable orator.109 Whatever was the motive of the testator, the treasury claimed, without distinction, the twentieth part of his estate: and in the cou.se 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, froth 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 repubhc.110 Had it indeed been possible to realize this dream of fancy, such princes as Trajan and the Antonines would surely have embraced with ardor 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 protected 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 wisest of the Roman governors persevered in this pernicious method of collecting the principal branches at least of the excise and customs.119
The sentiments, and, indeed, the situation, of Caracal la were very different from those of the Antonines. Inattentive, or rather averse, to the welfare of his people, he found himself under the necessity of gratifying the insatiate avarice which he had excited in the army. Of the several impositions introduced by Augustus, the twentieth on inheritances and legacies was the most fruitful, as well as the most comprehensive. As its influence was not confined to Rome or Italy, the produce continually increased with the gradual extension of the
M* Cicero in Philip. ii. c. 16.
"* 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 behavior to a son who had been disinherited by his mother, (v. 1.)
110 Tacit. Anna!. xiii. 50. Esprit des Loix, 1 . xii. c. 19.
'" See Pliny's Panegyric, the Augustan History, and Burman. dr YectigaL passim.
The tributes (properly so called) were not farmed; since the gooi princes often remitted many millions of arrears. VOL. I. 17
Roman City. The new citizens, though charged, on equal terms,113 with the oayment of new taxes, which had not affected them as subjects, derived an ample compensation from the rank they obtained, the privileges they acquired, and the fair prospect of honors and fortune that was thrown open to their ambition. But the favor which implied a distinction was lost in the prodigality of Caracalla, and the reluctant provincials were compelled to assume the vain title, and the real obligations, of Roman citizens.* Nor was the rapacious son of Severus contented with such a measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient to his moderate predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he exacted a tenth of all legacies and inheritances; and during his reign (for the ancient proportion was restored after his death) he crushed alike every part of the empire under the weight of his iron sceptre.114
When all the provincials became liable to the peculiar im positions of Roman citizens, they seemed to acquire a lega exemption from the tributes which they had paid in their former condition of subjects. Such were not the maxims of government adopted by Caracalla and his pretended son. The old as well as the new taxes were, at the same time, levied in the provinces. It was reserved for the virtue of Alexander to relieve them in a great measure from this intolerable grievance, by reducing the tributes to a thirteenth part of the sum exacted at the time of his accession.115 It is impossible to conjecture the motive that engaged him to spare so trifling a remnant of
1,3 The situation of the new citizens is minutely described by Pliny, (Panegyric, c. 37, 38, 39.) Trajan published a law very much in their favor.
114 Dion, 1 . lxxvii. p. 1295.
115 He who paid ten aurei, the usual tribute, was charged with no more than the third part of an aureus, and proportional pieces of gold were coined by Alexander's order. Hist. August. p. 127, with the commentary of Salmasius.
* Gibbon has adopted the opinion of Spanhcim and of Barman, which attributes to Caracalla this edict, which gave the right of the citv to all the inhabitants of the provinces. This opinion may be disputed. Several passages of Spartianus, of Aurelius Victor, and of Aristides, attribute this edict to Marc. Aurelius. Sec a learned essay, entitled Joh. P. Mahneri Comm. de Marc. Aur. Antonino Constitutionis de Civitate Universo Orbi Itomano data auctore. HaUj. 1772. 8vo. It appears that Marc. Aurelius made some modifications of this edict, which released the provincials from some of the charges imposed by the right of the city, and deprived th sm of some of the advantages which it conferred. Caracalla annulled tl *• modifications. — W.
ihe public evil; but the noxious weed, which had not beep. totally eradicated, again sprang up with the most luxuriant growth, and in the succeeding age darkened the Roman world with its deadly shade. In the course of this history, we shall be too often summoned to explain the land tax, the capitation, and the heavy contributions of corn, wine, oil, and meat, which were exacted from the provinces for the use of the court, the army, and the capital.
As long as Rome and Italy were respected as the centre of • government, a national spirit was preserved by the ancient, and insensibly imbibed by the adopted, citizens. The principal commands of the army were filled by men who had received a liberal education, were well instructed in the advantages of laws and letters, and who had risen, by equal steps, through the regular succession of civil and military honors.116 To their influence and example we may partly ascribe the modest obedience of the legions during the two first centuries of the Imperial history.
But when the last enclosure of the Roman constitution was trampled down by Caracalla, the separation of professions gradually succeeded to the distinction of ranks. The more polished citizens of the internal provinces were alone qualified to act as lawyers and magistrates. The rougher trade of arms was abandoned to the peasants and barbarians of the frontiers, who knew no country but their camp, no science but that of war, no civil laws, and scarcely those of military discipline. With bloody hands, savage manners, and desperate resolutions, they sometimes guarded, but much oftener subverted, the throne of the emperors.
,w See the lives of Agricola, Vespasian, Trajan, Severus, »- d hik three competitors; and indeed of all the eminent men of those time*
THE ELIVATION AND TYRANNY OP MAXIMIN. REBELLION IN
AFRICA AND ITALY, UNDER THE AUTHORITY 01 THF SENATE. CIVIL WARS AND SEDITIONS. VIOLENT DEATHS OF MAXIMIN AND HIS SON, OF MAXIMUS AND BALB1NUS, AND OF*
THE THREE GORDIANS. USURPATION AND SECULAR GAMES
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 colors, but our more 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 only order of men sufficiently united to concur in the same Bentiments, 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 nr political wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted with in themselves, to appreciate theni in others. Valor will