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Chapter XI

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Rome
Tenney Frank

published by
Henry Holt and Company
New York 1923

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter XIII

 p194  Chapter XII

The Gracchan Reforms

The public lands. The land question was coming more and more to the front. The populace of the city was rapidly growing, recruited from among the destitute farmers who were being driven to the wall by capitalistic farmers employing slaves. The poor people knew that the state owned much land which was rented by landlords at low prices, and that some of this land was even held by "squatters" whose right of possession rested only on the fact that they had occupied the land when no one had cared to enforce the Licinian restrictions. They remembered that Flaminius had less than a century before caused the distribution of public lands in northern Italy, and they knew that if a bill were once proposed they might be strong enough to carry a land‑law through the assembly, because many of them were still registered and could vote in their ancestral country tribus. However, the assemblies could only vote on bills put to them by a presiding officer, and the Senate had been able for a century, by means of the veto of a friendly tribune, to compel the reference of all proposed bills to the Senate. Therefore, a very radical measure which threatened to reduce the possessions of individual senators seemed to have little opportunity of being put to a vote.

The senators had plausible arguments on their side. They could say that the treasury needed the money provided by the rents, that the assembly had acquiesced in the old land policy, thereby encouraging the landholders to spend money in improvements, that the land had been worthless when occupied, and was now worth having only because of the improvements made by the holders. Finally there  p195 were many who, like old Fabius, thought it a poor social policy to reward sloth, as they called it, by giving new lands at public cost to those who had once failed as farmers, and drifted listlessly to the city.

A few thoughtful nobles like Scipio Aemilianus, his scholar­ly friend Laelius, the pontifex Mucius Scaevola, and Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, who considered the question impartially from a social and political viewpoint, favored distribution; and most of these urged the Senate to yield and not permit a bitter factional fight to arise. These wise men regretted the increase of the number of slaves which resulted in a decrease in Rome's most reliable stock, the hard working, frugal and strong farmer; and they urged the Senate to consider the propriety of increasing the number of farmers for military purposes, because this was an argument which the Senate could understand. But large social ideals doubtless lay at the bottom of their radical arguments. All of these men were acquainted with the Stoic doctrines of the brotherhood of man, and they discussed such doctrines with the Greek philosophers Panaetius and Polybius who were now at Rome. The Gracchi indeed had a Stoic philosopher, Blossius of Cumae, as tutor, provided for their care by their mother Cornelia. These Greek friends of theirs doubtless told them how a Stoic philosopher had a century before induced king Cleomenes of Sparta to institute a general division of all lands to the citizens of Sparta. Such socialistic ideas were in the air, and were bringing thoughtful Romans to consider whether their old ideas of the sacredness of property rights had not been carried too far.

The proposal of Tiberius Gracchus. Tiberius Gracchus became tribune in 133, and asked the Senate to support a bill drawing in all public lands held contrary to the Licinian laws and permitting the redistribution of these in small lots to the poor. He proposed to reimburse the landlords for improvements made. The Senate refused. He then  p196 stated that he would rely on the constitutional right of the assembly, acquired in 287 B.C., to vote on the measure without the Senate's approval. Many senators who felt that constitutions were made as much by precedent as by legislation felt that it was revolutionary to disregard present custom in favor of a very old and obsolete law. So it was, but legal authorities to‑day usually agree with Gracchus that the sovereign people must have the right to brush aside precedents as well as laws that obstruct the sovereign will. The sovereign alone is ultimate judge of what is constitutional. Indeed the twelve tables of 300 years before had admitted that the legislative assembly that made the laws could not be obstructed even by the code of the twelve tables themselves.

Gracchus accordingly disregarded the Senate and brought his bill to the tribal assembly. Octavius, a tribune friendly to the Senate, vetoed it. Then Gracchus, to everyone's surprise, proposed a bill that Octavius be deposed from office. This introduction of the theory of "recall," now familiar in some of our states, was also revolutionary according to the senators. How can a magistrate, they asked, do his duty fearlessly if he is to be "recalled" at every whim of the voters? Indeed the Romans had always held that magistrates must be unimpeachable during their term of office so that they might have courage to act with conviction. But the bill was passed, and it must be said that so far as the principle applied to tribunes, Gracchus' legal instincts were right. The tribunes had not originally been meant to have magisterial power, but only the right to aid individuals in distress. For that reason alone their number had been increased to ten so that they could act in various parts of the city simultaneously. When they had assumed the right to veto legislative acts they had practically destroyed their own power, because one out of the ten could generally be found to favor the Senate and obstruct the popular will. Hence the only logical course was to reduce the board of ten  p197 to one, either actually, or virtually, by letting the people decide which tribune to follow. Only so could the sovereign will effect its desires.

It has been objected that Gracchus should first have passed a bill legalizing the recall, and then applied it. That would have been more orderly, but the Romans frequently changed their laws by establishing their precedents directly, letting the law be inferred from the act. It may be admitted, therefore, that his act while revolutionary was logical, and consistent with the sound theory that the assembly was sovereign, and must not be blocked by illogical accretions of customs.

Thus Octavius was removed and Gracchus' bill was passed. It was in the main a reënactment of the Licinian law limiting leases of public land to 500 jugera per person, with additions of half the amount for each of two sons. It seems that the holdings that did not transgress the legal limits were to be recognized as the holder's property, but the clause indemnifying holders for improvements on lands illegally held was now apparently withdrawn. The law also created a land commission of three men with power to draw in illegal possessions and to assign these to new settlers in small lots of about thirty jugera.

At it happened the news arrived just then that the king of Pergamum, Attalus III, had died, and, by a peculiar whim which it is difficult to explain, had left his kingdom to Rome. Since Gracchus needed funds for the execution of his land law and foresaw difficulty in getting any from the Senate, he proposed a bill to the tribal assembly to take over and administer the legacy of Attalus. This again was a drastic interference in senatorial administration which could be justified only on strictly legal though certainly not on practical grounds. The assembly was not fitted for administrative work in foreign lands. But this bill also passed. Thus equipped, the commission of which Gracchus was a member went to work, and made good progress. Since  p198 the next census reveals after many years of dwindling, an increase of almost 80,000 citizens, that is, of nearly twenty-five per cent, it is likely that the land allotment had to about this extent increased the roll of property-holding Romans. That was a result apparently worth achieving.

The death of Tiberius Gracchus. As the Senate continued its obstructionary tactics, Gracchus saw the need of having himself reëlected for the next term, a thing which was forbidden by the law which created the tribunate. Again he held that the people were sovereign, and that their will was final on such questions. The Senate was in an uproar, crying that Gracchus was subverting all the safeguards of the constitution. It must be said that Gracchus was carrying his constitutional changes to imprudent lengths, and that the Senate did right in objecting. Rejecting the legislative power of the Senate had been necessary when the Senate claimed an absolute veto; reducing the tribune's power to obstruct the assembly was only logical; but to invade the field of administration set apart for the Senate was unwise, and to extend the tribune's term indefinitely, legally possible though it might be, was to open the door to despotism. Many senators desired the Senate to declare this treason and to pass a senatus consultum ultimum empowering the consul to arm the authorities and stop the election. When the Senate could not agree, a great number dashed to the Forum to obstruct the election on their own responsibility. They were followed by hordes of clients who had doubtless lost their positions and property by the land-laws. A riot was on, and Tiberius and many of his followers were killed. This was practically the first bloodshed in Rome's long record of political struggles. The peaceful record of the past had been almost matchless in political history. But this day established a precedent which was to be followed more than once, and for which the senators of a later day were to pay a heavy price. The Senate at once chose men of their own party as members  p199 of the land commission, and thus its work was retarded. But it did not dare to question the legality of the plebiscite. Finally, the Senate, making use of the judicial power which it had assumed without legal enactment during the Punic wars, appointed a judicial commission to try the "revolutionary" followers of Tiberius Gracchus. This commission condemned many on the charge of treason and had them executed.

The Asiatic province. The Senate also acted quickly to reassert its right of administration in foreign affairs by taking charge of the legacy of Attalus, and making the kingdom over into a province which was called Asia. The Senate conformed to the desires of Attalus by giving autonomy and immunity from tribute to the Greek cities of the kingdom. The royal estates were large and these the censors were ordered to rent out for what they would bring; the country districts settled by oriental peasants of mixed stock were ordered to pay their tribute to Rome as they had in the past to the king. But the Senate, with characteristic dislike of extending Rome's rule over troublesome tribes, lopped off eastern Phrygia, giving it to Mithradates of Pontus, gave Lycaonia to the king of Cappadocia, and set the Pamphylian and Pisidian tribes free to misrule themselves. Mysia, Lydia, and Caria were retained as a part of the province. Unfortunately this arrangement did not endure for long. In the first place a pretender to the throne, Aristonicus, claimed the succession and had to be driven out. Some of the Greek cities supported him, and were accordingly subdued and brought into the tributary list. And later Gaius Gracchus, claiming that the assembly and not the Senate now controlled administration, annulled the Senate's disposals and made arrangements which would bring a larger tribute to Rome. We shall have to examine his regulations presently. Here we are merely concerned with the establishment in 133 of the first of Rome's provinces beyond the Aegean sea.

 p200  The class struggle continues. The struggle at home continued fitfully. In 129, after Scipio Aemilianus had tried to bring about a compromise by admitting the consuls to the land commission to represent the viewpoint of the Senate, he was found dead in his bed. There is no proof that he had been assassinated, but the optimates, as the senatorial party called themselves, spread the charge that he was, and ill will between the classes was intensified. Now the Gracchan party began to urge the gift of citizen­ship to all Italians, doubtless a suggestion from Tiberius Gracchus' program. Not only did considerations of justice and wisdom argue for this measure, but it was also meant to win the allies over to the support of the land laws, which indeed they were inclined to fear because the allies had also done their share in settling public lands illegally. The optimates answered this proposal by a cruel law expelling all aliens from Rome. It must be admitted that the democratic assembly was apt to be liberal only in questions concerning their own advantage. Accordingly, when in 125 a popular consul, Flaccus, proposed the bill granting the franchise to the Allies it was defeated, and one Latin colony, Fregellae, which had the courage to rise up in armed revolt to favor it, was attacked and destroyed as a rebel.

Gaius Gracchus. Gaius Gracchus, the brother of Tiberius Gracchus, stood for the tribunate in 124 when he was 30 years of age. He had had the same liberal education in Greek history, philosophy, and literature as his brother, had received a much wider preliminary training in politics by his participation in and observation of his brother's work, and was a brilliant orator, by far the most effective speaker of his day. Naturally emotional, he had through his bitter experiences acquired a deep hatred for the obstinate senators who had caused his brother's death. In the fragments of his speeches we find a strain of vindictiveness against which his mother, older and steadier and of vision, warned  p201 him. It is not a sin that we need criticize unless it affected his judgment, for the Romans expected a man of spirit not to forgive those who had murdered a brother. It affected the essentials of his program but little. His important proposals were made not from motives of revenge, but in order to correct the evils of Roman society and of the Roman constitution. He was one of the clearest-visioned and one of the most original of the world's great reformers. The failure of his reforms is due mainly to his being cut off when the work was only half done. At his death his constitution stood as a building half-erected that no one would complete. The walls left thus were useless and only added to the general wreckage.

Plutarch and Appian, who more than two centuries later gave the only account of his work that has survived, did not take the pains to arrange his acts in chronological order. We are, therefore, unable to estimate the value of some acts whose worth depends very much on what precisely went before and after. The following order attempts to be chronological, but is in part conjectural.

The plebiscites of Gaius Gracchus. One of the first measures introduced by Gaius was intended to destroy the usurped executive and judicial power of the Senate, by which it had terrorized the friends of Tiberius after his death. This measure reasserted the citizens' right of appeal to the assembly in case of capital sentence, and thus forbade senatorial judicial commissions. On the basis of it, Popilius, the consul who had proposed the special court in 132, was outlawed. Gaius also very early passed a cornº law (lex frumentaria) ordering the state to sell grain at a very low price to all poor citizens. This measure was criticized as being mere bribery of the populace for votes, and of course it led to pauperization on a ruinous scale. It may be that Gracchus passed this plebiscite for the purpose of keeping poor voters in the city for his elections and assembly meetings, since Tiberius had found that poor peasants had  p202 to stay on their farms and work for their daily bread even on important assembly days. But it may also be that he was taking care of sufferers until his colonization schemes and his large plans for public work should be well enough along to take care of the poor by better methods. Recent experience has proved that the most conservative states will pass corn laws at times of great danger in order to keep the populace contented during the period of strain; but it is crude statesman­ship to continue such lavishness for partisan reasons when the strain is over. Furthermore, the idea of state charity had been much talked of, especially in Greece, where in the third century society was dwindling in productive capacity. And if Gracchus had been directed to such humanitarian ideas by his philosophic tutor, the temptation to apply them at Rome was great, for the granaries at Rome were full of Sicilian wheat which belonged to the people. Why should the people go hungry when they had only to vote to open their own storehouses? At any rate Gaius knew well that if he could pass all his measures there would soon be few indigents left at Rome to need state charity. The destructive results of this law must be laid at the door of those who obstructed the final reforms, and then continued to bribe the disappointed populace by lowering the price still further. Gracchus also restored his brother's land‑law to efficiency by removing the consul from the commission and giving it full power to judge questions of owner­ship. Thus the work of distribution was set in motion again. The opposition of the allies was neutralized by a promise that he would presently endeavor to secure them a better status.

Meanwhile he kept the assembly at hand while he passed several administrative measures. Granaries were needed, and it was especially important that roads be laid out and paved. Communication must be made easy between the newly settled lands and their respective markets if the settlers were to prosper. And in all these bills the assembly  p203 disregarded the censors whose business it had been to propose public works, and the Senate which claimed the right to control the budget. The assembly placed in charge of such work various commissions and boards directed by Gaius Gracchus himself, and Plutarch gives a picture of the tribune as a kind of business director of the whole corporation, drawing the plans, placing orders for materials, letting contracts, and supervising the work.

The tithes of Asia. In order to increase the state revenues to pay for such work he examined the sources of income and found that under the senatorial administration just put into effect there the new province of Asia did not yield what it ought. He therefore had the assembly reject the Senate's arrangement and make a new one. Eastern Phrygia was retaken from Mithradates on the charge that the gift had been induced by the king's bribes to some senators, a charge for which we have no convincing proof. The Asiatic tribute was also imposed upon several free cities. We do not know how this disregard of the terms of the legacy was made to seem justifiable. But the greatest change was the introduction of the contract system of tithe-gathering in place of the Attalid system of fixed community contributions. The public companies at Rome were asked to bid for the collection, deposit the cash for the whole contract at Rome and then collect from the communities one‑tenth of the annual produce of each farmer. This is the Gracchan law which has been most severely criticized. It was not long before the companies began to collect more than was due them, and to lend money at usurious rates of interest to the communities which did not command the ready cash. The "publicans," i.e., the tax gatherers, came to be looked upon, and rightly so, as the leeches of the province. There is no charge in ancient authors, however, that Gracchus had foreseen this evil and had intended to betray the provincials to unscrupulous Roman business men. His concern for allies and provincials seems to have  p204 been sincere. The law was a mistake, but Gaius would probably have been the first to correct the mistake as soon as the evils appeared, if he had lived to observe them.

At first sight the new device seemed good to Rome and provincials alike. The communities found it difficult to pay even a small cash tribute in years of drought, which were frequent in Asia. In their climate it would seem an act of mercy to require a percentage of the crop rather than a fixed sum, which was difficult to find in lean years. And Rome would benefit since the companies would bid in cash, so that the treasury would know what to count upon. To foresee the evils of extortion was not easy. The companies had carried many public contracts during his life time and even under his supervision, and they had done excellent work honestly. Why should they not be trusted with work abroad? And if any abuses should arise it would be the proconsul's business to complain, and guard the interests of the communities. The real evils arose in a later day when the system spread all over the East. Then the companies grew so powerful that they became a strong political influence which proconsuls feared to oppose. Gaius could neither have desired nor foreseen this. His law was meant to aid the communities and Rome alike, and it was devised, on the basis of the faith that he had gained in the public corporations through his dealings with them. The Senate's chief objection to his measure was based not on a desire to aid the provincials but on the fact that the law extended political recognition to a class of wealthy people generally disregarded by the nobility, and that, though an administrative measure, it was submitted not to the Senate but to the assembly.

The second term of Caius Gracchus. His program was not complete, and he stood for reëlection, a right that had been accorded tribunes by law since the death of Tiberius. He won, but with him among his colleagues was at least one enemy, M. Livius Drusus. There now appear two laws  p205 which were meant to correct senatorial abuses. The Senate had hitherto assigned the provinces annually to consuls and praetors, choosing the most important ones for the consuls. Gracchus observed that the Senate was apt to choose a province of no importance for consuls of the popular party. He, therefore, passed a law ordering the Senate to designate the consular provinces before elections. The choice would then be less likely to be decided according to party lines. The second law ordered the jury‑men of all the courts to be drawn from the official list of the equites and not from the roll of Senators. The equites were 1800 men of the wealthier class who were chosen by the censor as worthy of a horse at public expense for service in the cavalry and for the officers' corps. The institution was a survival of the day when wealthy men were chosen for the cavalry because of the cost of equipment; they did not necessarily serve so now, but the distinction had been kept in order to reward men of property who engaged in public contracts. Gracchus' choice of these men for jury service pleased them, for it recognized them as a quasi-nobility capable of service hitherto thought proper only for senators. As men who were skilled in business they were doubtless capable jury‑men, especially in civil cases. The particular reason for selecting them, however, was to remove senators from the provincial cases, where they had shown partiality towards proconsuls. Rome was soon to learn that the knights would do little better than the senators in this troublesome court, though this fact could hardly have been foreseen as yet. The difficulty turned out to be that the knights, who frequently engaged in the tax contracts after the Gracchan days, had to be held in check by proconsuls, and they found in this court a method of striking at such proconsuls as were inclined to be severe with extortionate tax gatherers. The law, therefore, rescued Rome from one evil merely to subject her to another evil, which in the end was no better. For the present, however, men observed only that this law  p206 took patronage from the Senate and elevated the knights to a distinct class in the state.

Colonies. The next measure is one of the best illustrations of the reformer's breadth of sympathy and keenness of vision. He proposed three colonies of an entirely new order. One was to be planted on the site of Carthage, though it had been cursed and a rebuilding forbidden. The land-lots were to be unusually large, not only because Romans must have extra inducements to go so far, but also because capitalistic farming alone could succeed in a land that required irrigation, as Africa did. Another colony was sent to Tarentum with a view to providing a good market for the farmers settled in southern Italy by Tiberius Gracchus, and to reviving the commerce of this old trading city; and finally a third colony was placed at Scylaceum, where the ancient portage-road over the "instep" of Italy had started when Greek commerce was at its best. Traders were still afraid of "Scylla and Charybdis," it would seem.

Here were schemes of economic developments that would increase the resources of the empire. The Senate had never cared for such things. Its opposition was unusually bitter, perhaps because of the paternalistic nature of the proposal, but it may also be that it saw a chance to strike the tribune by defeating measures that could not greatly interest the urban voters. The measures passed indeed, but the Senate took the occasion to outbid Gracchus for popular favor and belittle his scheme by inducing Livius Drusus to propose the planting of twelve land colonies for the poor in Italy. This trick succeeded though the Senate had no intention of carrying out the promise.

Before Gracchus departed to plant his colonies he proposed to fulfill his promises to the Italians. The bill promised full citizen­ship to all Latins (including the thirty "Latin" colonies), and Latin rights to all other Italians. This was in the spirit of the great statesmen of the fourth century. In all justice, and for Rome's own best interests, it should  p207 have carried. The people of the thirty-five wards no more represented the interests of all Italy than the "rotten boroughs" represented England before 1832. But as those boroughs opposed the Reform Act of that year, so the people at Rome opposed Gracchus. Their leaders told them that they would not be able to pass the land and grain laws that they chose if they extended the franchise to the Italians, their one‑time enemy. An historian has recently said that a democracy has never been known to give away any of its power until compelled to do so. It was Italy's duty to rise now and demand citizen­ship. Gracchus had been too optimistic in expecting the assembly to be as liberal in giving as it had been in receiving.

Not only was this measure defeated, but Gracchus himself lost favor with his voters and failed of reëlection. The closing scene was pitiful. In 121, after Gaius' second tribunate, the Senate proposed to overthrow the colony at Carthage. The people were in the comitium about to vote on the measure. Gracchus apparently made the tactical mistake of calling the masses away from the tribune's harangue to hear him in defense of his colony. This was illegal and his opponents made the most of the charge. In the rioting that ensued a supporter of the Senate was killed. The Senate, believing or assuming that the populace was in open rebellion, passed the senatus consultum ultimum, which, in their view, gave the consul dictatorial powers. The consul's messenger called upon Gracchus to surrender, but Gracchus refused to recognize the legality of the senatus consultum. The consul then sent his bodyguard and a troop of Cretans to charge the crowd. They gave no quarter and Gracchus committed suicide in despair. It is said that two hundred and sixty men fell in the charge, and many others were condemned to death by the senatorial commission appointed to adjudge those guilty of "rebellion."

Results of the Gracchan endeavors. Gracchus' work was not all undone, though it was left at the point where little  p208 benefit and much harm came out of it. The very year in which Gracchus died his allotments were made saleable, which was probably a good step. Inalienable leaseholds are not attractive and they will always be abandoned when they prove unprofitable. Perhaps Gracchus had wished only to hold the settlers on their lots over their first discouragements, just as American homestead laws usually have tried to do. In 118, further distribution was forbidden and the commission abolished. Finally in 111 the lots were declared full private property and rent-free. The old encroachment by great landowners doubtless began as soon as that bill was passed. Yet in the meanwhile much land had been settled and many poor people had been removed from Rome. What had been accomplished in respect to lands was wholly an advantage.

The attack upon the Senate's usurpation of judicial and executive power failed, however. Gracchus himself died by authority of a senatus consultum ultimum, and to prove their constitutional right in the matter the senators submitted the consul Opimius to trial before the assembly and proved to the assembly's satisfaction that the Senate had acted legally. The assembly acquitted Opimius and replaced Popilius, thereby annulling the Gracchan law of appeal. It was on this precedent that Cicero relied when during the Catilinarian conspiracy sixty years later he recognized the legality of a senatus consultum ultimum.

To estimate the work of Gracchus we must consider his whole plan, and not the fragment which came out of the wreck. Gracchus was familiar with Greek constitutions and seems to have been influenced by the example of Pericles and his skilful use of the Greek primary assembly. In so far we have perhaps the first practical constitution-planning based on comparative politics. But Gracchus was by no means an imitator, he intended to build a consistent Roman constitution on a sound Roman citizenry. He clung to the idea that the electorate was the legal sovereign. He apparently  p209 saw that this must be responsible for all the organs of government. The constitution as he found it was quite consistent with respect to elective, executive, legislative, and judicial functions except for undue interference here and there by the Senate. The great inconsistency lay in the fact that a powerful Senate seemed to administer the affairs of a large part of the state without being directly accountable to the sovereign people, that it obstructed the sovereign will in legislation, and had begun to interfere with judicial and executive matters. This is why Gracchus struck at the Senate. He would lop off all the Senate's independent functions except a partial administration of Italy and the provinces, and in this latter field it was to take its orders from the assembly. There were henceforth to be no last decrees, no senatorial judicial commissions, no obstruction of legislation, and no exertion of personal influence in courts. Logically he was entirely correct. But was not the Senate right in saying that the mob neither had the experience nor the wisdom to Latin, to administer provinces, and to decide when martial law was needed? We must agree that as things stood the senatorial claim was correct. But Gracchus had not intended that the Roman mob of thirty-five wards should continue to rule the world. He drew up a bill that was to make the whole Italian people the sovereign, and that would doubtless constitute a body on which the government could safely rest — if one more step were taken.

In order to secure an effective expression of the will of a people so widely scattered, it would have been necessary either to have balloting made possible at many centers, or to adopt the representative system of government. Now, we are not informed how Gracchus expected all of Italy to take part in legislating and electing: he died before his Italian law could be passed. But it would be unfair to the ingenuity of this man to suppose that he did not have an adequate scheme in mind, especially as the methods of representative government were then well known at Rome.  p210 The father of the Gracchi was an intimate acquaintance of Aemilius Paullus, who had instituted the government of the Macedonian republics on representative lines; and the Greek scholars, Polybius and Blossius, could have told the young reformer how the principle was applied in the Greek leagues. It is only good to assume that he would have taken the obvious last step to complete his constitutional reforms in such a way as to make his democracy consistent and practicable. That last step might well have saved Rome.

The Senate, however, can hardly be blamed for attempting to save itself and the hegemony of Rome. Rome had organized Italy and the world, why should not Rome be able to rule them? Why confess inability and summon Italy to the task? But if Rome should rule, obviously the assembly was unfit. It could not discuss measures, could not govern provinces, could not even be trusted to judge when martial law was needed. If we grant the Senate's first narrow premises, its argument is valid. Since Gracchus failed to enlarge the sovereign body and create an efficient governmental agency out of it, there was only one thing for the Senate to do at present and that was to insist upon advisory rights over all functions of government. It was the fatal misfortune of Rome that Italy and the populace did not have the wisdom and courage to aid Gracchus to the logical end of his remarkable program. When we see how our own constitution has not been able to transform itself in any essential detail by legal amendments, while every essential part of its machinery has been forced to change by custom, we realize how near the impossible was Gracchus' task, and we are less inclined to blame the people for their lack of liberality and the Senate for its stubborn reliance on its own record. Unfortunately the Senate learned only pride from its victory; but the struggle had formulated the issue so clearly that the class war was sure to return. When it did it was the selfish military ruler who took advantage of the contest and overwhelmed both the contestants.

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