Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. II.: Reflections on the plausible Professions, and dangerous Conduct, of the Gracchi. Public Reformations, how cautiously to be attempted. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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SECT. II.: Reflections on the plausible Professions, and dangerous Conduct, of the Gracchi. Public Reformations, how cautiously to be attempted. - Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), The Works of Sallust (Gordon’s Discourses, Cicero’s Orations against Catiline) 
The Works of Sallust, translated into English with Political Discourses upon that Author. To which is added, a translation of Cicero’s Four Orations against Catiline (London: R. Ware, 1744).
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Reflections on the plausible Professions, and dangerous Conduct, of the Gracchi. Public Reformations, how cautiously to be attempted.
HAD these two illustrious Brothers, the Gracchi, proceeded much further, however virtuous at first their Motives may have been, and however crying the Injustice of the Nobles, I think the State must have been turned upside down, and some sudden Tyranny must have been the Lot of Rome; or, which is generally introductive of Tyranny, a cruel Civil War, with Invasion, and probably Conquest, from so many warlike Nations, exasperated against the Romans, for having been vanquished by them. It is certain, that the Spirits of Men, on both Sides, were furiously heated, and disposed to think no Measures, which promised Success or Assistance, unjust, or too sanguinary. When Things go this Length, as both Parties will always like their own Cause best, they will judge all Means lawful to support it; and, as Fury and Madness will be called Zeal, Calumny and Lyes will obtain Credit; Violence and Outrage will pass for Self-defence; Bloodshed and Massacre will bear the Title of Punishment; and all Wickedness and Barbarity will be done under the softest Names, and for the best Ends: As I have more fully explained in my Discourse upon Civil Wars.
Suppose the two Gracchi, whose Virtues and great Talents I honour, whose tragical Ends I lament and abhor, but whose Conduct seems to me to have had a very terrible Aspect and Tendency; I say, suppose them to have had the best Intentions upon Earth; it is most certain, that their Measures were such, as rendered each of them successively absolute Master of the Republic; a Situation, than which nothing can be more terrible to a free State; for it was then at his Mercy, whether it should be a State, or no; a plain Proof, that it was not free! Besides, they gave such alarming Proofs of their violent Spirit, as well as of their tremendous Power, that they seemed as little Masters of their own Temper and Ambition, as the State was of its own Authority. It is a dreadful Medicine, which is as likely to kill as to cure; and if there be certain Disorders incident to the Body, which cannot be extirpated without the Extirpation of Life, and are therefore to be endured; is it not more eligible to suffer certain Diseases in the Body Politic, even certain great Diseases, than attempt to remove them, by an Expedient much more likely to destroy than to reform it; or which, if it reform one Abuse, yet tends to introduce the most horrible of all Evils and Abuses, even Tyranny and Servitude?
Now, what is it that introduces this greatest of all Corruptions and Calamities, but the Power of one Man to do what he pleases? And was not Tiberius Gracchus that Man? Was not his Brother Caius, after him, such another Man? Their Professions were plausible; and the open and daring Abuses of the Nobility furnished them with fair Pretences. But who knows their Intentions, the Intentions of two very able and very powerful Men, animated by Vengeance, as well as by Justice, and aiming avowedly at the Abasement, probably at the Destruction, of the Senate, as well as at the Relief of the poor Plebeians? Were they, or could they be, Masters of their own Intentions? As they could not foresee all Difficulties, neither could they foresee what Expedients they must be forced upon to overcome them. For they seemed determined to carry their Point at all Adventures, and therefore to try every Means proper for such a Purpose.
Now, suppose nothing less than the Power of Sylla, and of Cæsar, would have been found sufficient, namely, Power absolute and continued, that is, downright Tyranny; would they have submitted, and dropped their Point? I cannot see, from their obstinate Behaviour, and violent Measures, that they would. Or, if they had openly assumed the supreme Power in Form, as they did in Effect, they would have said, (and perhaps then might have meant what they said) that there was no other Way of humbling the Nobles, and restoring the Commons; and that when they had accomplished this End, they would lay it down: And yet would have found afterwards, full as good Reasons for prolonging it, even for their own Ambition and Security, and that of their new Establishments; that is to say, for ever. It was the Plea and Practice of Cromwell. He made Reformation a Stale for Usurpation: When he had mounted the Throne, he found it unsafe, as well as unpleasant, to descend; never pretended to hold his Power always, but only till a Godly thorough Settlement was made; how soon, or how late, He only was to judge; and in the mean time, retained his sovereign Authority to keep the Peace, and carry on the Work of Reformation.
I dread all such Reformations, as are only to be effected by the arbitrary Will, and unaccountable Humour, of one Man, by a Power too nor delegated, but taken. I would rather see many Abuses subsist, than a Cromwell, a Pisistratus, a Cæsar, or (it you will) a Gracchus, assuming lawless Power to redress them. Indeed, in all Revolutions, the most necessary and best, there are Evils and Inconveniencies more than enow(a) .
The Provocation given by the Nobles was, indeed, very great, and their Oppressions shocking; as They were, in the Face and Defiance of all Law and Compassion, possessed of all that Portion of the conquered Lands, which was appointed for the Subsistence of the poor Plebeians, who had carned them with their Swords. The Usurpers were rioting in overgrown Wealth, Pomp, and Luxury; whilst the poor Romans, who daily exposed their Lives for the Safety and Aggrandizing of these their Oppressors, by being deprived of their Property, wanted Bread. There could therefore be nothing more just, nothing more equitable, or more conducing to mutual Peace amongst Fellow-Citizens, and to the Equality so necessary in a free State, where the overgrown Riches, and consequently Power, of One, or a Few, tend directly to the Enthralling of All, than the Ascertaining the Agrarian Law, and Restoring the usurped Lands to the injured and necessitous Proprietors.
But the Evil was inveterate, and far spread; all the great Men in the Commonwealth were engaged in Pride and Interest to support it, and to oppose every Remedy: Since whatever removed That, must reduce Them; and terribly shorten their Property, their Figure, and Authority.
Lælius, that accomplished Roman, the celebrated Friend of the great Scipio Africanus, as virtuous and public-spirited a Man as either of the Gracchi, and, I think, more wise, was sensibly touched with the same Grievances, which so much piqued Them, and, whilst he was Tribune of the People, conceived a Design to cure them; but gave it over, upon a View of its extreme Difficulty and Peril. Had he seen any Prospect of succeeding, by Methods that were not desperate, and threatening to the Commonwealth, it is likely he would have pursued his Intention. Surely the Temptation was great to an honest and humane Mind, to make the Rich and Wanton restore the Bread, which they had robbed from the Poor and Innocent, to cut up daring Oppression by the Roots, to restore the baffled Laws to their former Force, and to establish a just and equal Administration in a free Commonwealth. But he would not attempt what he foresaw no Man could accomplish, without making himself Master of all the rest; and particular Acts of Injustice, perhaps, seemed to him more tolerable than the Tyranny, that is, the Power, of One over All. The Gracchi actually assumed and exercised that Power, which, had not They been destroyed, would, in all Likelihood, have destroyed the Republic. Machiavel observes, that whenever the People are brought to admire and extol a Man, only because he has Power to punish their Enemies; if he prove but selfish and able, their Liberty is lost, and he may usurp the supreme Power when he pleases. For, by the Assistance of the People, he may master the Nobility; and, when the Nobility are depressed, it will not be difficult to him to enslave the People; who will then have no Resource of Succour or Support.
The Gracchi breathed the true Spirit of the Tribunitial Power, ever turbulent and aspiring, ever producing popular Tyrants. It was a Power which seemed very small at first, since they who had it appeared lower than the lowest Magistrates, and were, indeed, without any Mark or Name of Magistracy, without Jurisdiction over their Fellow-Citizens, and without any Tribunal, or particular Habit, or the Power of calling Assemblies. They were dressed like common Men, sat without the Senate, attended by one Serjeant; and their sole Business and Authority was, to observe, that nothing passed there contrary to the Interest of the Plebeians. So that their whole Power was Negative, and comprised in one short Word, I forbid; a Word capable of being terribly extended; as, indeed, it soon, and always was.
[(a) ]Omnes rerum mutationes cædem, sugam, aliaque hostilia portendant.